EDITORIAL: Don't Send Mixed Signals to Gnassingbe
The swiftness with which the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the unfolding coup in Togo even before it had fully matured, is highly commendable. It was expected that all members of the two bodies would lend their support to the protocols reached by these bodies, aimed at helping to entrench and grow democracy to give Africa a new image in order to gain respect among the continents of the world.
For these protocols to be respected and given the necessary lease of life to operate, it is incumbent on all member states not to do anything that has the potential of undermining them.
Ghana's President John Agyekum Kufuor handed over the ECOWAS chair to the Nigerien leader, Mamadou Nadja, just at the beginning of this year, after steering the affairs of the sub-regional body for two terms.
Following the experiences of ECOWAS under Kufuor, the expectations from all members of the body would be that we offered as much maximum support as possible to the new leadership, while maintaining a high level of neutrality. The position of neutrality is very important, and necessary in order not to send any mixed signals to erring states.
The best form of neutrality is maintained by recognizing in sticky situations, collective positions such as what are contained in our sub-regional and continental bodies' protocols.
We had cautioned in our Monday, February 7, 2005 edition on the need to stay as neutral as possible in the Togolese situation. The last thing that should be offered a coup regime is anything having the semblance of support. It emboldens them.
Hearing on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC's) focus on Africa that Ghana was among five African countries present at what was described as a low-keyed ceremony to swear in the son of the late Togolese leader, Faure Gnassingbe was quite depressing.
But worse still was the justification given the Togolese coup by Ghana's Ambassador to Togo, H. E. Henry K. Mensah Bonsu. The Ambassador said there was nothing wrong with what happened in Togo, because the Togolese action had taken place through a Parliamentary act. For him, as far as Eyadema's son had been sworn in as a Speaker before the swearing in ceremony, there was no doubt about the legitimacy of the new regime.
Our Ambassador also found nothing wrong with the amendment to the Togolese constitution that effected the dismissal of the Speaker of their Parliament, for no wrongdoing. He did not therefore understand why his presence at the swearing-in ceremony should raise eyebrows when the Togolese were just complying with their country's constitution.
Our Ambassador seems not to be aware of the tenets of recent ECOWAS and AU protocols. It is clear he may not even understand why Ghana has offered herself to be scrutinized under a Peer Review Mechanism.
If the thinking of government is that being seen not to frown on the developments in Togo, places us in a strategic position to mediate in the crisis, then we are not helping the collective spirit of our regional body. At least, we have sent the coup leaders a clear message that we are prepared to tolerate them.
The signal is that ECOWAS members are not together against them. They can hang on. One of the hallmarks of every good diplomat is his ability to appraise situations, and where in doubt or the situation is tricky as the Togolese situation no doubt was, seek advice from home. Was it not strange that even after the Nigerian Ambassador to Togo had said he was contacting his home government for directives, our Ambassador did not deem it necessary to do likewise? Or is it that our Ambassador only carried out government's biddings but is now being diplomatic? Africa must progress, and not do things for the world to continue seeing it as a sore thumb it would want to do away with.
We must be forthright with Eyadema's son. We must not send mixed signals to any emerging 'coupists' and dictators.