Thursday, January 15, 2009

ECOWAS’ landmark

THE decision of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to suspend Guinea, sets new standards in the region. It, to an extent, shows the abhorence, leaders in the region now have for military governments and armed usurpers of civil authorities. It seemingly echoes Nigeria's earlier decision to condemn the coup and ask for immediate restoration of civil rule in Guinea.
Though Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, was tactless in the way he spoke about the situation in Guinea before the ECOWAS meeting, the decision should remind him to conform to the diplomatese associated with his office.

Chief Ojo, spoke about the new leaders in Guinea as if he was addressing some troublesome pupils, when he told the soldiers to leave office immediately.

Their government was unacceptable to Nigeria, he said without putting into consideration the havoc 24 years of Lansana Conte visited on Guinea. Why did he not wait for the fact-finding team President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua despatched to Conakry? Former President Ibrahim Babangida led the team that included the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Chief Ojo could not wait for the findings of the presidential delegation, which praised the new junta for rescuing Guinea from further chaos.

Only two people, Sekou Toure and Conte ruled Guinea since its 1958 independence from France. Conte first took power in a 1984 military coup after his predecessor's death, to begin 24 years of harsh, dictatorial rule. He organised presidential elections in 1993, 1998 and 2003 winning all. Allegations of fraud were rampant. Conte held back his country with his undemocratic conduct and ECOWAS snored.

For some of Conte’s 24 years, he had good company in Cote d’Ivoire’s Felix Houphouet-Boigny, 33 years, Mobutu Sese Seko, 32 years, Denis Sassou-Nguesso of Congo, 30 years and El Haj Omar Bongo of Gabon, who at 72, is the world’s longest serving President, with 42 years.

Other co-travellers of Conte were Muamar Quadaffi, 40 years, Daniel arap Moi, 24 years, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, 29 years, Teodoro Obiang Nguema 30 years, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt 28 years, Paul Biya of Cameroun, 28 years, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda, 22 years, Blaise Campaore 23 years, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan 20 years, and Idriss Deby of Chad 19 years.

We are against undemocratic ascension to power. We also condemn dictators, who after their wasted years, leave their people with no alternative than fighting them with the same illegal instruments that got them into high office.

It is time ECOWAS and other regional organisations became more proactive in countering the bad governments that dot the continent. The decision to suspend Guinea from ECOWAS and have a constitutional government in the country within a year is a landmark that would also mean that ECOWAS is setting the standard for dealing with coup plotters.

If this measure is good for poor Guinea , it should apply to all ECOWAS members. What happens if an ECOWAS country shuns the community’s decisions? There are too many bad governments in Africa and they make their people desperate for change; any change.

The best antidote to forceful take-over of governments is good governance — this is the point politicians miss.