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

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