Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Never a Dull Moment in West Africa(3)…especially with a Mali War!

The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”:
Never a Dull Moment in West Africa(3)…especially with a Mali War!
By E.K.Bensah Jr

I spent the better part of the long weekend browsing through social and traditional media for any updates on Mali. There’s an obsession to keep one’s eye on the ball, especially given how rapidly things change here in the sub-region. In one moment, we are at peace; in one foul sweep, there’s a coup in a member state. Need I mention Guinea-Bissau or the designs that the French and Portuguese have for the sub-region?

The French Connection
Those following the sub-region will know enough to know that this region is populated by the collective ECOWAS of 15 member countries. Out of these fifteen, there are eight member states that have chosen to stretch their resources by becoming members of UEMOA since 1994. Forget the fact that they were afraid of Nigerian designs for ECOWAS, it is interesting that they would think creating a parallel sub-regional structure for the largely-francophone ECOWAS would be an easier way of avoiding the hegemonic aspirations of the Anglophone Nigeria! If that does not reflect the French and their penchant for being circuitous, I do not know what is!

The Portuguese Connection
Some may not know that ECOWAS has three working languages—English; French and Portguese. The latter is an important language as Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau as two ECOWAS member states speak them. But there is an interesting point about the Portuguese that must be mentioned: Guinea-Bissau is also a member of UEMOA. Tomes can be written about how the apparently-more-organised UEMOA could accept a troubled and beleaguered country to the francophone club, especially when that country is even lusophone. Why not the more-successful Cape Verde, which has been touted as an ECOWAS success? One can never understand the French—neither can one understand reports that claim the French are willing and ready to use drones.

Still on Cape Verde, monitoring the news was a source of bemusement.

Here is little Cape Verde calling for UN intervention in its fellow lusophone country of Guinea-Bissau, when ECOWAS troops have been in that country since May 30, 2012. Why the call for UN intervention at a time when Mali went to call on the UN to intervene? Was it coincidental that the Portuguese President of the European Commission was visiting Cape Verde at the time? Did the aid that the EU gave Cape Verde amount to a “thankyou”” package for making the EU’s work in the sub-region easier? Or could it be that Cape Verde was doing the bidding of the Lisbon-based Community of Portuguese-Speaking countries (CPLP) that seem to be aggrieved that ECOWAS has taken the bull by the horns in Guinea-Bissau with the establishment of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB)?

Whatever conclusion one might draw on the French or Portguese connection in the Mali Question and the sub-region, one cannot help but wonder what other designs Western countries might have for the sub-region.

Wrapping up the communication of ECOWAS/AU
Communication is an ongoing process, and for a complex and lively region like this one, it is terribly challenging. This will certainly not be the last time this writer will be writing about it. Suffice-to-say, it is important to be reminded of two important sources of information that those interested in Africa and the sub-region might be interested in.

The first is PANAPRESS.Com. One of the major positives about this website with Pan-African aspirations is that it is regularly updated. That makes up for its execrable design that seems to stuck in a time warp. For those who understand web-design it is so first-generation web-design (HTML), it is not funny. There is no allowance for social media at all. Sadly, too, the French news “sur le fil”, or on the wire, are infrequently updated. As of today, it still dates back to 15 October, when the Portuguese and English sections of “on the wire” are updated every day! Given that is based in Dakar—a francophone city—it beggars belief why we have a situation where the French releases are some weeks old!

The second is Also based in Dakar, it does everything the AU-backed PANAPRESS avoids. First, all the stories are regularly updated; and secondly, all language sections are updated accordingly. Finally, they have an active social media outfit. At the time of writing, 244 people have “liked” their page on Facebook. Articles that can be read either in French or English are ticked in green. It is almost-immediately easier to see at a glance which articles can be read in full or are behind a pay-wall. Unlike PANAPRESS that regularly offers newspaper digests for free on the wire, however, all the press digests of APANEWS are behind a pay wall.

Coming up in West Africa
  • The secretary general of the West African Power Pool (WAPP), Amadou Diallo, said on Monday in Abuja that the sub-region needed US$26 billion to fix its power challenges. Diallo told the media at the 7th WAPP General Assembly othe region was putting an interconnectivity system in place to put all ECOWAS member states together through electrical Network. "Now we have Nigeria, Benin Togo, Ghana ,Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Niger, Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania interconnected through the integration region, he said.

  • Major players in West Africa’s energy sector are meeting in Accra from Monday, 29th October 2012 to establish a regional framework for the attainment of the three critical targets set by the UN under its Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4ALL) by 2030.  The SE4ALL seeks to extract the commitment of Member States to take concrete actions towards ensuring universal access to energy services; doubling the share of renewal energy in the global energy mix and doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency.

  • The ECOWAS Commission is in the process of establishing a Mediation Facilitation Division (MFD) within its Directorate of Political Affairs, as part of its determined effort to strengthen its mediation architecture for the sustenance of  peace and security in the region.  To this end, the Commission, with the support  of the United Nations and other partners, is organizing a three-day needs  assessment workshop in Lagos, Nigeria from Tuesday 30th October 2012, for  stakeholders to fine-tune the concept, mandate, structure and requirements of  the Division.


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