Tuesday, December 20, 2011


To paraphrase the legendary Mark Twain, reports of my blog's death have been greatly exaggerated!

This blog--whether it is Trials & Tribulations of a Freshly-Arrived Denizen...of Ghana; Accra Pictures by Day & Night; or Critiquing Regionalism; et al--are very much alive. The silence is attributed to the usual end-of-year pandemonium and cacophony.

No doubt, they shall all be back in full swing in 2012!

Suffice-to-say, as the sun sets on 2011, I sincerely hope however and whichever way you arrived at this blog entry, you'll be touched by the spirit of Christmas and goodness in the air and make sure you and your family HAVE YOURSELVES a great and scintillating Christmas break.

May it sound, peaceful and stress-free!

Have a supremely enjoyable and wonderful Christmas -- till we meet again in January 2012!;-D

Thursday, December 08, 2011

AFRICA must Stop SOUTH AFRICA from enlisting EU help to get top AU position in 2012

Dear friend,

I am only a proud AU-frican citizen, but I am profoundly disturbed to read that the EU's top boss Baroness Ashton is ready to support South Africa to replace Gabon's Jean Ping in 2012. After the SOUTH AFRICA-NIGERIA duplicity and confusion at the Security Council in 2011 over Cote d'Ivoire, why must Africa sit back and watch the Africa's biggest economy to curry favour with the EU, which is going through its own internal crisis with the EUROZONE, just so that it can pave the way for further support for a permanent position at the UN Security Council?

Read the story below, and make your own judgement as to whether Jean Ping should be offered a UN position...or if it is to be SOUTH AFRICA, should it not be someone like Mbeki?

"Ashton should rather send Zuma to the top UN job, or challenge SA to put Mbeki up at the AU post!!"


from: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=160546

EU heavyweight backs Dlamini-Zuma for AU post

The endorsement will boost SA's campaign to have Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma replace Jean Ping as the next African Union Commissioner but it is likely to infuriate France
Published: 2011/12/07 06:44:31 AM

EUROPEAN Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is campaigning in Africa to have Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma appointed as the next African Union (AU) Commissioner, according to a senior government official.

This endorsement will boost SA's campaign to have her replace Jean Ping. But it is likely to infuriate France, which favours Mr Ping for a second five-year term.

Lady Ashton agreed to assist SA to convince the AU's heads of state, especially in west Africa, to have Mr Ping withdraw his candidature, paving the way for Ms Dlamini-Zuma to be elected uncontested, said the official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

In return for Mr Ping's withdrawal, the EU would ensure he was "rewarded with a suitable and senior position" at the United Nations. "We met with Catherine Ashton in Perth on the sidelines (of the Commonwealth meeting in October) where she endorsed our plan for our candidate," the official said. "She supports SA's position to strengthen the AU, which is weak, ineffective and has poor administration and governance controls.

"Our strategy will neutralise France which is actively funding the re-election of Mr Ping, even though it is publicly denying it."

EU spokesman Frank Oberholzer said yesterday he was not aware of the Perth meeting. "The EU salutes democratic processes wherever it happens and would support whatever outcome the AU concludes," he said.

The French embassy would only refer to comments by Foreign Minister Alain Juppe during his visit to SA last month — that France had no interest in recolonising Africa.

Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesman Clayson Monyela said yesterday he was not aware of any deal.

Mr Ping arrived in SA on Monday to attend the United Nations climate-change conference in Durban. His countryman, Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba, attended the conference yesterday.

A senior Gabonese official refused to shed light on Mr Ping's campaign. "We are in competition with SA on the AU position, but we are here in Durban to support SA to conclude a climate agreement."



Monday, November 28, 2011


1.0 Preamble

As Ghana hosts the ECOWAS Ministerial Monitoring Committee Meeting (MMC) from the 28 -30th November 2011, the preservation of the coherence of our Economic Community and the future of West Africa's Regional Integration hangs in the balance. The so-called Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) West Africa is currently negotiating with the European Union (EU) has already caused costly divisions in ECOWAS.

The EPA has created at least 3 contradictory trade regimes in a region that is supposed to have a single unified trade regime. LDCs in West Africa currently trade with the EU under the non-reciprocal Everything But Arms regime; as a non-LDC, Nigeria trades under what is known under the EU GSP; and Cote d'Ivoire has a bilateral EPA with the EU under which it is exempt on a small range of taxes imposed on Nigerian exports to the EU, BUT in exchange for exempting 81% of all imports from EU into Cote d'Ivoire from any tariff whatsoever.

The EU is our biggest trading partner and impacts our economies for better or for worse. Goods coming into West Africa from the EU will come in at 3 different tariff regimes and costs. What then will happen to the flow of these goods from each of these three sets of countries into each other as well as all other goods trade that exists between them? It is not difficult to imagine the trade bans, blockades and wars that will escalate within the region. This is the state of affairs that exists in West Africa as the MMC convenes in Accra today. The implications for ECOWAS are simply staggering.

But in can get much worse. In addition to these three trade regimes Ghana is on the brink of finalising and making PERMANENT its own INTERIM EPA which it undertook as a temporary measure three years ago. The Ghana IEPA has only slightly better terms in the scope of free entry it allows imports from Europe. Thus, Ghana will join Cote d'Ivoire in offering EU imports the most liberal, widest and therefore potentially most damaging market access. Meanwhile Ghana's terms are not identical to that offered by Cote d'Ivoire. In effect, the Government of Ghana would have created a FOURTH trade regime in West Africa. How can anyone seriously claim that this is and will remain in the national interest of Ghana? If taken any further, Ghana's unilateral stance will be a disaster for herself and for the region she is permanently tied to!

However this need not happen if Ghana and sister West African governments show vision and leadership and put the defence of ECOWAS' integrity today and its progressive development tomorrow as the central common priority and shared destiny.

The current MMC which gets underway in Accra this morning and the outcomes it produces will accelerate ECOWAS fracture or consolidate and enhance its future.

2.0 Issues in the EPA and Our Position:

The threats by Ghana Government to sign and ratify the interim EPA initialed in 2007 will destroy efforts over the years to integrate as one region. Ghana's Interim EPAs eliminates tariffs on above 80% of EU trade goods but the collective ECOWAS EPA is currently offering much less than that. ECOWAS is now considering 70% offer, we think this is already too high and too dangerous for our economies! But the EU still rejects the (excessive) 70% offer. The EU is intransigent to the ECOWAS position because once it has the 80%-plus benchmark from Ghana (and Cote d'Ivoire) it knows West Africa's common stance has been greatly weakened.

