Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Reflections on Regional Integration: Creating Sub-Regional Imperatives for SADC & SAARC, While IGAD/ECOWAS Forge Ahead

I have been trying so hard to write about Madagascar without elaborating on the latest developments of the country having been suspended. Not that I am not happy that SADC has suspended the Indian Ocean country, or that the AU has equally done so, but that I was hoping that the issue of Madagascar ought to be a watershed for SADC to re-formulate where it needs to go in terms of its sub-regional imperative.

You might re-call that I have made a lot of noise about ECOWAS and Liberia and how it has developed a conflict prevention imperative, on account of the number of conflicts it was compelled to go through, as well as the transformation of what was essentially an economic organisation into something that would become a force for peace enforcement through ECOMOG.

I could not help but wonder whether the headaches that SADC had over Mugabe and power-sharing has perhaps forced SADC to look at a new imperative for it--governance! Think about the fact that Zimbabwe is in power-sharing mode now, and how Ravalomanana could have "power-shared" with Andry Rajoelina if SADC had intervened earlier.

I believe that as the regional economic communities move ahead, they needs must develop imperatives that lend them a degree of credibility; for surely regional integration cannot only be about bringing tariffs down within a collective group?

So when I heard yesterday of the Lahore bombings, I couldn't help but wonder how profoundly SAARC had failed in a possible regional imperative of tackling terrorism, and how it quickly needed to get its act together! If you have been reading some of my writings about SAARC, you'll know that I don't suffer it gladly--so to speak.

In my view, it remains one of the weakest regional unions that exist in the world. I cannot for the life of me understand how Afghanistan would seek to join it last two years, yet fail to use SAARC as a focal point to rationalise counter-terrorism activities in the region! Is it a political thing or what? If the 15-member ECOWAS could establish protocols on peace and security, what is stopping the seven-member SAARC?

Constrast SAARC's execrable performance on regional integration and the search for imperatives, and you are confronted with IGAD, which I wrote about a few months ago. IGAD, in all fairness, has gotten very serious about using the imperative of conflict prevention to its advantage. That it comprises SUDAN, SOMALIA, ERITREA as countries representing some of the inter-necine conflicts suggests that this was the only rational solution to pursue. SAARC must take cue. India, as the putative hegemon, should be less imbued by its own country's growth, and be more concerned about leading SAARC to be what it can be--an effective tool for the resolution of conflict in South East Asia!

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