Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General’s Office for West Africa and the Sahel, has highly commended the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for its several successful interventions in Sub-Regional conflicts. But he warned that these successes could be seriously undermined if ECOWAS nations failed to practice justice and transparency in governance.
Addressing the 51st Summit of ECOWAS Heads of State, who ended their meeting in Liberia Sunday, Dr. Chambas said the regional body’s interventions in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Guinea Bissau have been highly commendable.
He further praised ECOWAS for recently forcing former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh into exile, causing the newly elected President Adama Barrow to take his seat as the new Gambian leader.
Dr. Ibn Chambas also recognized special efforts by Nigeria, Chad and Niger in fighting Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist group that has left northern Nigeria in turmoil.
According to Dr. Ibn Chambas, ECOWAS’ successes have proven its strength in Africa, leaving the United Nations highly impressed.
But he seriously warned of several remaining challenges facing ECOWAS which, he said, must be immediately addressed, if the Organization’s successes are to be sustained.
Among these challenges are terrorist attacks, drug smuggling, mob justice and inequality, which he said have the propensity to undermine the successes if concerted efforts are not made to enhance justice and transparency, and to discourage impunity.
He emphatically noted that if ECOWAS member states fail to provide for their citizens improved livelihood, it will definitely give an edge to terrorism.
If ECOWAS member states fail to institute justice, establish transparent economic and political systems and discourage impunity, the successes that are manifested today will be a dream. Justice, if effectively instituted without favor, he insisted, would enhance equality and ensure citizens’ trust in the governance system.
In the case of Liberia, for example, observers are compelled to note that justice has been for the rich, while those without money or are not part of a cult are left to grieve for their rights. The Chief Justice of Liberia, Francis Korkpor, has in recent times been vocal, warning judges against acts incompatible with justice. Some judges, including Emery Paye, have been suspended for professional misconduct and others have been barred from the practice of law.
The culture of impunity, on the other hand, tends to give those at the upper echelons of state power the audacity to abuse same and squander money that belongs to the country. For example, Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia abused power for 22 years, killed some of his own colleagues as well as opposition politicians and journalists, imprisoned many and made away with tens of millions of United States dollars to Equatorial Guinea, where he currently lives.
In Liberia, warlords daily boast of killing Liberians, branding themselves as liberators; something for which a lot of them were rewarded with power by the common people for fear of a recurrence of the past.
The lack of transparency in many West African countries is a source of inequality and conflict. There is no doubt that in any country where corruption is rampant and inequality high, people, especially the youth, give themselves over to wayward lifestyles and are easily used by evildoers to carry out terrorist acts, other criminal activities and even risking their lives across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean in search of better livelihood. Right here in Liberia young people have turned out to be drug addicts and criminals.
The Daily Observer believes that while ECOWAS has scored attractive marks in consolidating peace in the sub-region, it needs to take seriously the challenges underscored by Dr. Chambas, in order for ECOWAS’ efforts to remain sustainable.
We further encourage ECOWAS to strengthen its own regional court, with power to adjudicate cases of war and economic crimes so as to discourage the culture of impunity in the sub-region.
We strongly believe that if measures are taken to address issues raised by Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas at the 51st Session of the Summit of ECOWAS Heads of State, peace and stability will be maintained in the sub-region and major development projects, including the Dakar-Abidjan Corridor will put the Organization on an even higher pedestal in the eyes of ordinary West Africans.