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Mahama's ECOWAS impact and legacy; An observation

Mahama's ECOWAS impact and legacy; An observation Ghana has had three presidents chairing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the 40-year history of the sub-regional bloc.  

Ex-presidents Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuor, and current President John Dramani chaired the group at various periods.
 
On May 19, 2015, President Mahama, the last of the three Ghanaian presidents, took his place in ECOWAS  when he successfully  ended his term as chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, with his peers hailing him for the strong show of leadership he offered. He was elected as the 27th chairman of the sub regional bloc at the 44th Ordinary Summit in Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire, on March 29, 2014 and received an extension to May during a meeting of ECOWAS in Abuja last December.
 
Before him were Gnassingbé Eyadéma (Togo); Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria );  Léopold Sédar Senghor (Senegal): Gnassingbé Eyadéma (Togo):  Siaka Stevens (Sierra Leone):  Mathieu Kérékou (Benin); Ahmed Sékou Touré (Guinea); Lansana Conté (Guinea);  Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria); Ibrahim Babangida (Nigeria) and Dawda Jawara (the Gambia).
 
Others were,  Blaise Compaoré (Burkina Faso); Dawda Jawara (the Gambia); Abdou Diouf (Senegal) ; Nicéphore Soglo (Benin);  Jerry John Rawlings (Ghana);  Sani Abacha (Nigeria);  Abdulsalami Abubakar (Nigeria) and Gnassingbé Eyadéma (Togo).
 
The rest were, Alpha Oumar Konaré (Mali); Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal); John Agyekum Kufuor (Ghana); Mamadou Tandja (Niger); Blaise Compaoré (Burkina Faso); Umaru Musa Yar'Adua (Nigeria); Goodluck Jonathan (Nigeria) and Alassane Ouattara (Côte d'Ivoire).
 
At the 47th ECOWAS Summit in Accra at which Mr Mahama ended his term, he was given a standing ovation while a citation read in his honour described him as a leader deeply rooted in the advancement of the ECOWAS and who was leaving a worthy legacy.
 
His vision
I covered his election to chair of  the sub-regional bloc, and it was a momentous occasion for him with his peers expressing huge confidence in his ability to drive the group to another level.
 
In his acceptance speech that night, Mr Mahama pledged to lead the sub-regional leaders to aggressively work to better the quality of lives of their people.
He promised to focus on three thematic areas namely, peace and security, economic integration and infrastructural development.
 
On peace and security, he said, among others, things that, "I will build on the achievements of my predecessor and consolidate the peace in Mali and the entire sub-region. I will also work to support Nigeria in the fight against the murders and destruction caused by Boko Haram."
 
Again, he pointed out that economic integration was a prerequisite for the development that ECOWAS aspired to achieve, while pledging that all available resources would be galvanised to ensure the accelerated development and expansion of infrastructure in West Africa.
 
Realising vision
In the area of peace and security, Mr Mahama as chair of ECOWAS, worked assiduously to ensure the holding of successful elections in Nigeria and Togo. On various occasions, he travelled to both countries to speak to the leaders of the political parties and other stakeholders in the elections to ensure that the polls passed in a peaceful, free and fair manner.
 
Today, if many are hailing Nigeria for the manner they conducted themselves in the presidential elections that brought Muhammahu Buhari to power, a good part of the credit goes to President Mahama.
 
He also managed to steer the regional group to pull away Burkina Faso from the brink of political disaster.
 
When the political situation was deteriorating, Mr Mahama brokered a peace agreement in Burkina Faso.
 
This was after  President Blaise Compaore quit in the heat of the opposition to his attempt to massage the Constitution to enable him seek re-election again.
 
Mali situation
Mali had been a troubled spot with rebels engaged in a fratricidal conflict with government forces for control of territories in the country.
 
The ECOWAS teamed up with the United Nations and the African Union to get some of the rebel groups  to sign a peace deal with the government a few weeks ago. However, many saw the agreements as hanging, once some of the rebels backed out.
 
Latest reports of serious human rights violations, including alleged executions of civilians, following armed clashes in northern Mali, appear to be threatening the peace accord, and the UN, AU and ECOWAS must be thinking about what next.
 
Boko Haram  
Perhaps, the greatest security issue that confronted Mahama as ECOWAS chair was Boko Haram.
 
In spite of the efforts made to contain the Jihadists, they still remain a threat to Nigeria and neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.
 
Boko Haram at a point controlled a large swathe of territories in North Eastern Nigeria. They  perpetrated large-scale kidnappings and killings and even though a measure of success has been achieved in recent times in reducing their  control, they still are a threat to Nigeria and its neighbours.
 
There are also emerging security threats in West Africa, including drug-trafficking. The sub region is becoming notorious for the illicit trade and the  ECOWAS leadership needs to tackle the problem.
 
Ebola
President Mahama’s extraordinary support to fight Ebola was widely recognised internationally. At a point when the three most affected countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were virtually cut off from the rest of the world, President Mahama as ECOWAS chair, flew to the three countries to give the people hope and present food items to affected persons.
 
During his tenure, President Mahama agreed for Accra to become the headquarters of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER). The singular initiative received high commendation from  the UN Secretary-General, Ban ki-Moon.
 
Integration
Some strides have been made but there is still a long way to go to achieve real integration among West African states.
 
President Mahama did his best to realise some of the dreams, including the establishment of a common border between Ghana and Togo at Noepe, but many critics believe leaders of the sub region have not shown true commitment to integration.
 
For instance, although movement of goods and ECOWAS nationals within the region is supposed to be undertaken unimpeded, nationals still face serious difficulty with harassment and extortion from security personnel
One other setback to regional integration is the inability of member states to achieve a single currency.
 
From 2000, to 2005, 2010, 2014, 2015, ECOWAS has now set a new deadline – 2020 - for the adoption of a common currency
 
Infrastructure
Under President Mahama ECOWAS established an infrastructure Projects Preparation and Development Unit (PPDU) in Lome, Togo, in October 2014.
It is a specialised agency which oversees the preparation and development of regional infrastructural projects in transport, energy, water and ICT.
 
ECOWAS is working on the trans-national highway which will also facilitate the integration programme  and in Ghana, portions of the road are being worked on seriously.
 
Controversy
But one issue President Mahama presided over and that elicited controversy was the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
 
With the agreement, ECOWAS countries would open up 70 per cent of their markets to EU goods, while having one hundred per cent access to the European market except for rice and sugar.
 
Both ECOWAS and EU believe the EPA holds the key to boosting trade between Wet Africa and Europe and thus improve the economic conditions of West African countries .
 
However, some civil society groups vehemently opposed the agreement, saying that the terms and provisions would lead to the collapse of the domestic manufacturing and other productive sectors due to undue pressure from the subsidised goods from Europe and loss of revenue from trade taxes.