Thursday, June 21, 2007

Towards a borderless ECOWAS by 2020?

Even when there appears to be grandiloquent discussions on the creation of an African Union government by 2025, the West African regional grouping of Ecowas is talking about a borderless West Africa by 2020.

Once again, this raises the question of why so far a date? Last week's debate at Ghana's Teacher's Hall raised the issue of "instantists"; "rapidists", and "gradualists", in my view, polarising the issue greatly.

These classifications suggest that there are those, respectively, that want to pursue AU government instantly, rapidly, and gradually.

For ECOWAS leaders meeting at the 32nd summit in Abuja, I suspect those that had proposed the date of 2020 might have fallen prey to such classifications. The question is: how helpful are these are moving the issue of comprehensive integration forward? Comprehensive, because, in my view, even if there's an unbearable lightness of being West African, I think ECOWAS has not done a bad job.

Elsewhere in the Voice of America coverage of the summit, the article touches on the right of residence:

problems are still plaguing the plan. For instance, under a current provision, residents of ECOWAS member states can live in another member state for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa, but there is no provision for long-term residence.

Before this explanation, rationale is given of why ECOWAS is looking for a borderless West Africa:

The purpose of a border-free zone, first thought of by ECOWAS in the 1980s, is to allow the free movement of goods and people throughout the zone.

It is important to note that this meeting was a landmark one, as it saw the swearing in of Ghanaian lawyer Dr.Mohammed Ibn Chambas as the de facto President of the heretofore ECOWAS Commission, as well as adoption of interim report of the Commission for 2007, which stated:

the economy of the sub-region recorded a GDP growth of 6.1 percent in 2006 as against 5.5 percent in 2005, observing however, that the high prices of petroleum products posed a challenge for the economies of individual states

Please find above the organigramme of the new commission, which I culled from the newly-designed ECOWAS website.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

From Rwanda & Burundi With Love... the East African Community!

Well, we knew it was in the the extent that Rwanda would leave the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) at an Eccas inter-ministerial meeting in Brazzaville, Congo two weeks ago.

In leaving, this is what the Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Minister would say:

"The regional economic communities are in the process of creating free trade zones, a common market, monetary unions and eventually political federations which are evolving at different speeds, and puts us in a very difficult situation of being tugged in separate directions"

Rwnada expressed the desire to hold onto joining the SADC region just yet, and has, as we see here, proceeded in its joining of EAC.

To be fair, it makes sense for Rwanda to toe this line, for in joining the performing EAC, the once-genocide-torn country will not only be increasing the regional population to 115 million people, but be joining a regional bloc that is making strides.

The article maintains that some of the institutions both Burundi and Rwanda will benefit from joining are:

  • the East African Court of Justice;

  • the East African Legislative Assembly

  • the Secretariat

  • Defence Pact
  • , including...
  • the Inter-University Council for East Africa and sustainable development of the Lake Victoria basin

  • There are many other advantages besides this, such as on foreign policy and visa applications:

    In respect to foreign policy, the five member states will be able to take a common stand at international fora and assist each other in countries where they do not have diplomatic missions. This entails that any of the five member states can appoint one mission to represent their interests abroad.

    Nationals from the five countries will also be able to have visa applications processed in any of the missions representing the region.

    With regard to the East African political federation, the consultative process which has been going on in the three partner states, is expected to extend to Rwanda and Burundi. A federal president and parliament is expected in 2013

    There are, quite naturally, fears about Rwanda and Burundi joining the EAC, and it has mostly to do with loss of sovereignty.

    Either way, the EAC is no longer a three-member bloc, but a fully-fledged five-member one. At least, from 1 July, when the AU Summit will also be in process, here, in Accra.

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    Arab League Overtures to the African Union?

    Cash-strapped AU peacekeepers are to receive a boost of $1m from no less than the Arab League towards the AU's peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

    It does not matter, in my view, that Somalia is a member of the Arab League--therefore the imperative impelling the Arab League to act; I think that its dedicating itself to the African Union, and by extension, regional cooperation by this substantial shot-in-the-arm is a reflection of its desire to engage (proactively), which is always a good thing!

