Few months ago, a friend of mine told me that Ecowas is such an effective regional organization that Morocco is asking to become a member. At first I thought it was just a publicity stunt as it was around the same time that Morocco was re-admitted into African Union (AU) after decades of absence, due to its arrogance and lack of respect for Africans and for that matter humanity. It was good that OAU/AU moved on for decades without Morocco and no one ever begged it to rejoin until it shamelessly came begging to be given a second chance. Morocco left OAU/AU simply because African countries under the auspices of then Organization of African Unity unequivocally condemned Morocco’s continued occupation and or colonization of Western Sahara with all brutality and discrimination. Western Sahara is still probably the only colonized/occupied country in Africa, and for that matter by an “African country”. It was irresponsible for AU to readmit Morocco without asking it to first leave Western Sahara as a pre-condition. For Decades, the international community including the United Nations has demanded free and fair referendum in Western Sahara to determine their future and for Morocco to leave the occupied lands. Morocco has blatantly refused to comply with the demands of the international community and up to today continues to annex and occupy Western Sahara. The fact that the OAU/AU that stood and fought with South Africans to defeat Apartheid and White minority rule in South Africa at great costs can allow another “African” country to continue to flout the demands of all civilized world to allow self-determination in this poor African country of Western Sahara is unfathomable.
Coming back to Ecowas, this organization was formed around 1975 as a sub-regional body of “West African States”. This is important as there was already an Africa-wide organization in the name of the then OAU. There are also other sub-regional organizations in Africa such as Southern African Development Community formed in 1980 (SADC), East African Community (EAC) etc. Whereas the main objective of Ecowas was economic integration of member states, it is debatable whether it achieved that to desirable level. However, Ecowas has been arguably the most successful and most potent sub-regional organization in Africa. What Ecowas has achieved and the manner in which it has achieved success is remarkable. West Africa, like much of the rest of Africa, has little to show in terms of economic and scientific progress since independence, Ecowas has however been able to maintain peace and stability in the region. Ecowas has ignored, and for very right reasons, irresponsible excuses given by bad and evil politicians and leaders of so-called non-interference in the internal affairs of member states. It practically took the view that as neighbors for life, we either progress together or perish together and if your neighbor’s house is on fire, then your house is not safe either. This very logical thinking of Ecowas was on total display in its interventions in recent years.
Liberia: When the Liberian civil war was at its heights in the 1990s that was said to have claimed at least two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) lives, that country virtually became a failed state with various warring factions causing carnage to the defenseless population. Ecowas countries under the able leadership of Nigeria took all the risks and directly intervened to stop the war. Left to Liberian people themselves, they would still be at war as a totally failed state, probably worse than Somalia. Some of us old enough remember Charles Taylor’s public outcry of “Who is General Dogonyarro, is he the governor of Liberia”? The same Liberian civil war was exported to Sierra Leone and Guinea and threatened to engulf the whole region. Again, Ecowas intervened to put out the fire in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone would have been another failed state today without the intervention of Ecowas. In fact the war would have spread to other countries of the sub-region.
Ivory Coast: Despite this country’s divisive role in Liberian civil war under its previous governments, during its political impasse and subsequent civil war in 2001, Ecowas took a bold decision and stood with the internationally recognized winner of the election. It provided political pressure for the disgraced Lauren Gbagbo to vacate power. They abandoned Gbagbo and even threatened military intervention to ensure the will of the Ivorian people stood when the then Chairman of Ecowas, Goodluck Jonathan, asked Gbagbo to give up power or else Ecowas will use “legitimate force to remove him”. It was Ecowas that used political and diplomatic pressure at the U.N. that led to the forceful removal of Gbagbo and installation of democratically elected Alassane Ouattara.
Guinea Bissau: After decades of successive irresponsible leadership epitomized by dictator and power hungry Nino Vieira and lunatic Kumba Yalla and continuous military interference that makes Guinea Bissau the laughting stock of West Africa, it was Ecowas that intervened to lessen the madness in that country political arena.
The Little Gambia: After Gambia’s 2011 elections, it was Ecowas that bravely came out and dismissed the elections as neither free nor fair despite the toothless AU endorsing the results. Since then Ecowas has taken steps to make sure no president in the fifteen member states entrench himself or herself. It was few years ago when Ecowas tried to uniformly set term limit in all member states with only Gambia and Togo thwarting the noble efforts. Today in Ecowas sub-region, it is only Togo and the Gambia that have no term limits and I believe that is going to be a thing of the past very soon.
