The Horn Of Africa States: Why An ECOWAS Invasion Of Niger Would Be Wrong – OpEd


In the Horn of Africa, we have a saying which denotes the importance of experience. We say, “Ask the one who has experienced it.” Civil conflicts and good-intentioned foreign forces sent to a country never solve a country’s real problems and this is even more so when one is acting on behalf of the others, who take advantage of the bounties of that country.

It is, indeed, how slavery, in Africa, led to many Africans being exported from the continent in the first place. It was African chiefs who were invading other tribes’ territories to capture people to be sold as slaves for meager beads and coins. Why would ECOWAS be doing what its ancestor chiefs did to the people of West Africa in the past, in this 21st century?

The Horn of Africa States is one of those regions that has been, unfortunately, marred by civil conflicts and ethnic competition for power and where good-intentioned African “so-called help forces” not only got derailed but only added to the ongoing tribal/clan competitions. They did not help solve the region’s continuing ethnic-based conflicts; conflicts, that fatten NGOs and UN administrations only. It is why we caution ECOWAS to think before they leap into a situation that flames West Africa and turns it into an unmanageable regional problem.

It is clear there are unhappy foreign parties, but their needs could be met otherwise but certainly not through military or other threats. It is perhaps time that those parties learned some humility and added to their dealings with Africans on the basis of mutual interests. One should not always be carrying a stick. It is even worse when fellow brothers are being used to beat their own for the benefit of the foreigner.

This latest coup in Niger is only a manifestation of a deeper problem. Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea have preceded Niger’s coup with their own coups. ECOWAS should be looking into why the coups are happening instead of playing the good-for-nothing stick carrier of others. Why should there be so many coups in a region, which should be enjoying rich and growing economies?

As Horn Africans, we know that military forces do not solve problems. It only adds to an already difficult situation, and this is why we caution ECOWAS not to take the route of military intervention in one of their own. Mediation and conflict resolution mechanisms based on African tradition and not on borrowed but clearly misunderstood so-called international rules should be deployed to handle West Africa’s continuing coups and counter coups. It is where ECOWAS’s mission should be directed instead of military might.

AMISOM-turned ATMIS in Somalia has not helped solve Somalia’s problems and it still draws huge incomes from parties that perhaps have an interest in keeping the situation as insolvable as they can achieve. An ECOWAS force would simply be another gate opener for a multitude of unexpected forces that would rip off Niger more than ECOWAS can ever imagine. ECOWAS does not certainly want Niger to suffer more than it has already suffered.

Niger is perhaps looking for a sympathetic ear to hear its dilemma and not threats from its own brethren and ECOWAS should be working in that direction.  One must perhaps applaud Nigeria’s legislators who have rejected the idea of a military intervention in Niger. All other legislators of the ECOWAS should follow Nigeria’s, and in particular, when it looks like such an intervention would be for the benefit of non-regional parties, and not for the region.

It is where ECOWAS should shine and show that it looks after its own, perhaps mediating between the new rulers of Niger and those foreign parties pushing for military interventions. The world is changing, and the old ways should be replaced by new mechanisms that protect the mutual interests of all parties. Niger cannot be so poor while those who use its resources should be living in wealth taken from Niger. It is common sense.

The fact that the military coup in Niger is overwhelmingly supported by the country’s population should have meaning for those looking at the country’s issues. Rulers should be working for their people and not for others and it appears the coup was prompted by a lack of this basic rule in that rich yet poor country.

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].

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