“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
The 6-7 November ECOWAS Summit on Burkina Faso is Historic, & ECOWAS/UN knew of Compaore's intentions as far back as March 2014!
By E.K.Bensah Jr
It's hard to believe that it is not yet even a fortnight – 14 November will be exactly two weeks -- since former President Blaise Compaore was forced to leave office after a popular uprising, yet the diplomatic actors in ECOWAS, the African Union, and the UN have already activated their diplomatic machinery, with even an ECOWAS meeting having been convened almost a week after the Burkina Faso crisis. We have seen a more activist and interventionist UN Office for West Africa than the pusillanimous actor we saw in Cote d'Ivoire in 2011 under former UNOWA boss Said Djinnit.
Although we have yet to see him in action, we know that the Togolese former Finance Minister Edem Kodjo is the AU envoy to Burkina Faso (upon the recommendation of the AU's Peace and Security Council); and Senegalese President Macky Sall is Chair of a regional Contact Group to facilitate the political transition process in Burkina Faso—and not the Special ECOWAS Envoy to Burkina Faso, as was being suggested by some Ghanaian media. The ECOWAS Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo has yet to appoint one. At the time of writing, we learn that Senegal's Mack Sall approved Sunday 9 November a UEMOA Envoy to Burkina – Professor Ibrahima Fall, who is a former Presidential candidate and former under-secretary General of the UN.
The celerity with which ECOWAS-AU-UN troika has done this comes as little surprise.
First, the experience of Cote d'Ivoire in 2011; Mali in 2012; and Guinea-Bissau also in 2012 has already given a template for ECOWAS to work with. But there is also a second and very important point, which has to do with the fact that between March and April-ending of this year, no less than President John Mahama, in his capacity as ECOWAS Chair, the former UN Secretary-General Representative to West Africa, Said Djinnit, and ECOWAS officials were cognizant of the fact that Compaore was intent on tweaking the Constitution.
In the 26 June, 2014 “Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa”, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was explicit about Compaore's intent when he wrote:
“In preparation for further political engagement by my Special Representative,
UNOWA and ECOWAS conducted an early warning mission to Ouagadougou from
20 to 25 April. The team met with the leadership of the ruling and main opposition
parties, representatives of civil society, including religious, youth and women's
groups, and international partners. Several interlocutors highlighted the prevailing
tensions over the possible amendment of article 37 of the Constitution. They warned
that the formal announcement of the date of the proposed referendum could trigger
violence since the population appeared deeply divided over the issue. "
"My Special Representative met with President Compaoré in Ouagadougou on
24 March, against a backdrop of growing political tensions in the country. My
Special Representative emphasized the need to preserve the democratic
achievements of Burkina Faso and the country's social cohesion and stability.
President Compaoré indicated his willingness to pursue dialogue with the opposition
and cited the role played by the President of Côte d'Ivoire, Alassane Ouattara, who
had engaged with various Burkina Faso parties in March. My Special Representative
maintained contact with President Ouattara in that regard and also discussed the
situation with the President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, in his capacity as the
current Chair of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS. "
It is arguable that even if the ECOWAS Chair knew this as far back as March, as did ECOWAS officials and the UN, ECOWAS could have in no way intervened, and could only count on Compaore's assurance of dialogue. It is also arguable that these diplomatic manoeuvres happen “all the time”, and it is futile blaming any interlocutor for the outcome of events. Without a shadow of a doubt, it offers a high degree of mental pabulum for the trust we repose in our leaders when they tell us one thing and act differently—and I am not only talking about the former Burkina Faso President!
These facts notwithstanding, it is important to press on with the compare-and-contrast for the sake of a history that will seek to help historians better-understand ECOWAS policy around peace and security in the sub-region.
Burkina Faso 2013 vs Mali 2012 vs Cote d'Ivoire 2011
While comparisons are likely to abound by observers, I would like to think comparisons are acceptable but unnecessary and, in fact, futile.
Burkina Faso is in no way Mali; and Mali was in no way Cote d'ivoire. While the genesis of the Ivory Coast question stems from an electoral crisis, the situation in Mali stems from a crystal-clear coup; and Burkina Faso straddles the divide between a constitutional crisis and a popular coup.
In Mali, ECOWAS responded predictably: first requesting Mali to restore constitutional rule before suspending her from ECOWAS, and ultimately threatening sanctions within 72 hours. This contrasts with Burkina Faso where there has yet to be any talk of the country being suspended from ECOWAS activities, with even a call by ECOWAS leaders for the international community to refrain from imposing sanctions – even at a time when the AU gave an ultimatum of two weeks for a transition to civilian rule.