After the December elections in the Gambia followed by total insanity of Yaya Jammeh, it was Ecowas that intervened and ensure the will of the people stood. Without Ecowas, our country may still be under the clutches of Jammeh dictatorship. The rest is history.
Ecowas has mediated to resolve conflicts in member states and between member states peacefully without much interference of outside powers. This instances include Burkina Faso where it successfully reversed military coup by General Gilbert Diendere by threatening to send in Ecowas forces and standing with the people of that country and the rest of the loyal armed forces.
Mauritania: Mauritania is the only West African country that is currently not part of Ecowas. This country arrogantly withdrew from Ecowas in a very shameful and disrespectful manner similar to the way Morocco withdrew from OAU thirty-three years ago. It was after a military coup in Mauritania led by the current president that Ecowas categorically rejected unconstitutional usurping of power and insisted that Mauritania must return to constitutional and civilian rule when the country decided to withdraw from Ecowas. It would rather reject this noble sub-regional body rather than be told to behave like a civilized country and do right to its citizens.
Ecowas has been moving in the right direction to ensure institutionalization and entrenchment of democratic principles in member states. A perfect example of this was when Ghana democratically changed governments twice in five years very peacefully. Morocco do not have democratic principles in its DNA and hence it membership of Ecowas will derail our positive move towards good governance.
Case Against Morocco’s Membership of Ecowas.
• Ecowas is a sub-regional body of West African states and Morocco is a North African country. If Morocco loves West Africans that much and wants to be part of them, AU is now open to it and should show that love and support using AU platform.
• All Ecowas member states are multi-party democracies and Morocco is not. It has an absolute monarchy that has absolute control over the country. The so-called parliament and prime minister are just cosmetic as all powers lie with the king and his family who are to rule forever. Morocco’s membership of Ecowas will run counter to ideals and aspirations of citizens of Ecowas member states.
• Ecowas has been able to take swift actions and reach consensus on major decisions because they mutually respect and dignify each other. Even though these countries are vastly different in term of population size, compare Nigeria and the Gambia, the organization by and large gives equal power to all member states. Nigeria with all its size does not bully smaller states or throw its weight around. If Morocco becomes part of Ecowas, that mutual respect and long held tradition of intervening in member states when necessary because we are all in it together will be gone. If Morocco misbehaves as it is doing in Western Sahara, who in Ecowas is going to intervene?
• Morocco is unable to live at peace with its neighbor, Algeria, and that is one of the reasons it wants to be part of Ecowas to gain political influence. Remember, it is the same Morocco that asked to join European Union while it isolated itself from AU. If Morocco wants influence, it should learn to live at peace with its neighbors in North Africa and form another sub-regional body that can work like Ecowas, maybe ask Mauritania to also join them. This will be impossible because most if not all the North African countries are ruled by pseudo dictatorships and this kind of leaderships are incapable of mutual respect as they are more concern about entrenching themselves.
• Any expansion of Ecowas to include Morocco will open doors to membership to other countries like Egypt, Algeria etc. Ecowas will not only lose its identity but its ability to swiftly respond to regional crisis. Ecowas should stay as it is and continue to make progress in ensuring entrenchment of democratic principles and good governance in the sub-region and fasten economic integration.
• Ecowas as a group deals with every country and organization. AU, UN, ADB, IDB, EU and a host of other countries work closely with Ecowas and they are present at various Ecowas meetings. Morocco’s membership will eventually restrict Ecowas as to who we can deal with. For example, Moroccan king just canceled his participation in the current Ecowas summit because Israeli president is attending, not that I am a big fan of Benjamin Natanyahu. However, you cannot dictate who Ecowas deals with or talk to. Maybe when Western Sahara becomes independent, they can put forward a strong case for Ecowas membership.
My ultimate appeal to West Africans and specifically the leaders is simply stay the course. You have successfully developed a winning formula for a regional body and we must jealously guard that success and build upon it. Let us work faster on economic integration, not economic union, so that we can increase trade among ourselves and transfer of knowledge. This will substantially improve the quality of life for our citizens and ensure sustainable peace and development. Be bold enough and say a big no to Morocco’s membership. We cannot have an “occupier and a colonizer” among our ranks.