The EU's ruthlessness, divisive and bullying stance in the EPAs has been officially acknowledged and condemned by African governments, including Ghana. But the example and fact of Ghana's IEPA gives the EU clear evidence and encourages its confidence that if it remains just as ruthless for long enough other West African governments will crack. Today, it is Ghana's position that is in the balance. The Ghana IEPA is a Trojan horse. We demand the Ghana IEPA be suspended immediately and Government commits fully and unconditionally to the collective ECOWAS EPA process, including the immediate issue of the collective position on the scope of Market Access.

ECOWAS must take a collective stance which, among others, compensates non-LDC members like Ghana for the costs in extra tariffs that their exports to the EU market will attract if they abandon the IEPA. Credible estimates indicate that the three non-LDCs in West Africa will incur additional tariffs on their exports into EU of about €132million if they trade without an EPA. Ghana's direct share of these losses will be about €37 million euro. The economy, total global trade and the livelihoods of the overwhelming majority of 25 million Ghanaians cannot be sacrificed for a paltry tax bill of 37 million euro. West Africa's development and its future cannot be sold for 132 million euro. ECOWAS must immediately create a REGIONAL SOLIDARITY FUND to absorb these losses. Ghana must signal her complete commitment to promoting this Regional Solidarity Fund rather than its 'national interest' in the IEPA. It must also reject the attacks the EU is making on the ECOWAS levy in the EPA negotiations, as this is the kind of mechanism needed to create the solidarity fund.

Beyond the immediate threat of extra tariffs on exports to Europe from Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria (the non-LDC countries in ECOWAS), it must be made clear that ALL West African countries will incur massive fiscal losses from the EPAs. It is worth reminder that the 13 West African LDCs currently export everything but arms duty-free, quota-free to the EU market. But they are currently entitled to impose tariffs on all EU imports. Revenue from trade tariffs are the lifeblood for these and other least developed as well as vulnerable lower income developing countries. Ghana alone stands to lose $194 million (UNECA, 2005). Under the EPA even the LDCs have to grant EU imports free entry and lose the associated revenues from tariffs. This will be 'in exchange' for something they ALREADY HAVE (and have for free), i.e. duty-free quota-free access to EU markets for all exports apart from arms.

Further, the EU's position on various aspects of the EPAs, e.g. standstill on introduction of new tariffs and taxes or increase in existing ones; restrictions on the use of export taxes and quantitative restrictions; the MFN, non-execution clause and others, collectively termed 'contentious issues' in the negotiations, will divert trade within West Africa as well as West African trade with other, non-EU countries and regions to their gain but to our loss. They will also undermine the Region's efforts to industrialize and its ability to move up the industrial value chain. As a result, the region will remain a perpetual supplier of raw materials, with all the adverse implications that this entails. Any regional EPA must remove these EU impositions and narrow the scope of threat or damage to ECOWAS. Suspending Ghana's IEPA and the provisions it contains on these issues will enhance ECOWAS ability to review and strengthen its collective positions.

The EU's demands and pressure in areas that go beyond tariffs and World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments – such as Financial Services, Public Procurement, Investment, Health, Raw Materials, Natural Resources and Intellectual Property - pose even greater threats and are of more strategic importance to Ghana's (as well as West Africa's) economic transformation, industrialization and overall development. In the case of Services, internal trade within West Africa is even bigger and more dynamic than trade in goods within the region. But West Africa is hardly in a position to export services to the EU. Officials claim that negotiating and including services (as well as the other WTO-plus, Trade-Related Issues like Procurement. Investment and Intellectual Property) will create a predictable environment for EU trade and investment in West Africa. We have already had increasingly free trade in goods with the EU and others for more than 30 years. There is one predictable outcome we already know – EU companies will dominate in these areas, our already low existing capacity will be weakened even further, including our foothold in the growth areas of trade in services and in manufactures within West Africa. Any EPA must be a goods-only agreement and must exclude Services and the so-called Trade related Issues.

5. While ECOWAS has bent over backwards to accommodate EU demands, her 'partner' remains inflexible, unyielding or worse. In fact the EU has consistently flouted and retracted on commitments it has previously made. A most telling example is in the area of EU responsibility to finance fiscal losses West African countries will incur as a result of entering into EPAs. Another is the subterfuge the EU has shown in respect of providing ADDITIONAL funding for the EPA Development Programme (or 'PAPED'). The EU has watered down and reversed commitments and has engaged in patent falsehoods, recycling existing European Development Fund commitments as 'new and additional funding'. By foul and other means the EU continues to show beyond all reasonable doubt that its interests in the EPAs have little or nothing to do with ECOWAS development or regional integration aspirations, but everything to do with securing preferential advantages in West African economies and markets against all comers – including our own domestic and regional producers and our development needs. ECOWAS must insist and secure binding and unequivocal EU compensation, adjustment and development commitments as a pre-condition for any EPA.

6. But Ghana and West Africa must also prioritize the diversification of their trade away from the EU, as well as our own developmental regionally integrated production capacities, investments and markets. The EU's current economic crisis is partly due to the same unbridled liberalisation policies it is trying to impose on us through the EPAs. In Europe today, the corporate monopolies in the financial services sector in particular are holding all working people in Europe and whole economies to ransom. Meanwhile as current trends show, many more prospects exits for production partnerships, trade, investment and economic development with emerging regions in the global South. Locking in our entire trade, investment and development finance policies by giving EU privileges no one else has, not even our own companies and citizens, is not a forward looking policy. Today we are unable to share in windfall profits of mining companies because we locked ourselves into agreements that predictably provided all the guarantees and benefits for our 'partners'. We are left with dwindling shares, missed opportunities, the destruction of livelihoods and of the very environment we live in! Our national and regional development plans and their integration must come first and determine the scope and content of any EPAs. The world is very different at the end of 2011 than it was at the beginning of 2002 when EPA negotiations began. The speed of change, including negative change is the key feature of economic fortunes. The entire ECOWAS leadership and the Government of Ghana must begin to lay down concrete alternatives to the EPA as they meet in Accra this week.

3.0 Conclusion

As Ghanaian organisations and citizens we call on the Government of Ghana to live up to the nation's role and responsibility to ECOWAS and Africa's unity and to our self-determination in charting and realising our developmental transformation. Thirty or so years of trade liberalisation has not brought us any closer to this. Rather it has brought collapse of industries, paralysis of agriculture and unprecedented mass unemployment and youth discontent in our societies.

Ghana must pull back from the brink of a unilateralism that will put another nail in the coffin of development in our country and in our region. It must suspend its bilateral EPA and fully and unconditionally return to the fold of the collective regional EPA process. Ghana cannot ride two horses at once. Two horses going in different and opposite direction will tear the rider apart and trample her underfoot.