Mali 2012 saw the prospect of hot war looming large, or at least that's what had been portrayed. Unlike in Cote d'ivoire, where that prospect of “hot war” was confounded by observers who felt military intervention was tantamount to a hot war, in Mali, ECOWAS was relatively clear that it was an Ecowas Standby Force that would be deployed, and that it would comprise 2000 troops.
In 2011, many observers did not know whether it would be the defunct ECOMOG or some hooded West African intervention force ready to take out Gbagbo. While neither the AU nor ECOWAS, in my view, had communicated clearly what both an Africa, and ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture involves for the respective regions, my reading of the situation suggested that more people were talking of a peacekeeping force for Mali, which was probably more accurate than was averred in 2011.
What a blitzkrieg-week after the Mali coup in the ECOWAS sub-region in 2012!
With almost lightning speed, ECOWAS sought to systematically reinforce a regional drive to restore constitutional order.
On 22 March, the day of the coup, ECOWAS reacted immediately, calling for immediate restoration of the constitution. Four days later—on 26 March--, ECOWAS would convene an “Extraordinary summit” in Abidjan, and issue a strong statement condemning the “usurpation of power by the military junta.” Not only did the sub-regional leaders consider it a gross “violation of [the] Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance”, but worried about how Mali's behavior was a far departure from the sub-region's attempt to isolate coup-makers. In order to reverse this illegality, ECOWAS decided on additional measures for the restoration of constitutional order to Mali.
The following day—on 27 March—ECOWAS leaders would make movement on how to handle the crisis. All ECOWAS leaders attended the summit in Abidjan – but so did special guests, which included AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra; the head of the UN Office for West Africa Said Djinnit; the UEMOA Commission boss; and Algerian and Mauritanian representatives.
By close of the meeting, Mali had been suspended, and a high-level delegation was to be sent to Mali within 48 hours. In the meantime, ECOWAS had instructed members of its Chief of Defence Staffs Committee from the following countries—Benin; Burkina Faso; Cote d'Ivoire; Niger; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal' and Togo—to go to Mali in the furtherance of peace and restoration of the constitution. The ECOWAS Standby Force would be put on high alert, as Burkina Faso president Blaise Compaore would be elected mediator to Mali. The Summit would also instruct the ECOWAS Commission head Kadre Desire Oeudrago to notify the decisions made by ECOWAS to the AU Chairperson, as well as to the Peace and Security Council of the African Union.
Regrettably, the meeting of the six-member delegation would prove abortive as pro-putsch demonstrators would prevent the ECOWAS plane from landing. This has far-from-deterred ECOWAS from bringing the crisis to a logical conclusion. To this end, on ECOWAS' return to base in Abuja, the bloc would meet and re-call their seven-point agenda.
First, to “deny any form of legitimacy to the Comité National de Redressement pour la Démocratie et la Restauration de l'Etat, and to demand the immediate restoration of constitutional order in Mali”. Second, to remind the CNRDRE of its responsibility for the safety and security of President Amadou Toumani Touré. Third, to “demand that the CNRDRE release all political detainees”; fourth, “suspend Mali from all decision-making bodies of ECOWAS with immediate effect, in accordance with Articles 1(e) and 45(2) of the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, and the provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, until such time that constitutional order is effectively restored”; fifth, “demand the CNRDRE to take immediate steps to restore constitutional order in Mali, in line with ECOWAS Protocols, and bearing in mind the decisions adopted by the AU Peace and Security Council on the suspension of Mali”; sixth, “ instruct the ECOWAS Commission to put the ECOWAS Standby Force on high alert for all eventualities.” Finally, “in the event of non-compliance by the CNRDRE with these Decisions, invite all Member States to impose a travel ban, as well as a diplomatic and financial embargo, on the members of the CNRDRE and their close collaborators with immediate effect.”
The ECOWAS Heads of State and Government(Authority) would eventually adopt the following sanctions on Mali: With respect to “Political and Diplomatic Sanctions”, it states: “ i) Suspend the membership of Mali from ECOWAS; ii) Recall all ECOWAS Ambassadors accredited to the Republic of Mali for consultation; iii) Impose a travel ban on members of the CNRDRE and their associates within the ECOWAS space; iv) Close all borders of ECOWAS Member States with Mali, except for humanitarian purposes.”
On “Economic Sanctions”, it resolves to “i) Freeze the assets of the leaders of CNRDRE and their associates in ECOWAS Member States; ii) Deny Mali access to seaports of ECOWAS Member States”; and on “Financial Sanctions”, it resolves to “i) Freeze the accounts of Mali held at the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO); ii) Deny the procurement of funds from BCEAO to accounts held by the Malian State in private banks; iii) Freeze all financial assistance to Mali through the West African Bank for Development (BOAD) and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID).”.
