The coup d’état in Guinea led by Lt. Col. Mamady Doumbouya, Commander of Guinea’s elite Special Military Forces, brings to mind recent articles of mine published in recent times about the rising state of insecurity on the African Continent, and the need for Africa’s Heads of States and Governments to take pragmatic measures to tackle the twin challenges of youth unemployment and economic hardship, which have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and adopt urgent means to eschew corruption in all forms and demonstrate open, transparent and accountable democratic governance aimed at resolving the many complex challenges faced by African societies, particularly the lack of opportunities available to the Continent’s Youth.
In recent years, it had become glaringly clear that Heads of States and Governments of regional and sub-regional bodies such as ECOWAS and the African Union had become more of a “Cult or Brotherhood” of some sort seeking their own welfare rather than interest and welfare of the African People, majority of whom are Youth.
The support and lack of condemnation for Heads of States seeking third terms in clear violation of their country’s Constitutions coupled with the rampant cases of corruption and show of opulence by cronies, family members and friends have resulted in a general lack of sympathy and support for recent coups and other unfortunate developments on the Continent, as demonstrated by joyful celebrations and excitement on the streets of major towns and cities by Africans after such occurrences.
Response by ECOWAS Chairman on Recent Developments and Coup in Guinea shows Reactionary and Weak Leadership
The statement by President Akufo Addo following the Coup in Guinea, and as Chairman of ECOWAS shows the weak and reactionary leadership by President Akufo Addo as Head of the ECOWAS Mission, which has resulted in prominent Africans and governance watchers such as P.L.O Lumumba explicitly expressed his disappointed in Nana Addo’s leadership.
The show of support through congratulatory messages and attendance of inaugural ceremonies to the third term ambitions of Presidents Alpha Conde of Guinea, Al Hassan Ouattara of Cote D’Ivoire, Paul Biya of Cameroon, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Iddris Deby of Chad (until his recent demise), and Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, among others, shows reaffirmation of support despite their undemocratic conducts without show of remorse.
It is obvious that President Akufo Addo’s tenure as ECOWAS Chairman will go down as one of the weakest and most ineffective in the history of the sub-regional body. This follows coup d’état in Mali and Guinea during his tenure as ECOWAS Chairman, and the terrorist attack in Burkina Faso which resulted in the death of at least 80 persons, after an earlier attack in June 2021 led to the death of at least 132 civilians, leading to the forced displacement of nearly 800 people.
Rising Insecurity Poses Serious Threats for Regional Economic Integration Agenda
The rising insecurity on the Continent and sub-region in the form of coup d’état and terrorist attacks poses serious threats and serves as a distraction on efforts to achieve regional economic integration, specifically the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), thus affecting the desire of the Continent to work around the Lagos Plan of Action recently converted to Agenda 2030 and now Agenda 2063.
The growing insecurity on the Continent also has the potential to significantly affect investments in the sub-region, as the sub-region will be considered by investors as unsafe. This is alarming considering that Ghana and Nigeria have been the highest recipients of foreign direct investments (FDIs) in the sub-region in recent years, a situation that could lead to increased economic hardship and worsen the unemployment in the sub-region.
According to the African Development Bank (ADB) report on Jobs for Youth in Africa: Catalyzing Youth Opportunities across Africa, of Africa’s nearly 420 million youth aged 15-35, one-third are unemployed and discouraged, another third are vulnerably employed, and only one in six is in wage employment. As a result, 263 million young people will lack an economic stake in the system by 2025.
As reiterated in an earlier article, there is therefore the need for African and ECOWAS Leaders, in particular, to be creative and up and doing, as 90% of Africa’s youth live in low and lower-middle-income countries, with the biggest challenge being the lack of formal jobs.
Mahama Tenure witnessed Significant Progress as ECOWAS Chairman
As compared to President Akufo Addo, President John Dramani Mahama’s tenure as ECOWAS President witnessed significant progress in the history of the sub-regional body including overseeing an end to the Ebola Crisis in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and laying the foundation for a transitional government in Burkina Faso, whilst spearheading the signing of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali on May 15, 2015, as co-mediator, and improving peaceful relations in Guinea Bissau as Chairman of the regional contract group.
The happenings in Nana Addo’s era as the ECOWAS chairman is not surprising because he continuous to display rhetoric’s in addressing present issues such as making the perpetrators of Techiman South killing of the innocent being during election 2020 account to their actions.
President Mahama’s proactive and exemplary leadership also recognized youth employment as a major challenge facing the region whilst mobilizing regional leaders to pay critical attention to the same.
This stellar attribute cannot be compared to a President and ECOWAS leader who issues congratulatory messages to leaders seeking third terms, and issues statements late into the night sanctioning coup instigators. President Mahama remains an icon of sub-regional leadership and democratic accountability on the African Continent, hence his celebration and invitation to lead various ECOWAS and AU Missions.
Meanwhile, instead of Nana Addo to learn from his predecessor who performed very well in addressing some the continental issues he has been rhetorical.
In conclusion, I condemn in no uncertain terms the coup d’état in Guinea and call on ECOWAS leaders to restore calm in the sub-region, as such occurrences derail efforts to achieve democratic development of the Continent and sub-region which interrelate with other rights.
I further reiterate my call to President Akufo Addo and ECOWAS Heads of States and Governments to be transformational and lead the sub-region and Continent to create 18 million jobs each year until 2035 in order to accommodate young labour market entrants.
The coup d’état in Guinea also serves as a caution to other African and ECOWAS leaders, including officials in the Akufo Addo-Bawumia Administration, to refrain from the open show of opulence and naked corruption in order not to soil the already fertile grounds which could lead to a possible uprising in Ghana, as highlighted in the recently launched National Security Strategy Document.
There is also the need for African and ECOWAS countries to invest in emerging technologies that provide high level of surveillance to detect and enable interception of highly sophisticated crimes such as cyber-attacks in order to disrupt the activities of coup plotters and terrorist networks.
As already noted in earlier articles, African countries do not have a choice but to hasten post-Covid-19 economic recovery in order to hasten economic growth and development so as to provide employment opportunities that would result in improvement in the quality of life of citizens, particularly the Youth of West African States.
The writer, Francis-Xavier Sosu, is a private legal practitioner, human rights activist, Member of Parliament for Madina Constituency, Member of the Appointments Committee, and Deputy Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament, with background expertise in Economics, Conflict, Security and Peace studies.
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