Faure Gnassingbè, ECOWAS Is in Your Hand: Can You Manage It?

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The 51st Summit of Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has brought on board Faure Gnassingbè, President of the Republic of Togo, as the new Chairperson. He is succeeding President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who presided as the first female chairperson for the past year.

President Gnassingbè’s ascendancy comes at a time when the regional body is striving towards establishing democratic governance, peace and stability, economic viability and investment in young people through education and employment. With a goal of establishing democratic governance, ECOWAS under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf used diplomatic and military interventions to oust Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia when he refused to peacefully hand over state power to the winner of the presidential elections, Adama Barrow. ECOWAS moved into Mali in 2013 with the same aim of restoring the democratically elected president of that country following an assassination attempt on his life. Under the same principle, ECOWAS is making frantic efforts to restore peace in fragile Guinea Bissau.

ECOWAS nowadays pays keen attention to electoral processes in all fifteen member countries, with the hope that leaders will not tamper with results and will peacefully transfer power to their successors. This is where the outgoing chairperson, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, has taken ECOWAS, and has boldly stated among West African Heads of State that she will be turning power over to her successor in 2018 following the impending October election. She is not the only regional president to have set this record. Nigeria and Ghana did just that. Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat following the election that led President Muhammadu Buhari to power; likewise Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, who recently turned power over to President-Elect Nana Akufo Addo.

Amid these developments, we are especially concerned if Faure Gnassingbè will be able to manage ECOWAS, as record of governance in his own country is questionable. His father, Gnassingbè Eyadèma, who took office on April 14, 1967, remained in power up to his death in 2005. During Eyadèma’s regime, the governance system was dominated by one party, Rally for the Togolese People. In the 1990’s the international community pressurized Eyadèma to democratize the governance system, something he strongly resisted. Like Yahya Jammeh’s regime in The Gambia, Eyadèma’s regime in Togo sent many pro-democracy activists to their graves.

Upon Eyadèma’s death in 2005, Faure Gnassingbè was named by Army Chief Aakari Nandja as President, a situation that made the presidency of Togo to be viewed as the hegemony of the Eyadèma’s family. Gnassingbè’s first election in 2005 was triggered by security crackdown on civilians, and about 500 people were killed. The 2010 election, though described as “calm,” was held in the presence of heavily armed security personnel.

Now that he has been elected ECOWAS chairman, can the Togolese President perform like his predecessor, or even better? We are not underestimating the potential of the Togolese leader. However, in the midst of the political turmoil and dictatorial leadership that had characterized the governance system of Togo, anyone can wonder if he will live by newly established ECOWAS goals and procedures when his time comes. Will he, when his term expires, be able to organize free, fair and transparent elections? Will he be able to relinquish power peacefully if defeated in an election? Can he create a free space for competition in elections?

Now that all eyes are on you, Chariamn-President Gnassingbè, the time has come for you to build trust in members of the regional body, ECOWAS, Africa and the world at large by upholding and maintaining the successful democratic trends ECOWAS has set. We also hope that you will be able to clean your own house to lay the basis for confidence and respect, as you sit at the helm of ECOWAS – to move it forward in the coming year.

Authors

6 COMMENTS

  1. Frankly, the Eyademas of Togo have fairly superior credentials at maintaining domestic stability free of foreign intervention proping up the Togolese state unlike the case in Liberia under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who used many of her fellow citizens as cannon fodder to acquire political power. The book the “Fist of Michiavelli” describes Sirleaf’s methods at covertly playing both domestic and foreign political operators in her orchestra for power.

    I lived in Togo during the turbulent times when Sirleaf played Liberians like pawns on her chess board. While Togolese may not be perfect… They provide the essentials of maintaining sovereignty in the midst of sanctions , and foreign ploys at destabilization and have managed to successfully persevere.

    Perhaps other African countries may have a lesson or two to learn about building an impregnable army with a little support from Paris which has been able to guarantee sovereignty over the period.

    In spite of the challenges Togo was home to ECOWAS secretarait or ECOWAS bank of Investment and Development and the region shows the benefits of this institution.

    Togo Industrial Zone and Free Port have demonstrated what can be accomplished by lower taxes, and lower bureaucracy in terms of the promotion of free trade unlike the current case at the Free Port of Monrovia and the collapsed Industrial Zone in and around our ports.

    Having sought asylum in Togo over the years I venture to say that Togo has a lot to offer ECOWAS;In terms of Economics Trade and Commerce than what Sirleaf could even dream of poffering.

  2. Well, well! I have question. And the question is;- Can a man who has
    not any good on governance in his own house country) preside good
    over other countries? What guarantee is there that he will change?
    Can a man, while maintaining hard-hands on his own [people] be trusted
    with other countries? ECOWAS must be very, very careful! Who and
    what is going to that man? By miracle or by self-changing process?
    Who had applied such change in the past?

  3. Wow! Straight to the point. That’s exactly the situation with Liberia and its leader, Madam Sirleaf.

    Amid the unstoppable international support we still live in abject poverty driven by uncontrollable corruption and the unevenly distribution of the country’s resources.

    What a shame!

  4. What a shame indeed, the guns have been silent in Liberia for a Long Time, but situation wr experienced now is far worst than before. This government is the worst under this wicked old witch called Ellen

  5. ECOWAS has had a long struggle from the past and now embarking
    on a success. It will be disheartening to place it in a hands with hopping.
    No indeed! You can’t hope against hope. Placing it into hands that has
    demonstrated good governance and economic development will not
    only make ECOWAS to pick up its goals for the people of West Africa,
    but also ensure its continuity in bringing the whole of West Africa to
    a real modern day development of all, I say all of its people and
    beyond. But, as it is now, placing it into the hands that have known
    and be no good to its own people in the country is, indeed, the
    worse way to go.

  6. Frankly, to describe a police state since the assassination of Sylvanus Olympio in 1963 as the Eyademas having a “fairly superior credentials at maintaining domestic stability” is an exaggeration. He won’t ably fill the shoes of EJS. So if ECOWAS leaders want to keep the current momentum, they will retain her as Eminent Chair Person until 2020. Ellen is up way up there in foreign relations. And had she concentrated more on domestic policies, and not personalities (which emboldened family, friends and flatterers to grab tightly onto her apron’s string), Liberians would have gladly declared her President- For – Life.

    The fact that it didn’t happen (she never focused primarily on homeland policies implementations), but seemingly empowered the self – aggrandizement of the mentioned trio of F’s, parallels the moral failing of protagonists of the tragic ancient Greek dramas of Sophocles so exquisitely imitated in Shakespeare’s. Simply put, considering the unknowns the country faces in the next three years, Liberia is all the more a loser because of her hubris. And whether we believe that or not, it is a national tragedy.

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