Sister ECOWAS Trade Ministers and Governments must also play their part that we ride together towards the same destination and destiny for our collective mutual protection and benefit. The ECOWAS MMC must define a collective solution that addresses any losses that Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire and other countries will face in the absence of their interim EPAs. This is the most immediate means to consolidate ECOWAS in the EPA process and in our deep common interests that go way beyond extra taxes that we will have to pay on a very small proportion of our exports to Europe.

Accra, 28th November 2011. Signed by the ff Organizations:
from: http://www.twnafrica.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=47&Itemid=72

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Of Libya, CENSAD and...Which REC for South Sudan?

Whither the future of CEN-SAD?
The Community of Sahel-Saharan States was established in 1998 by the late Colonel Qaddafi. After the rationalization of the regional economic communities in 2006, it became an AU-REC – that is one of the eight RECs mandated and recognized by the African Union. It has twenty-eight members, and Ghana is a member. 

Despite many meetings that had taken place and a fully-functioning website on http://www.censad.org, the uprising that started in Libya in March threw a huge spanner in the works of the organisation, effectively throwing the regional grouping out of sync with the other RECs at its base in Tripoli. Regrettably, the conspicuous absence of the African Union itself on the future of CENSAD has not helped dispel the notion that the AU is nothing more than a “toothless” bulldog. 

The passing of Qaddafi will effectively take the wind out of the sails of CENSAD, probably throwing all the good work – including the Great Green Wall being built along the sub-region to protect the region from climate change; as well as the establishment of a free-trade area of ECOWAS-UEMOA-CENSAD/ECOWAS-CENSAD/ECCAS along the likes of the SADC-COMESA-EAC tripartite free trade area, which was mooted in 2008.

Going forward, I would expect to see the AU taking serious the need to engage the National Transitional Council in Libya on their commitments to the African Union. This would include discussions on Libya and where it stands on the establishment of the AU-mandated and Tripoli-hosted African Investment Bank, as well as the state of play of CEN-SAD, and how it can be factored into discussions of Africa’s ongoing discussions over Africa’s integration.

South Sudan – which REC to belong to?
South Sudan might have slipped off the radar of news—not because it is not important, but other hot issues might naturally have tipped it off. Still, what has not been making the rounds too much has been the regional economic community to which South Sudan should belong. Given the location of that country, one cannot take it for granted that they would necessarily want to go with their Northern counterpart—and to the RECs is no exception.

There is no mechanism that can predict that South Sudan will want to become member of the East Africa Community or the IGAD. And what of COMESA? This is an important debate that African media practitioners – aware of the utility and increasing assertiveness of the RECs – might be ruminating over on the continent.

Although there have been major developments around South Sudan and its membership of some of these RECs, the point I am making here is about the absence of a debate in much of the African media. Going forward, African media practitioners, including here in Ghana, should move beyond the stage of talking about other AU member states only when they’re, at best, embroiled in conflict and/or at worst, are headline news over at the BBC!

You might be happy to know that South Sudan was made a member of COMESA at the 15th Comesa Heads of State and Government summit on 14th October in Malawi. Furthermore, on 17 October, South Sudan President General Salva Kiir confirmed that his country has started on the application process to become a member of the East African Community (EAC).

**this piece was culled from my Wednesday column for Ghana's "Business and Financial Times" newspaper, which is called "The Accidental ECOWAS and AU Citizen"--from: http://www.thebftonline.com/bft_subcat_linkdetails.cfm?prodcatID=6&tblNewsCatID=63&tblNewsID=9788 . More also on http://african-union-citizen.blogspot.com/2011/10/hot-issues-on-au-needing-popular.html

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on ekbensah@ekbensah.net / Mobile: 0268.687.653.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thanks to its Youth Citizens, Arab Maghreb Union--an AU-REC--Might be Saved!

In 2009, the Arab Maghreb Union turned 20 years. And Critiquing Regionalism blog was there to castigate it (http://regionswatch.blogspot.com/2009/06/ineffectual-rec-arab-maghreb-union.html)!

That's quite a long time fore any regional integration initiative to reflect on where it's going and to whom it must account. Before the so-called Arab Spring, there must have been many outside the Arab Maghreb Union region thinking that the AMU bears little relevance to the citizens and that it's time for it to go. I was certainly one of them. When I was interviewed by the BBC in March this year on a "Africa Have Your Say" programme on the role of regional economic communities in Africa, I stated clearly that "the biggest elephant in  the room" on Libya was not the African Union, but the Arab Maghreb Union. This was because there has been a paucity of analysis in the news about what that 5-member grouping was doing on Libya. Instead, the Arab League had effectively stolen its thunder and was carrying the can on what to do in Libya.

I still wonder how things could have been different had the AU-REC [African Union-recognised REC] AMU -- instead of the Arab League -- started issuing resolutions over Libya. Historians might speculate that this is one of the reasons why it's good to be a member of only one REC, if even and only to save oneself from prosecution! Had Libya not been a member of the Arab League, where would the no-fly zone had come from?

But back to the present: the news that the Arab Maghreb youth are taking charge of things is encouraging, because it seems that increasingly the youth are realising the future is in their hands.

To read that:

"The Arab Maghreb Union is obsolete and moribund," El Ouafoudi [group's Moroccan rep] said in explaining why the youth movement was founded. He said civil society took the initiative to push for a Maghreb Union after "official failure" serves as a reminder that the youth are one of the likely constituencies to kick-start any regional integration push, if ever it was needed.

The group could not have said it better when they said:

""Economic integration can only be achieved with the desire of the rulers, as well as open borders and abolition of the visa," Vall added. "There thus must be pressure on governments to respond to such demands."

Read the full article here: http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xhtml1/en_GB/features/awi/features/2011/09/15/feature-04

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PAPER: "Assessing Regional Diffusion from Brussels to Addis Ababa: The Limits of Modelling and Mentoring"

Read this surprisingly-refreshing piece entitled "Assessing Regional Diffusion from Brussels to Addis Ababa: The Limits of Modelling and Mentoring", which explores the "integration snobbery" theme of other regionalisms seeing the EU by hook or by crook as a model, but refracted through the prism of the African Union.

from: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/csgr/green/papers/workingpapers/haastrup_assessing_regional_diffusion.pdf

"Another challenge is the EU‟s „over-ambition‟ to promote regional integration (Börzel & Risse, 2009b). While the normative ideals being promoted by the EU might themselves be unproblematic, diffusion through the EU faces the potential criticism of being neo-colonial and arrogant. This is then problematic if the essence of EU-Africa relations, and indeed the cultivation of African integration is to give Africa a better seat at the table to represent its citizens. Further, the EU faces challenges to its own integration. A recent report in the Economist suggested that the difficulty the EU had in reaching a conclusion on the Greek bailout and the Eurozone crises endangers the integration project. Perhaps exaggerated, reports like these engender the negative perception of third parties, especially budding regional institutions like the AU, to the „EU as a Model‟ paradigm."


