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, 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: . More also on

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" ( 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 / Mobile: 0268.687.653.

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