Ablakwa Misleads Ghanaians on ECOWAS Intervention in Togo – Kofi Ali
By Kofi Ali, Chairman, ECRA (ECOWAS Citizens Right Advocates)
My advocacy group, the ECOWAS Citizens Right Advocate (ECRA) holds an unconditional belief that the ECOWAS authority must play a more proactive role, to actualise her mandate of sustainable security and development essential to the industrialisation of the region, tin overcoming the challenges of the West African. In our commitment to mobilising the citizens of the ECOWAS to reinforce the demand on the regional authority, to live up to the expectations of the West African beyond the traditional stance, we have been blaming the ECOWAS authority to waiting too late to engage authorities of member states as crisis brew. We therefore had most West Africans on our side, in calling on ECOWAS to step quickly into the ongoing Togo political crisis that has already taken two live. We are calling on ECOWAS to do something now, before the whole situation in the Togo crisis gets out of control.
We all believed to be speaking with one voice across West Africa, in our call for quick or timely ECOWAS intervention, until our attention was drawn to an opposing article said to be published on Class FM http://m.classfmradio.com/1.11251920. The article in question was titled “ECOWAS Intervention Won’t Help and said to be an interview the member of Parliament from the North Tongu Constituency to the Ghana Parliament, Hon. Samuel Okudzetu Ablakwa granted to Class FM. Mr. Ablakwa who is the current Minority Spokesperson for Ghana Foreign Affair, was reported saying “Any intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the current political tomoil in Togo will not be helpful”. The position of Mr. Ablakwa technically side with the view of those who believe in an ECOWAS that totally exclude itself in matters of real potential of escalating into the mass loss of lives, for which the super powerful nation step in to take advantage. Thus the article compromise the position of ECRA that hold the view of an ECOWAS assuming the responsibility of being the guarantor of the security of life of every ECOWAS Citizens.
In realizing that Mr. Ablakwa’s position contradict with the position being propagated by ECRA and given the fact that such information is associated with an opposition member of Ghana parliament, a GM FM Radio UK presenter DJ. Passassa, contacted ECRA for clarification on the official position of Ghana government on the subject.
What Mr. Passasa and other media houses from the USA, Canada and Europe, are contacting the ECRA to know is, whether the government of Ghana must incline herself with the Ablakwa”s view or that is actually the official position of the Ghana Government, on the Togo crisis? In our response to meet up with these concerns, we first made it very clear that Mr. Ablakwa’s position might be a combination of his personal view and possibly some members of his party, but that is not the position of the government of Ghana. I went on to add that the content of Mr. Ablakwa’s interview clearly betray the level of the layman political discuss which has characterise the Ghanaian air space, of playing to the gallery, and turning honourable people into political claws.
The common consensus we all seem to share with the ECO skeptics like Mr. Ablakwa is, the crisis is clearly beyond what the Togolese political party in government and the rival opposition political parties, can settle among themselves, without external support. So we are both in favour of having a trusted external body to all parties, to step in on time to mediate on the way forward. We all also agreed that the state of Togo is equally the responsibility of all her citizens which make every citizen of the state, an equal stakeholder, in the future of their country.
This then bring us to the main contentions among the Togolese whose disagreement is leading to break down of law and order. Our little information from the Togo factions is, some are calling for reforms in their system of governance that are constitutional in nature. This further exposed that the ruling party in government, is in favour of the current multi-party democratic Parliamentary system in place that allow a president to remain in office, as long as he or she continues to win the general elections. The opposition on their part, are advocating for the presidential system of government, under multi-party democracy, where a presidential candidate will not exceed two renewable four years term of office, at the end of which the same candidate will not stand again, talk less of winning the election.
What we as Ghanaians, do not know because of our English background but could be assisted with, by our fellow ECOWAS colleagues from others from French West African background, is the complications associated with the present constitutional procedure of Togo, on how such reform will take place. We therefore need better understanding of the historical development of Togo and the ECOWAS at large that can better be done, by combination of people from all background, to engage the political factions of Togo for a constructive constitutional reform, to take place.
The issue Mr. Ablakwa rose that turn out to say more than he might have wished to is, the ECOWAS as an authority lack the credibility to mediating in the Togo crisis, for amicable settlement. The MP tried to be diplomatically with his machination saying “If you look at the situation, ordinarily, the ECOWAS intervention would have been the best, but the current ‘chief’ of ECOWAS is Togolese president Faure Gnassingbe, and that has complicated the matter.” Disingenuously, Mr Ablakwa has succeeded in cheapening the whole concept of ECOWAS and betrayed his own understanding of the institutional functioning of the regional authority.
