Friday, January 30, 2009

IGAD--Getting Proactive on its Security Imperative?

It's no news now that Ethiopian troops have withdrawn from Somalia. What is news is the fact that the six-member Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)--comprising Kenya; Uganda; Ethiopia; Somalia; Suda; and Djibouti -- issued a statement after an emergency meeting on Tuesday 27 January condemning actions of what are described as "anti-peace groups" in Somalia.

Bottom line is that unbeknownst to many, IGAD is getting proactive on the facilitation of its regional integration process, which could look like one increasingly predicated on security.

Profoundly reminiscent of ECOWAS in the 1990s when the West African REC transformed its mandate to transcend a conflict resolution/preventive one by establishing ECOMOG, it has got one thinking whether this new-found imperative is not to be consolidated further.

These latest developments look like it just might do that--with the help of the African Union.

Already--as VOA news maintained--top AU diplomat Jean Ping "spoke confidently of adding Ugandan and Nigerian battalions to the AU's 3,500-strong peacekeeping mission in Somalia." This is important as the Islamist extremists are allegedly trying to re-take control of Somalia.

We all know how nature abhors a vacuum. Developments so far prove that with the proactiveness of AU and IGAD, the regional solution will be comprehensively explored.

[map from Voice of America website]

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

MERCOSUR--Venezuela-Brazilian Ties are No Game!

There's a lot of interesting developments in the Latin American region off-late, and I'm not just saying that because Bolivia's referendum went well the country's way on Sunday. Ofocurse, well is relative, because for the detractors of the referendum, empowering the indigenous makes a nonsense of the westernising process that suits the middle class. But, that's another story.

The biggest story here is that apart from the fact that Chavez is coming under attack for extending the term of his office by way of the constitution, as far as regional integration initiatives go, more exciting things are happening. Last week, for example, the personable Christine Kirchner, President of Argentina, met up with Chavez.

The objective of the meeting was to deepen ties between the two countries. To the extent that a good 21 new cooperation agreements were signed, plus the bullet-point notes of: meeting once every three months; and alternating the meeting between Venezuela and Argentina all have lent credence to the idea that Venezuela and Argentina are getting things "right" on fostering their regional integration.

Fostering integration is very often about deepening ties between, and among the countries in the region. Perhaps here in the ECOWAS region, Ghana and Nigeria come close to doing that more often than with the other thirteen members of ECOWAS; I do sure hope we could see more Ghana-Gambia / Ghana-Senegal / Ghana-Cote d'Ivoire / Ghana-Mali interactions. If you think about the permutations that can occur between and among countries in any grouping, it is more than astronomical.

It's More than in the Eyes

Going back to the issue of developments in the region, one reads further that Brazil and Venezuela are also strengthening their regional cooperation after the 6th Bilateral Summit, which was held in the "western oil-producing state of Zulia."

Now when we talk about Brazil and Venezuela, we are in essence talking about regional hegemons--even if Venezuela has yet to be comprehensively ensconced in the MERCOSUR region.

The meeting was more than bombastic talk: it saaw the two leaders of Chavez and Lula driving through a "commnal city" named "The Labyrinth", which is...

"a growing agricultural community of 157 families, where an irrigation system is being developed with Brazilian technology."

There were also inspections of a 2,050 acre cattle-raising complex in The Labyrinth, supplied by what the Venezuelan leader calls "very resistant" Brazilian cattle breed.

Venezuela will, in turn, be creating a large food depot to give food security to its people, with Venezuela ready to transfer technology from the agricultural revolution the country has experienced since the sixties--all this so that Venezuela can also create its own agricultural revolution.

The long-and-short of it all is that if ever we thought Brazil, Venezuela and Argentina are playing games with rhetoric about fostering a strong and cohesive MERCOSUR, these developments better dispel that myth fast!

pictures are from

Thursday, January 15, 2009

AFRICAN UNION--Quote of the Day: African Union & its Symbolic Dimension of African unity

Africa Union HQ in Ethiopia

SOURCE: African Regional Integration and the Role of the European Union
by Professor Dr. Ludger Kühnhardt, pp.6-7
download it here:

For the past few days, I've been reading round the theories that make regional integration what it is; as well as browsing through some papers written by students and whatnot about what makes African regional integration. I came across this source by Professor Kuhnhardt, and think the following is a quotation worth noting:

It may well be that eventually it will not be the African Union but the most advanced and deep sub-regional groupings – the building blocs of an African Economic Community – that may become African equivalents of the European Union. The African Union may continue to serve the prime objective of promoting African unity as a matter of identity and the external projection of African claims. But while the African Union may continue to represent the symbolic dimension of African unity, some of the building blocs of sub-regional groupings in Africa may evolve into the strong representatives of deep region-building.

The good professor goes on to add that so far it is ECOWAS and SADC that are "the most successful examples of deepened integration among sub-regional groupings on the African continent." He adds that the "re-born" East African Community could follow close behind, making the latter three the "advanced and comprehensive regional groupings in today's Africa."

Finally, he adds, "they may eventually mature into the African equivalents of the European Union -- supranational entities hold together and advanced by a common body of legislature and a multi-level system of governance."

Perhaps his biggest prediction ever is this:

In turn, the African Union may develop into a hybrid of the Council of Europe,
the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations – a collective security organ defined by the quest for a common identity and its global recognition.

Fwd: Regional integration archive on ISN.ETHZ.CH

Dear RegionsWatch,

E.K.Bensah has sent you the following blog entry from the blog This blog entry can be found at:

Here is what they also wrote to you:

The blog entry detail is as follows:
Archive of regional integration reports
The Swiss International Relations and Security Network has an archive of very useful articles on regional integration that covers a wide array of regional arrangements from the EU to SADC to SAARC.

You can click the link to the archive directly here: simpleall

If you are unable to read this email, you can go to to see this blog entry.

Monday, January 12, 2009

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.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Dear regionswatcher,

I guess I should have started off by wishing all of u a profoundly prosperous and progressive new Year ahead.

I want to thank all of you for your continued patronage. That said, I want to single out TWN's Riaz T for the very constructive criticism he offered for the blog.

It is indeed a new year, and with it come fresh ideas, mixed with the working old ones. Some of the newbies here include the fact that you can now get to this blog by simply going to:

RegionsWatch was born 5 yrs ago -- and better things are to come, with the formal launching of the new site in March.

For now, though, I want to remind you that if you missed my following of the ACP Summit on this blog, you can go to the blog and check under October to follow the entries. A technical hitch prevented you all from obtaining deep insights as the conference went on. I hope you can check it out.

RegionsWatch is a passion, and long will it continue. From ECOWAS in Guinea-Conakry to the timerous Arab League, this blog will always be clear about one thing:

there will ALWAYS be a regional solution.

Happy New Year!
___sent: e.k.bensah (OGO device)+233.208.891.841/

These words brought to you by Ogo.

Javier Solana is only partially-right on Gaza

I just heard on the BBC World service that the EU's foreign policy chief Solana says that the inaction over Gaza is a "failure of international diplomacy".

I hasten to add that the glimmer of hope that arose a few days ago about a possible intervention of the Arab League has been reduced to dyspeptic insignificance on account of squabbling within the sub-regional grouping that the Palestinians are to blame.

Put simply, in my view, the Arab League does not seem to have the testicular fortitude to craft an sub-regional imperative that would comprise any attempt at conflict resolution; in that respect, it has a lot of work to do over the next year to find out how it can play a conciliatory but tough role in the current crisis in Gaza.

___sent: e.k.bensah (OGO device)+233.208.891.841/

These words brought to you by Ogo.