Friday, September 02, 2011

"Regional Co-operation" v "Regional Integration"

About two weeks ago, I created a Google alert for "regional cooperation" alongside the "regional integration" that I have. I noticed I obtained far more search results than the latter. Then it struck me: it looked like "regional cooperation" seems to be far more popular and meaningful to observers and practitioners of the discipline that this "integration" thing I like to bandy about here, for example.

Now I can understand this, because if you really look at it, regional cooperation offers a wider "remit" if you will of how regionalism works. When states are cooperating in a regional sphere, people kind of get it you know; they understand what it entails to cooperate. The ideas of pooling resources; public goods; electricity, etc all kind of fall into place.

Conversely talk of integration, and the eyes kind of glaze over. Integration--far from being unsexy -- is also a bit of a mouthful: how and what are you integrating towards? And if it's a region, how are you integrating the region? All the images that the former explanation conjures kind of stops short when we talk of "regional integration."

Now inasmuch as both terms are valid and can be used interchangeably, there clearly is a difference that cannot be sneezed at. In my humble opinion, I foresee regional integration to be something more deep, more structural. The integration is kind of the engine that helps create a region that is well-integrated and harmonized, and where many member states are speaking with one voice.

On the other hand, "regional cooperation" seems superficial to me: it's like member states only cooperate, without doing it at the structural level. A quick search reveals no real definition of "regional cooperation". In fact, Google lists no less than 9,500,000 results, whereas on regional integration, we obtain 9,000,000 results.

Those results probably speak more of how more popular regional cooperation is than "integration".

On another level, there is the case of regional institutions and how regional groupings cooperate within them.

Let's just end with a definition from WIKIPEDIA on regional integration (interestingly, there is no such WIKIPEDIA piece on "regional cooperation"!):

Regional integration is a process in which states enter into a regional agreement in order to enhance regional cooperation through regional institutions and rules. The objectives of the agreement could range from economic to political, although it has generally become a political economy initiative where commercial purposes are the means to achieve broader socio-political and security objectives. It could be organized either on a supranational or an intergovernmental decision-making institutional order, or a combination of both.

If one remembers nothing at all (given that there are reputedly no less than eight requirements for regional integration systems), remember the first line:

Regional integration is a process in which states enter into a regional agreement in order to enhance regional cooperation through regional institutions and rules.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

While CARICOM is on my Mind, Meet the S-G La Rocque!

For the past couple of weeks, I've been getting "Google ALerts" on CARICOM, and almost always, it is something negative about CARICOM.

Apart from the fact that CARICOM made a statement supporting the rebels of the TNC in Libya, I continue to question the real relevance of CARICOM in the Caribbean region. Not because it does not count--far from it--but what exactly it is doing to assert itself these days.

I read that they have a new secretary-general--by name La Rocque. He has vowed, as per this article here, to do quite a number of things to dynamise CARICOM, including cutting down on international travel and using video-conferencing instead! Secondly, "overtime" is out of the window.

You would think that for an organisation that has been around since 1973, they would have a lot more going for them than free movement and a Caribbean Single Market Economy scheme. CARICOM turned 38 on 1st August, but I sense that it is difficult to really speculate on what concretely it might be remembered for. Even on free movement, I read that it is only a few days ago that a press release issued stated that Jamaicans can now travel hassle-free. This has come as a result of "incidences" involving Jamaicans -- apparently! How miscreants from a member state might affect the region's free movement is beyond me -- but that is just me.

I do not for any second want to castigate CARICOM or even compare it with ECOWAS or SADC (comparable only by member countries, where ECOWAS has 15 and SADC 14). But I am still itching to compare the free movement system currently in CARICOM and ECOWAS.

ECOWAS has had free movement of its citizens since 1979. Regrettably that has meant that during the inter-necine wars of Liberia(affecting the Mano River Union countries of Liberia/Sierra Leone/Cote d'ivoire/Guinea) of the early nineties, it meant that (child) soldiers and mercenaries could move freely through the sub-region's porous borders, as well reside in ECOWAS member states for minimum ninety-days without hindrance. That ECOWAS member states have yet to fully ratify supplementary protocols associated with free movement, including setting up committees to monitor free movement (no country has done that yet!) speaks to the considerable work on free movement ECOWAS still needs to do.

CARICOM, conversely, seems to be working hard, albeit slowly.

I cannot foresee, in the 21st century, any regional integration project that underplays free movement; it just does not work. So I want to implore that given Caribbean countries are small, and that they have the CSME working better for  them than what might be here in the ECOWAS sub-region, they get serious on the regional integration project of helping them manage globalisation and its many adverse impacts.

Statements supporting Libyan rebels are curious--at a time when even the African Union has been very slow to recognise them--and interesting: they will not make CARICOM grow to be the community it can become, so CARICOM, more grease to your elbows after your 38th anniversary on 1st August this year. But, surely, you can do better?

As to whether La Rocque can be the saviour to CARICOM observers want, we live in vain expectation!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Indonesia Gets Serious on an Asean Economic Community by 2015

I just chanced upon a Google Alert  on the "ASEAN Economic Community", which led to a website, entitled "Go Live Indonesia"!

The website describes itself as:


The project, officially launched on 25 July 2011, is to promote discussion on economic integration issues. It was prompted by the ASEAN meetings being held in Indonesia in 2011, and by the interest of the Trade Minister of Indonesia in a wider dialogue about integration.

The project has run some activities to promote discussion on economic integration collaborating with Persatuan Pelajar Indonesia Australia (PPIA or Australia-Indonesia Student Association) at the University of Adelaide.

from: http://goliveindonesia.wordpress.com/about/

I think one has to seriously give it to these guys who are bent on popularising ASEAN in a way it has not been done before. I find it thoroughly interesting that a non-ASEAN member--that is Australia--is playing host to this idea by hosting it at University of Adelaide.

Either way, if ever there was an innovative way of popularising integration, I would like to think this is one way. I will certainly be following it, and I would like to encourage all and sundry with a keen eye for tectonic shifts on the regional stage to do same!

African integration initiatives -- as exemplified by the regional economic communities -- can definitely take a leaf out of this book!;-)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The African Union's "Situation Room" Compared to the EU's newly-created "Situation Room"

If ever there was a temptation by Afro-pessimists to conclude that the AU is incapable of results, I would want to point to the AU's situation room as one element to totally de-bunk that myth.

Back in March this year, when I had the opportunity to also visit the AU's situation room, alongside then-colleagues of the Africa Peace and Security programme(APSP), I had to say I was impressed by this very screen here [this picture is from Derek Henry Flood of http://the-war-diaries.com/?tag=new-african-union], which I also remarked, but felt it was not possible to take a picture of! I would have thought that the AU Situation Room might want to keep it confidential you know!