These sanctions read like a text-book template of how ECOWAS sought to cripple Cote d'Ivoire back in 2011. For the second, time, the freezing of an UEMOA country's assets would be a noteworthy sanction to be enforced. In October 2011, I wrote in my piece analyzing the Cote d'Ivoire crisis that : “West Africa's unique case of having an AU-recognized regional economic community (REC) under ECOWAS coexisting with the smaller UEMOA (comprising eight francophone ECOWAS members) has been a reality of the sub-region since 1994. Since then, there have been crises in the UEMOA countries, including Guinea-Bissau, Niger, and Togo. Interestingly, this was the first time UEMOA would be proactive in sanctioning a member state. Given that the West African Central Bank is located in the country, it was even more significant, as it spoke volumes about how far UEMOA was apparently prepared to go in economically-strangling the economy of Cote d'Ivoire to ensure it would comply with demands of ECOWAS. When this was coupled with efforts of ECOWAS, it symbolized a veritable force against the obduracy of Gbagbo.” Needless-to-say, the instrumentality of UEMOA's institutions in economically-strangling the Malian junta was not to be sneezed at, for while it is difficult to say really that this is a template, it is conceivable and arguable at another level that when UEMOA's member countries take the lead in messing up in the sub-region, it is not only ECOWAS that picks up the pieces, but UEMOA as well. In this respect, we can say that an ECOWAS-UEMOA nexus on resolving coups in the sub-region is beginning to emerge. As to whether it will be reflected in the ECOWAS protocols on democracy and governance is moot, for at the end of the day, ECOWAS and UEMOA are separate institutions with separate mandates.
But, in 2014, there is an interesting dynamic also taking place.
I wrote on Facebook a few days ago that “Burkina Faso will be resolved by a veritable posse of West African diplomats.” This has nothing to do with the fact that it is an ECOWAS matter, but more to do with the fact that fortuitously, all the actors in this Burkina Faso headache are West African. This includes the Head of the UN Office for West Africa who is no less than seasoned West African diplomat Dr.Ibn Chambas (Said Djinnit, an Algerian, was the boss during Cote d'Ivoire and Mali crises).
In Cote d'Ivoire, a flurry of envoys from both the African Union and its regional counterparts in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) shuttled up and down the two headquarters of the AU and ECOWAS in Addis, and Abuja respectively.
In December 2010, the AU was quick to appoint South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, whose mediation efforts had been instrumental in the 2005 peace accord that brought about cessation of hostilities. Mbeki would be replaced soon after by the Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga as the AU envoy. This was indeed unprecedented given his erstwhile combative comments that Cote d'Ivoire should be dealt with a strong hand with rapid, military intervention.
The appointment by the AU of Odinga was from the outset highly problematic as it suggested to the outside world that the AU was in favour of power-sharing—despite protestations to the contrary. Secondly, given that Gbagbo had dealt with his presidential “equals” five years prior, it was quizzical for the AU to dispatch what Gbagbo's entourage would later call a “mere Prime minister”. Though Odinga was quick to talk of peaceful measures to resolve the crisis, all his many attempts to enable concessions from the incumbent leader of Cote d'Ivoire proved futile.
As stated earlier, the former Togolese Prime Minister Kodjo who is now AU Special Envoy has yet to be seen in action, but his pedigree is not to be sneezed at.
Since July 2013, Kodjo has been member of the AU's “Committee of Wise Men”, which role is to support the AU's Commission on the prevention and resolution of conflicts on the continent. He is also founder of “PAX AFRICANA” Foundation, which seeks to resolve Africa's crises through dialogue.
Make no mistake: ECOWAS has what is recognised not just among the seven other AU-recognised regional economic communities (RECs), but worldwide, what is acknowledged to be a sophisticated Peace and Security Architecture.
As the world celebrates 25 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is worth remembering that, when a then-timorous USA and prevaricating UN Security Council was reluctant to act in Liberia, ECOWAS got involved itself in conflict management on an ad hoc basis, thanks, according to academic Dr. Niagalé Bagayoko, “to the set up in 1990 of a sub-regional intervention force, ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG)”. He continues that ECOMOG 'acted as a buffer force in Liberia (1990-1998), in Sierra Leone (1997-2000) in Guinea-Bissau (1998-1999), in Côte d‟Ivoire (2003) and again in Liberia (2003)'. It would be in 1999, that a Protocol creating the ECOWAS Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, Peace-keeping and Security would be adopted.
Emmanuel, an ECOWAS Policy Analyst, is Host & Executive Producer of “Africa in Focus” Show on Radio XYZ93.1FM. It is airborne every Tuesday from 13h00 to 15h00. Tuesday 11 November's edition examined peace and security in West Africa, with a focus on developments in Burkina Faso. You can download podcasts of all 23 editions on www.africainfocusradioshow.org.
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 [email protected] / Mobile: +233.268.687.653.