Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Time for ECOWAS to Ratify the Criminal Investigative Intelligence Bureau!

“The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:

Time for ECOWAS to Ratify the Criminal Investigative Intelligence Bureau!
E.K.Bensah Jr

Central to any regional integration arrangement is what most well-known integration schemes, like the EU, call four freedoms – that of movement; capital; goods; and services. With these come security-related challenges that call into question the need to strengthen intelligence of the sub-region. With UEMOA (comprising eight francophone ECOWAS member states) using ID cards and all ECOWAS member states having adopted national ID systems, the window of opportunity must be capitalised upon by member states to really get serious in securing a sub-region.

It was not too long ago when the West African sub-region became a by-word for drug trafficking; crime; and all the attendant vices associated with un-policed porous borders. In October 2008, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime launched a report[1] that castigated ECOWAS member states for their apparently-lackadaisical approach to fighting trans-border crime in the sub-region. Member states like Guinea-Bissau had become soft spots for drug traffickers who took advantage of often-corrupt systems of governance to use that country as a conduit for onward movement of their drugs.

Three years later, the situation has changed dramatically as ECOWAS member states got serious by engaging the UNODC and other UN agencies, such as the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to establish elite and so-called “Transnational Crime Units” in selected ECOWAS member states[2] to deal with the canker under the West African Coastal Initiative.

That ECOWAS has formulated a regional response through their Political Declaration of 2005 (that put forward the idea of establishing a criminal investigative intelligence bureau) has also helped to nip the problem in the bud. Truth be told, considering the fact that that the Criminal Investigative Intelligence Bureau(CIIB) had been proposed as far back as 2002 by Ghana for a meeting of the INTERPOL-backed West Africa Police Chiefs Committee(WAPCCO) in Abidjan, the challenge would have been better dealt with had member states resolved to establish the-said CIIB.

It goes without saying that while ECOWAS community citizens enjoy free movement in the sub-region, this is a region that has played host to internecine conflicts, such as the Liberian conflict of 1990 that prompted the intervention of ECOMOG. Add to that the porous border, the free movement of mercenaries, coupled with small arms trafficking and the recruitment of child soldiers and fighters to the cross-border crimes and we have ourselves a potential powder-keg that needs significant monitoring through significant systems of intelligence – as proposed by the yet-to-be-ratified CIIB.

Whither the future of ECOWAS law enforcement?
On 4 August, ECOWAS, alongside international partners, established the so-called Border Information Centres (BIC). While this is far from a holistic response to tackling crime and enforcing a rule of law in the sub-region, it nevertheless is an important step in tackling cross-border corruption and helping mitigate cross-border crime by providing citizens with transparent ways of obtaining information on free movement in the sub-region.

At the sub-regional level, ECOWAS has a number of structures that are helping rein in what might otherwise be a chaotic sub-region. These include the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on illicit drugs trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse[3]; ECOWAS Committees of Chiefs of Security Services, and Chiefs of Defence Staff; WAPCCO; and GIABA.

Backed by the Canada-based “The Pearson Peacekeeping Centre”, the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Security Services has assisted ECOWAS since May 2009 to create a committee that ensures proper communication and coordination efforts with member states on the police component of the African Standby Force and other regional security issues. The committee is now funded by the ECOWAS Commission’s regular annual budget and meets twice a year.
The ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff—an exclusively military component—reviews security in the sub-region through quarterly meetings. The ECOWAS agency that is the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money-Laundering, or GIABA, is responsible for the prevention and control of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing in the West African Sub-Region. Critical to its mandate is the “improvement of measures and intensifying efforts to combat the laundering of proceeds of crime in West Africa”.

In the final analysis, although ECOWAS might not have had the foresight of establishing a West African law enforcement mechanism (like the EU did with EUROPOL with respect to the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992) the very moment the Treaty of Lagos was revised in 1993 to reflect the current challenges of ECOWAS, it can never be too late to rectify the imperative of a sub-regional police force along the likes of INTERPOL or EUROPOL. ECOWAS's imperative and comparative strengths on peace, security, and conflict prevention ought to give it the necessary impetus to bring to fruition the belated “ECOWASPOL”/CIIB the sub-region so desperately needs.


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.

[1] Online. Drug trafficking as a security threat in West Africa.

[2] So far, only four selected countries of Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone are involved. These countries were chosen as they already have UN presences. The idea is to also extend it to Guinea-Conakry and other ECOWAS member states over time.
[3] Online.


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