ECOWAS military intervention, blessing or curse?

25,OOO years ago one of the greatest Chinese strategists Sun Tsu defined the art of war in a way that helps us understand the dangers of military confrontation/aggression (war). In recent history we can remember how military intervention in parts of the world ended in devastation. The damage done to the social, economic and political structures of these countries could take generations to correct.

More worrying is the psychological consequences of these wars to the upcoming generations which will remain the most affected segment of the population. In all these instances, one thing is certain; wars never solve problems, they only lead to a perpetual cycle of conflicts and violence with huge negative consequences on the overall growth and development of the state(s).

Sun Tsu in his famous book “The Art of War” said the art of war is to win with a minimum bloodshed and minimum violence. That if winning a war means that you have to shed a lot of blood you must not fight that war, suggesting that a person who is steeped in the art of war knows how to resolve a conflict in a sane and rational manner. A person who is steeped in the art of war knows how to avoid petty entanglements, how to choose his or her battles very carefully. A person who knows the art of war actually creates less conflict around him, less resistance and less problems.

We are living in uncertain times when there is a very big disconnect between the realities we think we know and that which is. Now more than ever, governments in Africa must always take some steps back to critically analyse situations as they unfold before rushing to commit themselves into actions that will become a big blow and detrimental to their population in the long term. The world we know today has grown into a more competitive world with a lot of nasty, irrational and unhealthy patterns of behaviours among different actors both at local and global stages, and the goal is just to advance self interest at the expense of other actors.

One of my mentors would say “Societies have splintered into all sorts of groups where we have different kinds of wars; culture wars, business wars, internet wars and political wars. In this very competitive environment therefore people first and foremost think about themselves before any other consideration. The advancement of one’s interests is at the top of the agenda before considering the interests of anyone else in the group.

The entire world is in the react mode of the coup in Niger Republic which saw the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mohamed Bazoum. Different actors both at local and international levels have condemned the peaceful military coup by the junta. Military coup in a democratic state is not only condemnable, but also a violation of the constitution of that state and international law.

But now that the junta has formed a new government suggesting that the coup leaders are on their path to becoming the sole administrators of the Nigerien people, there is a growing concern as to the following questions; the fate of Bazoum as the democratically elected president of Niger and the intensions of the junta in the long term as to whether they are willing to negotiate for democratic rule to return to the fore.

So far, all efforts to negotiate with the junta have failed despite the high profile individuals that were delegated by different governments in Africa. This is a sad reality for Niger and of course for Africa where in recent years coup d’état is increasingly becoming the norm. Niger, a country that just returned to democratic governance in 2011 when the then President Mohamadou Issoufou won the elections, has now become the centre of global attention where all the big actors in the global scene have strategic interests. This begs the question; what is the role of ECOWAS and other African nations in this global match?

Amidst the growing tensions within and outside Niger Republic and how Niger’s citizens are taking to the streets in their thousands protesting for what they termed as an opposition to imperialistic domination by France and other powers, the one-million-dollar question remains: “What is the best ECOWAS and other African counties could do to avert what appears to be a threat to regional socioeconomic and political security?

ECOWAS has already issued a threat to the junta in Niger for the use of military force if Bazoum is not reinstated to power. Niger is a member of ECOWAS and the number one reason for the establishment of ECOWAS is to foster the ideal of collective self sufficiency for its member states. As a trading union, it is meant to create a single large trading bloc through economic cooperation.

As it turns out, the number one priority of ECOWAS is ensuring that its member states become self sufficient by forging collective economic ties through trade cooperation that are mutually beneficial for the economic independence of its member states. From the foregoing, the vision and mission of ECOWAS is to foster economic growth and prosperity among member states in order to raise the living standards of their people.

In the context of strategic plan to effectively dismantle the breach of its principles, the most efficient way is not to rush into fighting the perceived violator for then a serious mistake will be committed which will lead to escalation and an eventual spill over to other strategic areas whose strategic advantage are essential in the restoration of peace and order, leading in the long run to perpetual cycle of escalation as different actors interfere to protect the interests of their strategic partners.
The best option is to step back and have some degree of detachment which will allow room for studying the past events of similar magnitude and consequences, the present agenda depicting the needs of various players/actors in the game and the future consequences in case of any rash action that may ensue as a result of external pressures that we cannot withstand due to our perceived weaknesses.

We are living in delicate times not only in Africa but around the world; times when the overall socioeconomic and political stability in the world is shaking, a time when all actors must be wary of the dangers of a broader military confrontation that will consume everyone. Niger must never be allowed to become another Ukraine in Africa where different international actors working to protect their interests at the expense of the citizens are coming with different support systems in the name of assistance or aid.

ECOWAS must first go back to the basics, looking at its vision, mission and agenda. The priorities of the bloc and the very citizens they represent must be at the foremost in any consideration before anything else. The growing division among member states and other African countries as to how the Niger problem will be resolved is enough evidence to show that the unity of Africa is at stake.

More important of course is the continuous dissection Africa could have in terms of socioeconomic and political interests at the expense of its citizens which will pave way for other actors to seize that opportunity to further enrich themselves and continue to subject Africa into more and more division, socioeconomic and political tensions.

“Without peace, all other dreams vanish and are reduced to ashes “ -Jawaharlal Nehru.

ECOWAS and other African countries must never allow the peace that exist between us for centuries to be destroyed thereby turning our dreams into ashes due to bullets and bombs.

Mande, a youth advocate and development activist, writes from Abuja via [email protected]