An International Affairs Experts has called on Nigeria, ECOWAS and the international community to intensify preventive diplomacy interventions to avoid the escalation of the crises in Cote d’Ivoire & Mali in the interest of regional peace and security.
“If your neighbour’s house is on fire, you do not go to bed,” Paul Ejime said, warning that instability in these countries could have grave implications on the entire region, including potential loss of lives, destruction of property and human displacements.
Speaking during an ElombahNews organised meeting via Zoom on the Political Crises in Mali and Cote d’Ivoire, Ejime welcomed the dispatch of mediation mission to Mali by ECOWAS, stressing that dialogue and negotiations are usually better and more cost-effective than the deployment of military missions.
In any case, the expert said the region might have the troops, but lacks the fund or capacity, and would require the support of the international community to mobilize the troops, as a last resort.
“It will also be very difficult to mobilize troops under the Coronavirus pandemic,” Ejime noted, adding that ECOWAS could use civil society, community and faith leaders within the countries to work with external mediators to resolve the crises.
There is the need for all stakeholders to work together; there should not be rigidity, but flexibility for peace to reign in both countries and the region, he stressed.
Cote d’Ivoire & Mali
On Cote d’Ivoire, Ejime said President Alassane Ouattara’s two-term tenure is expected to end after the presidential election in October this year, but following the death of Prime Minister Amadou Coulibaly, the ruling party’s anointed presidential candidate and the sudden resignation of Vice-President Daniel Duncan, it is unclear whether or not President Ouattara would run for a third-term in October.
Ouattara, Ejime said, could argue that he has the right to contest under the country’s amended 2016 Constitution, but such as a decision could reopen the country’s ethnic, religious and demographic fault lines and possible descent into another civil war in the country.
“There is no strong man any more to hold Cote d’Ivoire together, in the manner the late former President Félix Houphouët-Boigny did for three decades until his death in 1993. “The situation in Cote d’Ivoire is unpredictable and depends on whether President Ouattara will run again for office or not.
Asked whether there is a power vacuum in the country, the International Expert said “there is no power vacuum for now, but there is political uncertainty.”
He explained that: “Ouattara will still be the President in Cote d’Ivoire until the October 31st election.” adding that the two-term mandate provision under the new Constitution is subject to various interpretations.
“For now, nobody has gone to court to seek a legal interpretation, it is just political argument that is going on, but it will only take somebody to ignite the fire and the whole country will go ablaze, that is what the International Community should try to stop. Ivorians must work to prevent such a situation,” Ejime advised.
He also urged France to play a positive role in the mediation, noting that Francophone countries are beholden to Paris for a number of reasons linked to their colonial history.
Speaking on the crisis in Mali, Ejime said this was an extension of the general leadership failure in Africa, and urged the warring factions in Mali to embrace dialogue and negotiation to resolve the crisis in that country.
He advocated the setting up an inclusive Government of National Unity that would bring representatives of critical stakeholders together, over a transitional period to stabilise the country.
Ejime said former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who led an ECOWAS mediation mission to Mali needs all the “support and luck,” required to succeed.
He lamented that Mali has become the epicentre and exporter of terrorism and insecurity in the Sahel region because of the chaos in the northern part of the country.
“It is urgently important that the crisis is resolved with sincerity, and where a peace agreement is signed, it must be respected with serious consequences and sanctions spelt out for any breaches,” Ejime noted.
On the leadership issue on the continent, Ejime said: “There is corruption everywhere not just in Africa, but other countries have been able to put institutions in place; systems that do not depend on individuals to work.”
“Unfortunately, Africa is looking for strong men, but what is required are strong institutions that can run without reference or deference to anybody to deliver,” the Expert said, stressing that “governance is about the interests and welfare of the citizens.
“It is about inclusivity and the good of the greater majority, including women, youths, children, and all minority groups.”