    Wednesday, June 06, 2007

    To my Visitor from Richmond, Virginia: Sierra Leone Belongs to Which RECS?

    Hi, you wanted to know which regional organisations Sierra Leone belong to. You arrived at my site. I don't know whether you got your answers, but here it is:

    Sierra Leone is member of:
  • African Union (AU)

  • African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP)

  • Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

  • Mano River Union (MRU)

  • Organisation of African Unity (OAU) African Union

  • Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC)

  • Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD)

  • Hope this helps!

    Tuesday, June 05, 2007

    REGIONAL INTEGRATION MONTH!!-->Changing SAARC...without Being Repetitive!

    If my initial impressions over SAARC in this blog is anything to go by, you might have gone away feeling that I wasn't too impressed with SAARC. Truth be told, it's less about me being impressed and more being concerned about the lackadaisical debates going on around SAARC and its regional integration of the South Asian countries.

    A recent article I came across yesterday, entitled "Changing SAARC: Hopes for a better South Asia" is so platitudinous it's not funny.

    Let's first begin by addressing the structure of the article. It starts off discussing the age-old argument -- almost to the death -- about the size of India overshadowing and eclipsing the SAARC regional integration project. Judge for yourself:

    1. New Delhi’s gigantic size in terms of natural and human resources, military capability and an emerging economic power creates apprehension of its future role in SAARC, in the minds of other constituents.

    2. The growing importance of India in both inter regional and international field as a major actor in terms of economic and military capability appears to have negative consequences in the psychology of other SAARC member countries

    3. Other member states look at India suspiciously because of its elephantine size in terms of its population, resources, economy, and its potential to act as a global economic and strategic power

    Alright, already! I think we get the picture that India is a big country. It's "elephantine"; it's "gigantic". Point taken.

    Now, where's your next argument? That SAARC has matured:

    The attainment of the maturity of SAARC is reflected from the fact that it has expanded itself by admitting Afghanistan as the eighth member state and giving China, South Korea and Japan observer status.

    But, later in the article, do I sense a contradiction?

    SAARC is still very far from maturing as a regional grouping.

    So, which is it: is SAARC maturing--or not?

    There is the nice historical overview--as demanded by articles on regional integration, tracing the history--from its inception (1985) to now, and occasionally realising that good mathematics is de rigeur:

    1. In 22 years-13 summits, not encouraging...

    2. Set up in 1985, SAARC has passed its disturbing teen phase and now in 2007, April 3-4 it touched 22 years;

    In my view, any discussion on regional integration that divorces any type of rumination, or thinking, on institutions that can facilitate that integration, such as a Central Bank, or a Parliament is an integration project that is not very serious. Declarations on trade and customs union are all very good, but the latter is a key element in getting citizens of SAARC to feel they are comprehensively SAARC citizens.

    My personal view is candid: it's an interesting article for both the general and more informed follower of regional integration, but it lacks depth for one simple reason: it is lukewarm in its aspirations of where SAARC should be going.

    Even as an African, I should have felt agitated, energised about the developments goingon in the region--but I wasn't, because as much as it is true that
    The focus of SAARC should be on implementing collaborative projects.
    , the focus should, in my humble view, not just be about implementation. It should be about dedication and commitment to the precepts of regional integration in SAARC, which goes beyond poverty-reduction.

    It should also be about conceiving of a South Asian Community, as expressed in today's Pakistan article from Online Pakistan about India seeing that it has a "a greater regional responsibility".

    Finally, the myopia of seeing the EU and ASEAN as the only precursors of regional integration should go. South Asia should be looking at complementing its integration project with exchanges from the African Union and its regional economic communities. For the conflict in Kashmir, SAARC could look at how ECOWAS resolved its conflicts in the sub-region, and still managed to agree to push on regional protocols.