What Mr. Ablakwa portrayed of himself that ended up misleading Ghanaians is, his understanding of the one year term of the ECOWAS Assembly chairmanship position is mistaken to be synonymous with the role of the president of the ECOWAS Commission. Mr. Ablakwa thus hold the view that the assumption of the chairmanship of the ECOWAS Assembly of heads of states automatically empower the president of the state of Togo to have authority over the whole of the fifteen member states. So such person hold the erroneous view of Mr. Faure as the president of the whole of West Africa.
It would have been helpful if the learned law maker is aware that the Chairmanship seat of the ECOWAS Assembly is ceremonial position and so, no sitting head of member state of ECOWAS has the kind of power Mr. Ablakwa is associating with Faure in ECOWAS, to allow him any subjective influence on ECOWAS matters. It would have assisted Mr. Ablakwa to know that, if any individual could be coming near such power but not there yet, such position will be that of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Marcel De Souze, who has just commenced a mandate of four year renewable term. It is again important to add that Mr. De Souze is not the president or head of state of any particular member state but his jurisdiction covers the whole of the sub-region for a period of four years. In fact, he organises and sit at any meeting of the Assembly of ECOWAS. The role of Mr. De Souze allow him to authorise and sit at any formal meeting of any of the ECOWAS institutions. Thus, the President of the ECOWAS Commission attends or delegate his responsibility to any one he feels can best represent him and expected to be updated on all developments within the region, making him responsible for the security of all the 377 million population of ECOWAS. In short, the equivalent of his Excellency President Marcel De Souze position in the European Union, is President Jean-Claude Juncker.
What Mr. Ablakwa seem to be saying is, since Faure Gnassinbge is a key factor in the Togolese political crisis, as the head of state and coincidently the the chairman of the ECOWAS Assembly, the whole authority of the regional body is compromised. The Ghanaian law maker then use this as justification for the Togo opposition parties not to take the regional body serious, as things will be manipulated to favour the ‘chief’. This is very sad to come from a person with such repute. It is very challenging to have law makers of the ECOWAS member states who are supposed to be educating the populace about the nature and function of the Union, to turn out as those belittling the body into just a 15 people affair. Mr. Ablakwa, please be inform that the ECOWAS is not about just 15 people that excludes you, but about 377 million citizens that includes your good honourable self.
On the way forward, Mr. Ablakwa went ahead to say “President Nana Addo, in ‘our’ view, should reach out diplomatically and offer himself as a possible mediator between the coalition of the opposition parties and the president and his party”. The use of “our” than “my” view here, suggests Mr. Ablakwa did engage and culled some people on what they think President Nana Addo must officially do, on behalf of the state of Ghana. This also confirm that some of those representing the man on the Ghanaian street, are either worse than those they represent on the subject of ECOWAS or they are the compromised type.
It is very unfortunate the Mr. Ablakwa and those on whose behalf, he is advising the president of Ghana to act in a particular manner, pretend to be unaware of certain facts governing why the government of Ghana must tread cautiously on the Togolese issue or are intentionally misleading the government into a very dangerous space.
Have we all soon forgotten the late President Mills position on the Ivorian crisis, when individuals like Ablakwa were the active advisors of the president? Have they forgotten the meaning of “Di wu fi ye asem”? Well, if Mr. Ablakwa is incapable of understanding the meaning of what the president, under whom he then served, the meaning is, â€œmind your own business!”
What Mr. Ablakwa should have been doing is, join the progressives to intensify our call on the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa, to put pressure on ECOWAS to step in on time, for quick mediation and resolution. The act of asking Nana Addo to put himself into the middle of the fire the late President Mills was advised by people like Ablakwa to avoid, is totally irresponsible. This is not about NPP or NDC, but about Ghana and ECOWAS.
In the first place, why was the ECOWAS Authority form, if not to assume the responsibility of doing what is necessary but dangerous to be done by any particular member state? Is interceding in brewing crisis of any member state, to avoid having the history of nations accusing their neighbours for interfering in their internal affairs, not an example of a necessary action that justify the formation of ECOWAS? Is Mr. Ablakwa not aware that some factions in the Togo crisis are accusing individuals within Ghana, as those funding and sponsoring the crisis in Togo? Have Ablakwa and his cohortsâ€™ forgotten the number of time Ghana and Togo have engage in finger pointing at each other, for interfering in their domestics affairs? How many times has either Ghana or Togo shut up their borders, accusing the other of interference? How should anyone then be suggesting the President of Ghana offer himself as a credible negotiator when fingers are already pointing at you? Why advice the state of Ghana to bilaterally engage itself in the Togo mediation, than appealing to Mr. Marcel De Souze of the ECOWAS commission to lead the way? Is it because Mr. Ablakwa and his advisors do not respect or recognise the ECOWAS Commission, since Mr. De Souze is not a president of a particular member state? How is Mr. Ablakwa sure that all factions in Togo are comfortable with the very president, he daily call a dishonest man? I do not know whether Mr. Ablakwa can help us with any situation in West Africa where bilateral approach to mediation has resolve political crisis.
