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Sunday, May 22, 2022

How coups were handled under Akufo-Addo’s watch as ECOWAS Chairman

Four West African countries declare coups

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is Chairman of ECOWAS

Niger coup in 2021 lasts for 15 minutes

It remains a subject of great coincidence but, regardless, many conversations have already started on how coup d’etats have happened in ECOWAS member countries within a span of 2 years.

President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is the current Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). While the ECOWAS, under his leadership, has done significant work to deal with these coups, what specific measures were put in place to tackle these unrests within the sub-region?

From Niger, Mali, Guinea, and the latest coup d’etat in Burkina Faso which adds up to the list, the nagging questions remain. The latest – the Burkina Faso coup was led by Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who was the head of security in the Ouagadougou.

GhanaWeb sought the experiential inputs of two security analysts on what could be accounting for all these coups, why now, and the possible threats these could portend for Ghana, particularly because of the proximity of the latest country to have joined the growing list.

Before that, we take a look at the coups that have been recently experienced in West Africa and what the ECOWAS bloc has done about each one of them:

The Niger coup that lasted for 15 minutes

On March 30, 2021, the northern West African nation of Niger suffered a coup attempt just a few hours to the inauguration ceremony of the then-president-elect, Mohamed Bazoum.

Bazoum was due to be sworn in as the next Niger leader after the election victory was disputed by his opponent, Mahamane Ousmane, with former President Mahamadou Issoufou, leaving the reigns after serving two five-year terms.

But how long did the coup attempt last? 15 to 20 minutes according to an AFP report.

WHAT THE ECOWAS LEADERSHIP DID

Since this coup was a short-lived one, there was no official action from the ECOWAS bloc except for the condemnations that came from within the country.

Mali Coup

In May 2021, Col Assimi Goïta led another ousting of the President of Mali, Bah Ndaw, and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, over their failure in their duties and over what he described as their agenda to sabotage the country’s transition.

Nine months earlier, in August 2020, elements from the Malian military had taken siege of the Soundiata military base in the town of Kati in Mali.

The group was said to have made their way into the armoury of the base and detained senior officers of the force and subsequently headed into the country’s capital of Bamako and detained the country’s president, Ibrahim Keita, including other government officials.

Ibrahim Keita was then forced to resign as president and dissolved the government over corruption-related concerns and mismanagement of the economy.

Prior to that, Malians took to the streets on June 5, 2020, in protest of Keita’s administration and called for his resignation.

WHAT THE ECOWAS LEADERSHIP DID

The ECOWAS suspended Mali’s membership in response to the coup in that country, asking authorities to stick to a timetable for a return to democracy.

The bloc, however, stopped short of imposing new sanctions after an emergency summit in Accra.

Guinea Coup

On Sunday, September 5, 2021, the nation of Guinea was hit with a coup.

A group of men allegedly from the Guinea Special Forces claimed to have seized power from Guinea’s President Alpha Conde.

Despite a conflicting report by the country’s defense ministry stating that they had fought back the ununiformed men, a video of a captured Alpha Conde was shared across social media.

The men in the shared video were captured stating they had dissolved the country’s institutions and taken over the reins of power.

“We have decided, after having taken the president, who is currently with us (…) to dissolve the current constitution, to dissolve the institutions; we have also decided to dissolve the government and the closure of land and air borders,” one of the ununiformed men in the video said.

WHAT THE ECOWAS LEADERSHIP DID

The Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo-led ECOWAS suspended Guinea’s membership, days after the military coup that removed President Alpha Conde.

The leadership of the bloc also demanded a return to the constitutional order and the immediate release of Conde who was arrested by the special forces led by Lieutenant Colonel Mamady Doumbouya.

The francophone effect?

Security analysts, Irbard Ibrahim, and Dr. Vladimir Antwi-Danso, both touched on what they believe may be contributing to these upheavals and what could possibly be done.

For Vladimir, he believes that the trend should not be linked only to francophone countries because any country at all within the sub-region could experience such unrest should certain things not be checked early.

“We need to discuss what is happening in the region with the very specificities of governance in most of the countries around. What is happening in Burkina Faso is akin to what happened in Mali in 2011/2012. If you see the soldiers’ demands in Burkina Faso, it is a similar thing that the Malian soldiers were demanding.

“We call something in terrorism, ungoverned spaces, and I have been talking about that very seriously: when you leave parts of your country to be taken over by miscreants who are the laws over there. If the government does not move there: no social amenities, these are bound to happen.”

“In Burkina Faso, this is there. In Mali, it was there and when the military is sent too, they are overwhelmed, they are killed like anything. In any country where these things are happening, these things are bound to happen so, you don’t link it with Nana Akufo-Addo’s chairmanship

“Anything can happen in Nigeria, for example, because the things that are causing the things that are happening in what you label as in francophone countries, but I think it is a coincidence in the sense that similar things are happening elsewhere but the francophone specificity is that they border the Sahel and ISIs and Alkaeda movements into West Africa happens to be the areas where they are prevalent and present,” Vladimir added.

Security Expert Irbad however believes that ECOWAS has more work to do, to avoid an exacerbation of the issue.

“The main problem has to do with the ECOWAS Charter itself. Anybody who heads this regional bloc will have their hands tied. You need to enforce what we call in security circles, early warning mechanisms: coming events would always cast their shadows. ECOWAS does not have a standby force. ECOWAS cannot intervene on its own in any country so when tied sitting leaders – the old ones, want to do more than their stipulated two terms, ECOWAS can only call for calm and we’ve not seen enough teeth biting on that front and so I think the ECOWAS Charter needs to change. The protocol on non-interference in the individual affairs in member states should be changed so that when a leader takes certain decisions that will not inure to the stability of the region, ECOWAS can intervene before things bubble out of control.

“These are all just pent-up feelings that have been bottled up for so many years and they are exploding now in his term. And ECOWAS should be careful because confidence in this bloc is gradually being eroded and I don’t think we’ve responded well to these francophone coup d’états: shutting down borders and suspending the membership of these countries is not the way to go.

In the long term, the two analysts call for governments, and the ECOWAS bloc, to be more proactive in responding to the concerns of member states, while work is advanced on reviewing the ECOWAS Charter that presently limits the punitive force of the leadership of the ECOWAS body.

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