Anyway, the point ought not to be lost on you that the AU Situation Room has been around for a while--in fact since 1998--and I want to cull what I found from an AU report:

59.       Ambassador Ki-Doulaye gave a brief overview of the Situation Room of the Conflict Management Center. He pointed out that after the establishment of the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Management and Resolution in 1993, with the Central Organ as its main decision-making body, there grew an increasing need to understand African conflicts better, in order to prevent them. It was commonsensical at that time that a thorough understanding of African conflicts required timely and reliable information and analysis, providing the decision-makers with actionable options.  These growing concerns provided the impetus for convening, in 1998, of the meeting of experts to identify the political, economic, social, and military indicators, which could be considered to qualify a conflict.

60.       The Acting Head of the CMC informed the experts that it was following the outcome of that meeting in 1998, that the Situation Room was established, to serve as an initial step to the establishment within the CMC of a full continental early warning unit, which would strengthen the capacity of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution. The Situation Room is now serving as the center for the collection, processing and dissemination of data and information on crisis situations around the continent.

 --from: http://www.google.com.gh/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=13&ved=0CCEQFjACOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.africa-union.org%2Froot%2Fua%2FConferences%2Fdecembre%2FPSC%2F17-19%2520dec%2FRpt%252030-31Oct%2520%252003%2520Background%2520n%25201.doc&rct=j&q=%22AU%20situation%20room%22&ei=M6UuTtq_LojIhAeb6_Uj&usg=AFQjCNF9Pg_NkCkfxXYpRHNsXTrjiqH3Gw&cad=rja

A bit too long, but I guess you get the point that to read that -- and then to read the latest news over the weekend that no less than the European Union was establishing an EU "Situation Room" under the new External European Action Service(EEAS) could only prompt questions as to whether the EU might have copied the AU--but never admit it! Let's see the dates: 1998 and 2011. Some 13 years down the line? I do not think anyone can convince me that the bilaterals that have taken place over the years between the AU and the EU Commissions might have touched on peace and security and, by extension, the situation rooms!

Check the objectives for the EU Situation room and you might get the picture:

The EU Situation Room is part of the EEAS Crisis Response Department. It is operational since 15 July 2011.

The main tasks of the EU Situation Room are the following:

  • To lead, manage and develop all EEAS permanence and situational awareness capabilities;
  • To staff and support the EEAS Crisis Platform;
  • To ensure that all EEAS services can continuously have access to accurate and updated situational awareness as regards the political situation worldwide, the particular situations affecting EU Delegations and EU CSDP Missions/Operations as well as events and situations potentially affecting EEAS staff from a duty-of-care perspective;
  • To manage and develop relations with similar crisis mechanisms in certain International Organisations and a number of third countries.
 from: http://www.europa-eu-un.org/articles/es/article_11223_es.htm

The key words are "similar crisis mechanisms" -- and frankly, the EU was not original this time!!

Suffice-to-say, whether it is regional integration or regional cooperation, this blog here has always emphasized "the regional way". To see that "similar mechanisms" to manage and prevent conflict are being established is a glimmer of hope that for those of us who wish to see a global governance predicated on regional institutions, the reality might be closer than we could ever imagine.

Though I cannot ever foresee the EU situation room and the AU situation room exchanging ideas in a kind of "knowledge management" bubble, I can foresee the emergence of a progressive and critical look at regional integration!

ekbensah AT critiquing-regionalism.org

Friday, June 17, 2011

Abuja Bombings Must be a Clear Call for ECOWAS to Adopt the ECOWAS FBI!

Back in March 2009, I wrote a piece on my ghana blog entitled The Unbearable Lightness of Being...ECOWAS-ian & Fighting Crime in ECOWAS/AU Member States ("http://ekbensahinghana.blogspot.com/2009/03/unbearable-lightness-of-being-ecowas.html) in which I opined:

"I was very happy to read at the beginning of this week that the UN and the AU have launched a joint initiative to support an AU plan to fight drug trafficking and related crimes over the next five years.. I am also deeply encouraged that the AU has a "Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention (2007-2012)".

In the long run, these protocols are great, and it's nice to know that ECOWAS is strong on peacekeeping and peace enforcement, but I would rather hope to see not just ECOWAS disposing of a
Criminal Intelligence Bureau , but ALL regional economic communities—starting with the more formidable AU!

Truth be told, the AU has an agency dealing with terrorism that is based in Algiers. Established in October 2004, it's called the African Centre for Studies and Research on Terrorism (http://www.caert.org.dz/an/apropos.php). According to its website, its main functions are:

  • Complementing international efforts by strengthening cooperation between African countries to prevent and combat terrorism;
  • Assisting in the full implementation of international conventions relating to terrorism;
  • Playing the role of a monitoring and alerting tool by incorporating in its approach the concept of preventive management of situations.
Now, all this would be well and good if public education on it were strong enough. Fact is, it is not. As such, we as citizens are all left feeling powerless to put sufficient pressure on our governments to provide us with information on their role at this AU-agency.

But it's more serious than that.

Yesterday's bombing in Abuja, in my view, has brought into sharp relief not so much the state of Nigeria's security as the state of REGIONAL SECURITY in West Africa and, by extension, security in other regional economic communities.

Today, I read from the UK's  Daily Telegraph newspaper that "Al-Qaeda-linked suicide bomber targets Nigeria police station" (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/nigeria/8580438/Al-Qaeda-linked-suicide-bomber-targets-Nigeria-police-station.html). We have all already heard much talk about the Al-Quaida in the Maghreb over here in West Africa and felt that it was so isolated for us to care.

In May 2010, I was in Bamako for a meeting, and noticed at the airport that there were US soldiers lurking around. I later learnt that it was in connection with assisting Mali security services to fight Al Quaida in (Arab) Maghreb.

So, not so far away, huh?

So it prompts the question of why ECOWAS is being so lackadaisical about establishing its Criminal Investigative Intelligence Bureau. In the same March 2009 blog post, I wrote:

"The Europeans established EUROPOL the very moment the Treaty of Maastricht was established. Why did AU member states not equally view law enforcement as an important element in the facilitation of regional integration? "

My question still holds, but I want to go further: why did the AU not include the establishment of a Pan-African police organisation (with regional devolution at the very worst) to deal with impending issues associated with drug-trafficking and abuse of free movement protocols? Okay, so the AU, alongside the RECs, were caught off-guard, but it is never too late.

