The newest coup in Guinea and the response of the Financial Group of West African States (ECOWAS) to droop the nation’s membership have but once more demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the regional physique in implementing good governance within the area. It additionally raises questions in regards to the dedication of its member states to adjust to its protocols.
ECOWAS was established on 25 Could 1975 to advertise regional financial and, subsequently, safety integration of the 15 West African states. However navy coups within the area and rising strikes by political incumbents to elongate their keep in workplace via doubtful constitutional amendments are proving a tricky problem. And, because the Guinea case reveals, the 2 are interlinked.
Guinea’s ousted president Alpha Condé modified the nation’s structure so he may run for one more time period in March 2020, successfully going past the constitutional two phrases.
Condé was not the final. In August of the identical 12 months, President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire ran for a 3rd time period, capitalising on the stipulations of a brand new structure. This transfer was greeted with violent protests within the nation.
In Condé’s case, Guinea has been unstable since final 12 months’s elections, which have been fraught with irregularities, setting the stage for one more coup.
Ripe for a coup
The 5 September 2021 coup is simply a mirrored image of the unstable political local weather that Guinea has had since independence in 1958. Guinea has had three long run presidents since its independence from France. There was a coup in December 2008 which led to the nation being remoted internationally. The USA suspended its bilateral and safety help to Guinea, whereas the European Union, ECOWAS and the African Union imposed an arm embargo. The unpopularity of the mid-ranking navy officers who led the coup paved the best way for a democratic transition that ultimately culminated within the election of Condé as president in 2010.
In a method, historical past is repeating itself. The chaotic sociopolitical and financial situations that transpired previous to Condé’s presidency are fairly much like the chaos of his regime which led to his ouster.
With a inhabitants of 13 million, Guinea is without doubt one of the poorest nations globally regardless of its large mineral sources. Greater than two-thirds of its individuals are multidimensionally poor, a measure of poverty that features greater than only a lack of earnings. Guinea additionally ranks 178 out of 189 nations within the 2020 Human Growth Index, which measures high quality of life.
The overthrow of Condé’s authorities is premised on its violation of residents’ rights, disregard for democratic norms, politicisation of public service, endemic political corruption and poverty. Mamady Doumbouya, the pinnacle of Guinea’s particular forces and chief of the coup, stated “it was the responsibility of the soldier to avoid wasting the nation” from one-man rule.
The coup was acquired with jubilation within the streets of Conakry, Guinea’s capital. The coupists launched about 80 political prisoners who had been jailed for protesting towards the constitutional change that enabled Condé’s third time period.
Reacting to the most recent coup, ECOWAS demanded the instant launch of Condé and the opposite authorities officers. Consistent with the 2001 Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy, the regional physique additionally suspended Guinea’s membership and demanded that the coup plotters return constitutional order in Guinea or face sanctions.
This isn’t the primary time ECOWAS has sanctioned Guinea. After the December 2008 coup, the regional physique and the African Union suspended Guinea’s membership. However they didn’t impose sanctions on the junta.
Article 45 (1) of the 2001 Good Governance and Democracy Protocol says that when there was an unconstitutional change of presidency in a member state, and this has been accompanied by widespread human rights abuses, ECOWAS should impose sanctions on the member state. Such sanctions embody suspension of membership and the closure of land borders by member states. The latter is supposed to halt commerce and different cross-border financial actions. The intention is to pressurise the junta to return the nation to a constitutional order.
The imposition of financial sanctions may jeopardise Guinea’s ailing financial system. Nevertheless, the regional physique may mix numerous measures to realize its mandate as enshrined in its good governance protocol.
These measures may embody financial sanctions, a journey ban, freezing of private belongings of the coup organisers, denouncing their transitional preparations and rewriting or amending the structure.
Barring these, ECOWAS might be signalling to different formidable troopers in neighbouring nations that there are restricted repercussions to toppling sitting presidents within the area.
But regardless of sturdy mechanisms and mediation efforts in Guinea, the September 2021 coup raises a number of questions relating to the popularity of the physique and the dedication of its member states to adjust to its protocols.
The regional physique’s response to the Guinea disaster displays its legitimacy deficit. The organisation was conspicuously mute when Condé successfully carried out “a coup” towards the Guinean structure to elongate his time period in workplace. If ECOWAS is to be a champion for good governance, it ought to tackle the foundation causes of political instability and coups. Foremost are the illegitimate measures to increase the phrases of incumbents and their abuse of energy.
Article 1 (b) of the ECOWAS 2001 protocol offers that “each accession to energy should be made via free, truthful and clear elections”. It additionally calls for “zero tolerance for energy obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means”. However then Condé managed to vary the structure and ran for election based mostly on what was constitutional when it comes to the amendments.
Step one ought to have been to name Condé to order for flouting the protocol. The physique’s response to the coup successfully protects Condé, who manipulated the structure to lengthen his keep in workplace.
ECOWAS ought to condemn a coup and droop the nation if there’s a navy takeover that topples a constitutionally mandated and elected “democratic” authorities. It should even be dedicated to transitioning from merely deploring violence to passing stringent legal guidelines that may accompany its protocols. This may make sure that the preconditions of coups – such because the unconstitutional extension of phrases in workplace and the abuse of energy via the repression of mass protests – are punished.
Dare Leke Idowu, Assistant Lecturer, Political Science and Worldwide Relations Programme, Bowen College, Iwo, Nigeria, is a co-author of this text.
Benjamin Maiangwa, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Lakehead College
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