ECOWAS’ efficiency is questionable – Dr. Aning

The Director of Academic Affairs and Research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Dr Emmanuel Kwesi Aning has questioned whether ECOWAS has shown leadership in dealing with emerging and contemporary security issues currently confronting the sub region.

On Aning’s Take last Sunday on Multi TV, he discussed whether Africa was operationally prepared in dealing with security threats around us. He spoke to Capt. (Rtd) Ebenezer Budu Koomson, a Security Consultant and Emmanuel Bensah, an ECOWAS Policy Analyst.

On the recent Ebola crisis, he mentioned there have been meetings among Health ministers, Heads of State, Chiefs of Defence Staff and several others and asked if these meetings have brought in anything profitable.

He made reference to the common African Defence and Security Policy, saying the AU, backed by its regional communities; identify pandemics as one of the potential threats to this continent

ECOWAS policy Analyst, Emmanuel Bensah said the last ECOWAS meetings merely arrived at generic agreement with nothing really concrete. He adds that, the gatherings reiterated points already made by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and that; there were expectations of the ECOWAS to send a mission to Ebola-stricken countries to help the AU.

Mr Bensah wondered if the Ebola Development Fund that was discussed and agreed upon at the summit in July was being effectively mobilised to curb the situation. In his view, the Regional bloc should put priority on internally generated funds through levies to support the West Africa Health organisation. “We don’t need the US government to come in and say they have a centre for disease control, therefore we are going to show leadership by looking at how the structures can be set up for the AU by 2015 or 2016”, he maintains.

Capt. (Rtd) Ebenezer Budu Koomson is convinced that ECOWAS has been taken by surprise by the Ebola pandemic, and this is “a clear example of having a clear strategic plan and letting it accumulate dust on the shelves.” He adds that, “Africa is not short of good brains and plans, but rather lacks the ability to execute.”

All those in charge of strategic thinking and planning in West Africa, to him, were caught flat-footed and ought to be ashamed.

In reaction to that, Mr.  Bensah disclosed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an ECOWAS National Unit, as exists in other member states, and should have taken charge of the situation. He argues that, this should ideally have been a Mission, just like the EU Mission, the West Africa Monetary Institute and others, where people can get information about ECOWAS, its activities and responses to issues.

Speaking on preparedness for emerging security threats, the retired Captain said, Ghana is not coordinating policies and sticking to established protocols related to piracy issues. He questioned the rationale for setting up the Marine Police unit which is inadequately resourced and ill- prepared to take up emerging security threats, instead of co-opting it into the standing Navy.

If the essence was for gathering evidence for prosecution, the Military Police can execute the initial police duties, and hand over to the civil Police.  He thinks the idea is “disjointed and disconnected with no cohesion and strategic interventions,” and hopes to see a West African simulation exercise like NATO does.

Police statistics on crime over the last fifteen years, indicates that, less than 3-5 percent of all categories of crime in this country are committed by foreigners, a clear contrast to perceptions out there. The security consultant maintains there is weakness in the security services, which makes it easy for criminals to operate. He called for clearer understanding of changes within the security environment and the need to build capacity for emerging threats.

On drug trafficking, Dr. Aning pointed out that, the whole West African sub region is under intense threat. He cited a number of narcotic-related arrests: in Senegal, the Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Control Board, in Gambia, the Deputy IGP, and the Minister of Communications in Sierra Leone brought in 600 kilos of cocaine in a private jet painted in Red Cross colours. Again, in Nigeria, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee was arrested for dealing narcotics and in Ghana, former MP for Nkoranza, Isaac Amoateng was recently released from a U.S prison for trafficking cocaine, and in Togo, the Colombians, Bolivians and Peruvians are there negotiating on quality and price.

The Captain(Rtd) Budu Koomson said narcotics is the biggest threat confronting the continent that should cause sleepless nights, and that barons find West Africa very porous to trade their Trillion- Dollar business.

The Policy Analyst, Emmanuel Bensah, noted that, a lot of foreigners have nationalised within the sub region and are playing instrumental roles in this drug menace. He commended ECOWAS for the Trans National Crime Unit set up in member states and its collaboration with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and other agencies to respond to drug trafficking.

He asked why the Narcotics Control Board has still not been upgraded to an Authority or Agency to deal more effectively with narcotic-related offences.

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