Ecowas: what will new chair offer a troubled region?

APA – Accra (Ghana)

The challenges rocking West Africa could not have been more apparent as President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana assumes the chairmanship of the regional grouping.

From the novel coronavirus pandemic, regional insecurity, political uncertainties in Mali, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire to the unanswered questions about the still unfulfilled dream of a common currency, like his Nigerien predecessor, Muhammadu Issoufou, President Akufo-Addo's plate is already full to capacity.  

During the latest heads of state summit in Niamey, Niger, regional leaders discussed the Special Report on COVID-19 which was presented by the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and another on the ECOWAS Single Currency Programme delivered by President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone.

The West African leaders were also concerned about the alarming rise in incidents of terrorism, insurgency, armed banditry and piracy in the sub-region, while the disruption of the democratic process by the military in Mali, received serious attention.

In addition, the general and presidential elections in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Niger are scheduled for this year and the imperative according to the summit is to strengthen democracy in the sub-region by respecting constitutional provisions, rule of law and outcomes of free and fair polls in those countries.

For all intent and purpose, the general statement by Nigeria's President Buhari at the summit clearly x-rayed these regional challenges, which should be the immediate concerns of Mr. Akufo-Addo as the new Ecowas Chair. 

A seasoned diplomat who once served as Foreign minister of Ghana, Akufo-Addo could put his diplomatic mettle to the test particularly to resolve a protracted trade dispute between Accra and Abuja, culminating in accusations of abuse on Nigerians living in the country.

Already, some political analysts see his task as herculean in view of the complexities of the challenges facing the body. 

The Nigerian media and communications strategist, Mr. Paul Ejime, said in an interview that Akufo-Addo “has his job cut out for him”. 

Ejime listed some of the challenges as the ongoing crises in Mali and Guinea and normaliizing frosty relations between Ghana and regional giant Nigeria.

However, Ejime sees something wrong in electing to the Ecowas chairmanship a president who himself faces a re-election challenge in his country in a few months' time. 

The political commentator believes that should the Ghanaian leader survive politically, he may still enjoy the cooperation of his regional peers and “extinguish the fire in Mali”.

“ECOWAS is in dire need of leadership. They need to work with their early warning signals and listen to what the people are saying, just like the case in Mali,” Ejime later told APA in a telephone interview.  

He even suggested a “carrot and stick” approach for the Malian crisis since sanctions may not necessarily produce the desired effect and resolve the issue.

Given recent examples of interventions in Liberia, Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau, Ecowas is seen as one of the leading regional bodies in Africa, providing decisive leaderships where other blocs on the continent would have dithered.

ECOWAS's estimated 349 million people especially those in some of the region's troubled countries will be entertaining hope that the current chair will offer purposeful leadership that will tackle the security, political and socio-economic problems perpetually threatening development at a regional level.

Many will be under no illusion that these perennial problems will go away by the time Akufo-Addo hands over the Ecowas chairmanship to one of his peers in the region, but it is human nature to hope that at least after twelve months, they will have something to cheer about.


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