If you're interested, you might want to read the "Political Declaration on the Prevention Of Drug Abuse, Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organized Crimes in West Africa" here: http://www.unodc.org/westandcentralafrica/en/ecowaspoliticaldeclaration.html.
It is clear that West Africa has gotten fairly serious on countering crime, and I have to say that judging by some of the publications by the eponymous Dakar-based Intergovernmental Action Group against Money-Laundering(GIABA) that was established in 2000 as an ECOWAS agency, ECOWAS has moved significantly. But it must clearly do more -- as illustrated by my comment on Facebook on the BBC worldservice for Africa page:

Personally, I believe it is high-time ECOWAS got serious about adopting the Protocol of 2005 establishing the Criminal Investigative Intelligence Bureau. The AU should also use this opportunity to use the Algiers-based African Centre for St...udies and Research in Terrorism to start compiling a list of terrorist groups and the deploym...ent of strategies to deal with them. ECOWAS has done well to establish West African Police CHiefs Committee Organisation, and Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering(GIABA), but these are not enough.
With ECOWAS citizens enjoying free movement, ECOWAS can no longer say this is a Nigeria-specific problem. Passports can be faked. As such, any of these fundamentalists are likely to exploit the free movement AND the absence of a criminal intelligence bureau in the region to cause more havoc in Nigeria and beyond. ECOWAS must kindly wake up -- fast!! (from: http://www.facebook.com/bbcworldserviceafrica#!/bbcworldserviceafrica)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Monday Analysis: Morocco for the Arab World?; Cuba Hails Community of Latin American and Caribbean States

Here's a turn-up for the books: Morocco wanting to cross-over from the African Union and join the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (as this article testifies). Now, Morocco left what was then the Organisation of African Unity in 1984--and has never rejoined what is the successor to the OAU--the African Union.

Interestingly and ironically, Morocco--a non-AU country--plays host to the headquarters of an AU-recognised regional economic community we know as the Arab Maghreb Union. Can the legal brains explain to us how that works?

If Morocco does go ahead and join the Gulf Cooperation Council, as a non-AU-member, what will happen to its relations with the African Union? The article suggests though the GCC sent Morocco an invite, it would be the odd-one-out in the whole group of GCC states whose GDP out-shadows Morocco's in leaps and bounds.

The invite suggests to me that the recent murmurings about the effectiveness--or lack thereof--of the AU might have raised eyebrows in that part of the world to such an extent that they decided to do some digging of the Arab Maghreb Union--only to find that Morocco, perhaps the least disruptive member, is "available" for business.

Whatever inspired the invite, it can only cement the position and the speculation that the so-called international community wherein regional players make a difference is slowly and surely coming into shape in weird and unexpected ways!

Finally, on the Cuba, it was never going to be any surprise that Cuba would support a gargantuan community/comity of states that excludes Canada and the US. As for the extent to which it would be able to effectively marginalise the fairly invisible Organisation of American States(OAS) is anyone's guess.

With big players like Venezuela; Brazil; and Cuba in the fold, you're likely to get bombastic claims about a regional integration that subsumes UNASUR; MERCOSUR; Andean Community.

Truth be told: it's likely to happen sooner than later. The Latin Americans share a language and are in my view perhaps more radicalised in creating a common future than my counterparts over here in Africa could probably ever be!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Happy African Economic Community Day! Kindly Sign a Petition...

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

**UNDP Report**: Africa: Stronger Cross-Border Ties Key to Social and Economic Progress

Out today! UNDP's flagship report has come at a time when the Fourth UN Conference on LDCs is taking place in Istanbul, Turkey. Looks very worthy reading!!

from: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/5/prweb8405366.htm

UNDP Report: Africa: Stronger Cross-Border Ties Key to Social and Economic Progress

Region-wide linkages could positively impact national-level income growth and poverty reduction by improving access to public services and promoting sound environmentally sustainable policies

Quote startAmbitious and well-designed integration agendas can advance both inclusive growth and human development —enabling African LDCs to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.Quote end

Istanbul, Turkey (PRWEB) May 10, 2011

Integrated regional investments in roads and power, coupled with pro-poor policy, could lead to an accumulated 10 percent increase in the continent's standard of living between 2012 and 2020, says a new report released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today at the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Istanbul, Turkey.

Region-wide linkages could positively impact national-level income growth and poverty reduction by improving access to public services and promoting sound environmentally sustainable policies, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report, Regional Integration and Human Development: a pathway for Africa.

"The potential of regional integration to deliver higher economic growth is now widely appreciated," said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. "Ambitious and well-designed integration agendas can advance both inclusive growth and human development —enabling African LDCs to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals."

However, the achievement of greater integration can only become reality if supported by strong political will and committed leadership in African countries, according to the report.

While half of Africa's population, amounting to half a billion, live in the continent's 33 LDCs, the countries share less than one quarter of Africa's total gross domestic product (GDP). In addition, 12 of Africa's LDCs lack direct domestic access to a seaport, making international trade difficult.

Investing in infrastructure and lowering transportation costs is particularly critical in Africa given the large distances that may be involved in delivering produce to markets.

Facilitating the movement of people and managing this in a way that protects migrants and respects human rights can also contribute to increased incomes and remittances, and empowerment.

While there are important integration initiatives already underway, the report states that countries could also gain by harmonizing regulations and standards, devising common approaches to macroeconomic policy and managing shared natural resources.

The report notes that closer regional ties could bring LDCs new forms of industrial and trade policy and could pave the way for a greater mix in trading sectors where the majority of LDCs currently rely on agricultural commodities, such as cotton, coffee, and on minerals.

UNDP works with LDCs to achieve sustainable human development focused on inclusive growth, reducing poverty and creating jobs.

In Africa, UNDP has been working with regional economic communities to identify gaps and strengths as a first step towards building institutions and human resources to effectively support regional integration.

In countries such as Central African Republic, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda and Tanzania, UNDP has provided technical assistance for the integration of domestic and regional trade priorities into national development plans and poverty reduction strategies.

The report is available at: http://www.undp.org/poverty/library.shtml

Editor's note:
The 33 LDCs in Africa are: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia.