Let me indulge your attention to some facts about conflict resolution in a regional set up and the danger of bilateral interventions. The 1966 Aburi Accord, bilaterally mediated by the then President of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, between the secessionist Biafra and the then Nigerian government under Yakubu Gowan, was a total failure as it rather worsen up, than resolve the crisis. It’s fair to bear in mind that there are some Nigerians today nursing a grudge against Ghana and Ghanaians, for either, not doing enough to avoid the war or for interfering in the first place. The ECOWAS would have been the one to be blame but, the Regional authority was not in existence at the time.
Outside the ECOWAS, the crisis of the Congo DRC was worsen by bilateral engagements of governments from Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Sudan and Central Africa Republic, backing different factions of the war. This started by lack of a common regional platform to deal with the initial crisis, till that got out of hand. We have ECOWAS and it is barbaric to call on a neighbour to intervene a crisis, when an official police officer is right by.
The silent law in international relations is, no country must unilaterally involve itself in the internal crisis of another. So unilateral action, leading to bilateral relation in the international community, to resolve crisis, is considered as interference. On the other hand, a group of countries interfering in the crisis of one country, to resolve whatever they think to be the problem, is a norm. The second approach is highly acceptable even in situation where naked military force is resorted to or the mediating countries are seen as taking side. This explain why Nigeria has to do everything to get another country on board the ECOMOG to intervene in the Liberian war. This again explain why the USA ex-President George Walker Bush have to tailor up all excuses to get the UK under Prime Minister Blair, for the Second Iraq War. Finally, Senegal could have recently March her forces across the border into The Gambia to remove President Yahaya Jammeh, but ECOWAS was use because of the reasons above.
What legitimises the role of group of countries, to engage a country in crisis, is not by mere military power or the trust all the parties have for the mediating nations. The legitimising factor is the authority vested in the mediator by which the country in crisis is a signatory to the membership of the group. In the case of ECOWAS, the legitimacy for intervention by the ECOWAS Authority, is even higher because, the citizen of Togo are also citizens of ECOWAS, who pay tax directly to the regional body.
We can at this point add that the Authority of ECOWAS, is more incline to the promotion of multi-party democracy of four year renewable presidential term of office, than the parliamentary five years continual approach, currently being practice in Togo and some few ECOWAS member states. The Togolese crisis is therefore working in the best interest of the ECOWAS authority. The crisis is an opportunity for the ECOWAS authority to effect a change, from within a member state, than an imposition by the authority of the member state.
So having established that the ECOWAS authority is not about ‘peers’ and friends, on the side of all the factions in the crisis, but about an authority with the mandate of ensuring peace and security in the sub-region, we could easily see how the ECOWAS could effectively engage all the factions, for an amicable settlement to the future of the Togo constitution. With our minds on the dirty war going on in Syria or the Congo, it is in our best interest to have everyone rallying behind the Regional authority that removed Yahaya Jammeh from office, to give multi-party democracy a chance, to save us all the regrets of overlooking the one in Togo.
The ECOWAS authority can choose anyone within the sub-region to lead in the Togolese mediation. The mediator who might not necessarily be a head of state, must be someone with enough time, working with other appointees by the Commission, will be feeding back to the Commission, on its progress and developments. The time frame will be obvious, as it is not in anyone’s interest and the credibility of the ECOWAS authority at stake, for the next Togolese election to be due without a clear resolution of the Togo contentions.
One area we might be overlooking, is the possibility of a referendum for a constitutional reform. If this happened to be the case, we should be thinking of how to go about it. We should be thinking of how the referendum is going to be police to ensure, free, safe and fair, in bringing out the view of the majority of the Togolese. We should also be thinking of the cost of the referendum, who will bear it and how can we get this off the way, before the next Togo General Election? Finally, it is in the best interest of everyone for his Excellency President Foure Gnassingbe to be inform in clear term that this is his last term in government and so, he must be looking forward to a life of an ex-president within his country of Togo.
Therefore, we must be encouraging all the parties, including the party of the sitting government, to start preparing for a marathon of meetings to be hosted at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja. We are also looking forward to have the committee of mediation set up on time, to start their work. Finally, we urge the ECOWAS Authority to call for immediate cession of all act that might lead to unrest in the country, awaiting the invitation from the commission to attend talks.