Saturday, January 10, 2009

ECOWAS/ARAB LEAGUE--Once Again, the New Year brings the Regional to the Fore: Palestine & Guinea: A Tale of Two Countries

[I wrote this post on 27th and 29th December, 2008. I post it for general consumption]

Once again, the spectre of a coup has regrettably loomed large in the ECOWAS country of Guinea, prompted by the demise of Lansana Conte. Thankfully, once again, the visceral desire to find a regional response has been omnipresent in the minds of African Union (AU) diplomats.

Speaking to the BBC on Christmas Eve from here in Accra, Ghana, ECOWAS Commission Chief Dr.Mohammed Ibn Chambas not only categorically condemned the coup, but went further to add that ECOWAS would be a "critical element" in the search for solutions for Guinea.

In contrast, the conspicuous absence of any regional organisation in any attempt of a resolution to the crisis in Gaza, where 300 people have been killed by airstrikes the last week of the year, in my view, points either to a lack of faith on the Arab League--or lack of any regional organisation in the first place!

Can we surmise that the strong influence of the US in the Middle East makes null and void any desire either by the Palestinians or Israelis to pursue a regional solution. Talk of any solution in the crisis always seems to reside on the UN or a US-based solution, prompting personal speculation that the Middle East (playing host to the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab League) does not seem to have any sense of the regional. The lack of consultations of these regional bodies can only unwittingly render them toothless.

Back to Guinea, one cannot help but wonder how distinctive the comparison is. In that country, the 15-member ECOWAS stepped in straight away not just to condemn the coup but initiate moves to resolve the crisis by forming a delegation that would be Conakry-bound and appeal to the coup-makers to remember that the Guinean constitution remains alive.

On 29th December, news came in that the 53-member AU has suspended Guinea -- until it gets its constitutional house in order.

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