UNDP is the UN's global network to help people meet their development needs and build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working as a trusted partner with governments, civil society and the private sector to help them build their own solutions to global and national development challenges. Further information can be found at http://www.undp.org. Follow us on twitter and facebook

Monday, May 09, 2011

Ghana's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Launches May as "Regional Integration Month"

At a time when I mooted the idea of virtually launching May as the "African Unity" month (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_70453161507#!/event.php?eid=154734547925672) in March 2011, I am terribly encouraged to read that no less than Ghana's own Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched May as "Regional Integration" month. The full story can be found here: http://www.ghananewsagency.org/s_politics/r_28439/politics/regional-integration-month-is-launched. In the interests of time, however, allow me to flesh out what some of the activities will be:

1. Between 18 and 27 May: LaPalm Royal Beach Hotel: gala awards night and African achievement awards

2. 19 May: Accra International Conference Centre(AICC): seminar on the theme: "Free Movement in Security"

3. 20 May: Flagstaff House conference room: launch of "ECOWAS Front" -- quarterly newsletter

4. 24 May:sponsored walk;

5. 25 May: African Unity day; flag-raising ceremony at forecourt of the State House; mounting of three-day exhibition (25-28 May) at AICC; fun-fair to showcase African dishes; fashion show

6. 28 May: joint Ghana-African-American Chamber of Commerce investment forum: LaPalm Royal Beach Hotel ; football match: El-Wak Stadium

These details are not from the site, but come from today's edition of THE GHANAIAN TIMES(p.33)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Fwd: New blog posts - New challenges for ASEAN

Though it has been a while since I posted a proper blog entry, I thought it was important to remind visitors that this blog is far from dead. Secondly, ASEAN is a pet topic, which I have regrettably neglected for some time now.

Given all that is going on in the world with regard to the UN, the AU and its sub-regional economic communities and their capacity--or lack thereof--to intervene in Ivory Coast and Libya, why would ASEAN not get shelved to the back-burner?                  

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Date: 2011/4/7
Subject: New blog posts - New challenges for ASEAN
To: ekbensah AT gmail.com

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New blog posts
7 April 2011

New challenges for ASEAN

In February 2011, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) took a historic decision to intervene in a dispute along the Thai/Cambodian border. While this decision could potentially boost the regional organisation's capacity to manage internal conflicts, the current difficulties in implementing it could reverse this potential gain, argues Michael Vatikiotis, Regional Director for Asia at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (the HD Centre).

In one of two blog posts recently published on Peacetalks (the HD Centre's online discussion forum), Dr Vatikiotis explores the current Thai/Cambodia border crisis. He considers the challenges it poses for ASEAN and its efforts to increase its role as a guarantor of regional security. He also suggests other paths which could help de-escalate the conflict.

Another challenge faced by ASEAN is linked to the inclusion of new member states. In a second blog post, Dr Vatikiotis reflects on the prospects and potential repercussions of East Timor becoming the newest member of an expanded ASEAN.  Despite misgivings among some member states centred on the country's economic and political stability, Dr Vatikiotis argues that incorporation of East Timor makes sense from a regional security perspective.

These two blog posts are also available on the MacArthur Foundation Asia Security Initiative blog, which hosts discussions on current events and security challenges in the Asia Pacific region. The HD Centre is one
of six contributing organisations.

The HD Centre would like to thank the MacArthur Foundation for its support for research into Asian peace and security issues.



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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

RESOURCE: Using Regional Institutions to Improve the Quality of Public Services

from: http://wdr2011.worldbank.org/Outsourcing%20to%20Regional%20Institutions


Edgardo Favaro

Lead Economist, Economic Policy and Debt Department, The World Bank

The rationale underlying a government's decision to subcontract the delivery of some public services to a regional organization is to access higher quality (and possibly lower cost) services than could be produced domestically. In that respect, contracting out a public service is not radically different from importing private goods and services. But in many other respects contracting out public goods and services is very different than importing most other private goods: first, there is no market where a country can purchase security or justice provision; second, there is risk that an arm's length relationship between the service provider and the client government may result in supplier actions that may not represent the interest of client governments; third, switching from one to another service provider is orders of magnitude more complex than it is in the case of most private goods and services.

A deeper understanding of subcontracting of public services to regional institutions is especially relevant in the context of the development of fragile states. If outsourcing some public service provision is feasible, bridging the gap between current poor quality public services and the type of services necessary to encourage development of a market economy is also possible within relevant development horizons.

The strategy followed in this paper is to study the conditions that facilitate the outsourcing of some public service provision, the governance structure ruling the relationship between the source and the client government and the actual performance of these agreements through the experience of several regional institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Eastern Caribbean. The second section of the paper describes the characteristics of fragile states and provides indicators of the quality of institutions. The third section describes eight experiences of outsourcing in Sub-Saharan Africa and in the Eastern Caribbean. The fourth section analyzes historical, cultural, technical and economic reasons that have contributed to the development of this type of regional institution in some parts of the world and the rationale underlying the outsourcing of some functions but not others.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Towards an Emerging Regional Governance?

Who would have thought it: no less than the US, through Hillary Clinton, urging the world to wait out a UN-backed no-fly-zone on Libya.
This contrasts sharply with when her husband was President in 1999, when Nato was allowed to run rough-shod over the UN Security Council
by dropping bombs on Kosovo, without the backing of the Security Council.

Perhaps even more interesting is listening to this same Hilary Clinton talk about partners, including the Arab League, the African Union; the European Union;Nato; and the Gulf Cooperation Council!

I would have loved to hear in that list the AU-mandated Arab Maghreb Union, but that is okay.

Though I am impressed with Nato Secretary-General Rasmussen's claim that Nato will not act without the backing of the UN Security Council as well, I still have little regard for Nato, an alliance I believe has lost its raison d'etre. Still, hearing that list has given me hope that however and whatever people might feel about the utility--or lack thereof--of these groupings, they DO still exist and they are unlikely to break away anytime soon.

I just hope this Libyan crisis is a wake-up call for them to crank up what may just be the framework for the emergence of some kind of regional governance, where regional organisations are recognised as partners in the resolution of conflict -- everywhere!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Too Many Afro-Pessimists in the Hood

**The AU lacks the mechanism to be proactive and has failed. Its existence is not warranted.

**The AU is nothing but a forum for idling by questionable characters who meet and compare notes on their mismanagement of affairs. The AU itself is a problem that Africans have to solve first.

**Once again, the AU has led Africans to come across as people incapable of solving their own problems. How will we ever be respected if we continue to portray ourselves as "the white man's burden"?

from: http://www.citifmonline.com/index.php?id=1.290993.1.310328

I have just read a fascinating piece by one Dr.Michael J.K. Bokor on Ghana's citifmonline website that reeks of Afro-pessimism. I thought it was important to highlight three quotes that have resonance with a lot of what many African are talking about, namely: the failure of the AU to act in Libya.

While I agree to a large extent that the AU was slow in responding to the crisis in Libya, I never expected it to react so quickly. After all, Libya has been a rather formidable purveyor of African unity in many more ways than we can imagine. While that may have been self-serving for Libya in many respects, the bottom line is that Libya alone has paid the dues of smaller countries unable or unwilling to pay AU dues; plus the country contributes no less than 15% of the AU budget.

Perhaps if AU member states got their act together and paid more of their dues, rather than leaving it for South Africa; Libya; Nigeria; Algeria; and Egypt, we would all have a more functioning AU!

