Communicating the ECOWAS Message (4): A New Roadmap for the Ouedraogo Commission(1)

By Emmanuel K. Bensah Jr.
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By Emmanuel K. Bensah Jr.

7/24/2013 2:21:10 PM -

'The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen
For the third time since its inception in 1975, ECOWAS is undergoing institutional reform. The first was when it revised its treaty on 24 July, 1993; the second was in 2007, when the Secretariat was transformed into a Commission. Professor Senghor, an authority on Sene-Gambian relations, quintessential Pan-Africanist; and former UN diplomat, speaks of the ECOWAS Treaty as 'the Bible' of where West Africa needs to be. In an ideal world, West African media ought to be agog with the 20 years of the revised Treaty. We settle for second-best today by touching on the outcomes of the 43rd Ordinary Session, as well as the significance of what a new 15-member Commission means for West African governance

Diplomats at the European Commission might not yet be quaking in their boots, because they have probably been so consumed by their arrogance for the institution they work forthe permanent European civil serviceas setting the trend for the rest of the world, including for the emergence of the permanent West African Civil Service, or the ECOWAS Commission. But they should be a little worried, because the emergence of Commissioners for the other seven regional economic communities(RECs) of IGAD; SADC; COMESA; ECCAS; EAC; AMU; CENSAD might offer a double-edged sword for the EU's typical engagement with Africa. But that is another story!

Immediately upon hearing from a trusted and reliable source at the ECOWAS Commission that ECOWAS now has six new departments (Human Resources Management; Education, Science and Culture; Energy and Mines; Telecommunications and IT; Industry and Private Sector Promotion. Finance and Administration to Sierra Leone has been decoupled, to give the incoming Ghana Commissioner the new portfolio of Administration and Conferences), I sought to review my patchy notes on its European counterpart of the EU Commissioner.

Suffice-to-say, Wikipedia has quite a detailed account of what constitutes a European Commissionereven almost to salaries, and the percentage to which it is a reflection many times over of the European civil service grade. Most importantly, it covers how they are appointed; the Oath they are supposed to take; the history of the evolution of the European Commissioner; the extent to which they are accountable to European citizens; salaries; and finally which member state of the 28-member European Commission holds what portfolio. (I daresay there is no Wikipedia entry yet of an ECOWAS Commissioner. Any takers?).

The emergence of an ECOWAS Commissioner
Setting up a Wikipedia stub on an 'ECOWAS Commissioner' will not be a problem; it is just a matter of getting committed people to do adequate research on what entails an official becoming an ECOWAS Commissioner (even against the odds of scant information in the capitals of member states on the institutional development of ECOWAS' architecture). If we lived in a perfect world, we should by now have sufficient information in all member states about the Ecowas Treaty; the evolution of ECOWAS from a Secretariat to a Commission in 2007; and finally, the build-up to the newly-expanded Commission, which is highly significant.

This is because it sets a precedent for a veritable and permanent West African civil service, for in the same way the European Commissioners are equivalent to national ministers, so will this expansion signify an attempt by West Africa to have its own national ministers as well. As to the extent to which they remain accountable to the ECOWAS Parliament and other Community institutions are important indicators of the future of any kind of West African governance.

If we quickly look at the revised Ecowas Treaty of 1993, article 20 enjoins staff of the Community to ensure that 'in the performance of their duties, the [erstwhile] Executive Secretary, the Deputy Executive Secretaries, and other staff of the Community shall owe their loyalty entirely and be accountable only to the Community'. It continues 'In this regard, they shall neither seek nor accept instructions from any government or any rational or international authority external to the Community.' What article 20 does not say is what happens when staff of the Community is found to have breached this article. Are there any sanctions that will be meted out to them? For example, could they be accountable to the ECOWAS Parliament and/or to the Community Court of Justice?

In my view, what this can only serve to remind us about is this: until and unless the ECOWAS Commission begins to fast-track synergy with the ECOWAS Parliament, it will be a great deal easier for ECOWAS staff to be bullied by Eurocrats, who, along with their interests, are explicitly 'external to the [ECOWAS] Community'.

Professor Senghor's suggestion for all West African citizens, including policy-makers, through to the average Community citizen to pay attention to the revised ECOWAS Treaty, which turns 20 this week, cannot go unheeded at a critical juncture when institutional changes are taking place at the ECOWAS Commission and ECOWAS turns 40 only in 2 years time!

In 2009, in his capacity as a 'Do More Talk Less Ambassador' of the 42nd Generationan 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://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 [email protected] / Mobile: +233-268.687.653.

Disclaimer: "The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article." © Emmanuel K. Bensah Jr..

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