I don't know about you, but last time I looked no organisation can exist without finances--and Libya has offered a lot of that in the service of African Unity. Even if in theory, let's give the devil his due!

On issues of peace and security, it is acknowledged worldwide that outside Europe, the AU outshines Asia and Latin America in conflict prevention, conflict management and conflict resolution initiatives.

As a West African learning every day about my sub-region of ECOWAS, I know that ECOWAS, out of all the regional economic communities, has a significant comparative advantage over the seven other ones on peace and security, having had sound experiences in Liberia and other hot-spots in the sub-region.

Simply put: enough of this Afro-Pessimism by the learned doctor. The AU needs to get its house in order, but it won't do that when the Afro-Pessimists who see nothing good from the AU decide to castigate it, without offering sufficient solutions on how to make it better.


Monday, February 28, 2011

The Blogging Passion's Still Burning...But Like That, He was Gone!

I thought I'd eschew any vestige of melodrama by being as incisive about my point as possible.

But knowing me, it was always going to be difficult!

It is not so much that I have goofed or erred -- just that I've become more of a human being, both pretending to be, and actually being busier than I ever expected.

Undoubtedly, this has affected my blogging. I cannot tell you the number of entries I have started only for them to be lost somewhere in my written diary/journal.


Like the fire burning in this picture, the passion of blogging remains -- as does my passion of all things Ghanaian and all pictures Ghanaian.

I also love my area of expertise: comparative global regional integration, which is simply how the emerging regions in the world -- the European Union, African Union, ECOWAS, ASEAN -- compare with each other in their respective sectors. Closer to home, there's been a lot of talk about ECOWAS, because of the still-unresolved Ivorian Crisis, which has seen Laurent Gbagbo still in power.

My take is that the African Union meddled too much, leaving egg on the face of the West African bloc of ECOWAS.

I am glad, though, to have seen the ARAB LEAGUE get proactive about Libya; and the AU's powerful Peace and Security Council finally issue a communique about Libya (considering Libya's sponsoring of the Pan-African body to the tune of 15% of the AU's budget!)

I guess life's like that: we're all shades of gray, and a LOT of work-in-progress.

Suffice-to-say, I have more bombastic claims when I get back to regular blogging in April.

I shall be away from blogging proper for a good one month. I'm already getting withdrawal symptoms...

Just like the smoke in the picture, I've been lingering for a while, while the passion burns.

The only difference between me and the picture is that my passion won't ever ebb away -- just gone on hiatus.

Till then!

See you first week of April...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Both ECOWAS & AU must reduce Scare-Mongering on "war" in Cote d'ivoire!

Fears about a war notwithstanding, I feel it is important people understand that without a qualification of what "military intervention" would mean for Cot d'Ivoire, we are all making assumptions about a "hot war", which might not be the case at all. In March 2008, the AU, deploying a surgical objective of removing a dictator in the island of Comoros, went in (without South African or Nigerian troops) with some AU troops in what has been termed a "successful operation." While that island is small--and cannot be compared to Ivory Coast--it reflects the fact that the AU has a precedent in "military intervention". Research from Swedish Foreign Ministry about the Comoros intervention maintains there were no deaths, but some 11 civilians wounded.

Point is: there has been much talk about ECOWAS intervention, through ECOMOG, in Liberia in 1989. The arguments are sound about the need to avoid a direct comparison of the situations. What we must be asking though is why ECOWAS and the AU have not come out to clarify what military intervention would mean, given that ECOWAS has a Standby Force of roughly 6,500 troops which could be deployed--at least in theory. That Ghana has stated publicly about being unable to deploy troops does not foreclose the use of intervention by other ECOWAS member states.

The rhetoric of force in Cote d'ivoire has ironically come a couple of months after the AU declared 2010 to be the Year of Peace and Security. But what the AU failed to also do is provide sufficient information to the wider public about what this means about Africa having a "Peace and Security Architecture", under which regional standby forces, including the ECOWAS Standby Force, can be deployed.

I find it curious that neither the AU or ECOWAS has not sought to correct perceptions that there might be the prospect of an ECOMOG force--as in Liberia. ECOMOG no longer exists. I would have hoped the two leading African protagonists be more vocal about these misperceptions. That is not happening begs more debate that can probably be discussed when tensions around Cote d'Ivoire simmer down.

In the meantime, both ECOWAS and AU must come clean about a "hot war", which many West African citizens fear is likely to happen!

*picture from news24.com

Thursday, January 06, 2011

On Why Military Intervention in Ivory Coast by Ecowas Standby Force is Feasible et al...

Am heartened by the fact that there's a lot of interesting discussion around Ivory Coast, but I want to make a few points:

1. Nigeria -- those associating military intervention with a whim of Nigeria are woefully wrong. Goodluck is only toeing the ECOWAS line. The ECOWAS Framework for Conflict Prevention (available from ECOWAS, 2008) states that military intervention is the last resort "in the broader framework of peace and security architecture: )--p.15. Jonathan just happens to be chairing ECOWAS at the time of the crisis. It could have been any of the other 14 members proposing it as a last resort.

2. ECOWAS ability to intervene -- ECOWAS set a precedent of military intervention back in 1989 when it went into Liberia. The force was called ECOMOG, and 70% of it was indeed Nigerian. They went in with the mandate of peace enforcement. There were problems, but it was not an illegal intervention. Chapter VII of the Security Council enjoins regional organisations to utilise regional organisations "in the maintenance of international peace and security for which the Security Council is primarily responsible" (http://www.un.org/en/sc/repertoire/regional_arrangements.shtml)

3. ECOMOG vs Ecowas Standby Force -- ECOWAS has had missions in Liberia (ECOMOG); Cote d'Ivoire(2002); Sierra Leone; Guinea-Bissau. These had different monikers and were not all known as ECOMOG. In 2010, the African Standby Force (ASF) was born, under which the ECOWAS Standby Force(ESF) is a regional node, a kind of rapid reaction force. Each African region has one (there are five in total). This is what would likely intervene to depose Gbagbo. They trained in October 2010, and have the experience to avoid maximum bloodshed.

4. Human rights abuses -- there are many being perpetrated by pro-Gbagbo supporters, including attacks of UN forces whose sole mandate is to protect Golf Hotel and Outtara. What's the justification in attacking UN forces? ECOWAS has a Community Court, which will have full competence to accept cases of abuses of human rights when all this is over.

This is far from an exhaustive list of points, but for observers of international relations, this escalating crisis is one to keep one's eye on for the actors (a more activist UN; a secondary regional economic community in UEMOA setting a precedent by freezing funds of a member state; the lackadaisical performance of the AU--as exemplified by the choice of Raila Odinga as an AU Envoy, etc)

A more detailed analysis will be delivered in due course!