A comparative analysis of breakaway states in Ecowas and the discord in EAC

Dr Kisembo Ronex Tendo

What you need to know:

  • The dream of a United States of Africa, championed by visionaries like Col. Muammar Gaddafi, should be revisited, armed with the lessons of history.

French West Africa countries namely Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso have recently declared their departure from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), further deepening a growing rift between these nations and other regional states.  This unexpected move has ignited a pressing need for an in-depth analysis of the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal and the broader implications of states breaking away from regional economic communities. This narrative aims to explore the historical context, recent developments, and the urgency of addressing these fractures within regional blocs.

Founded in 1975, Ecowas was envisioned as a beacon of collaboration, fostering political stability and economic growth in West Africa. Member states historically enjoyed free movement of goods and people within the region. However, the organization has witnessed periods of political instability, coups, and shifting alliances among member nations.

Recently, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso have experienced political upheavals, with military coups reshaping the politics. The juntas in these nations, bound by a mutual defense pact formed in September, accuse ECOWAS of deviating from its founding ideals and failing to support them in their fight against terrorism and insecurity.
 This prompts a scrutiny of the other regional blocs including the discord within the East African Community (EAC).

The recent secession can be traced back to a series of interconnected issues that happened in these nations. Primarily, political upheavals marked by military coups in each of these countries set the stage for discontent.  The perception that Ecowas did not sufficiently address their security concerns has prompted these nations to seek alternative security alliances, leading to a notable shift from relying on French troops to engaging Russian mercenaries for assistance. 

This geopolitical recalibration, coupled with lack of communication and consultation between the seceding nations and Ecowas, has intensified tensions and laid the foundation for their withdrawal. The secession has significant implications not only for regional economic cooperation but also for the broader political stability and collective security efforts in West Africa.

Simultaneously, East Africa currently grapples with a myriad of challenges within the EAC resulting in strained relations and geopolitical shifts.  The looming specter of potential conflict between the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda casts a shadow over regional stability, and the decision to replace the East African Standby Force with the SADC Force in Eastern DRC signals a significant shift in peacekeeping dynamics.
The abrupt closure of Burundi’s border with Rwanda and the unresolved dispute between Somalia and Ethiopia over the sovereignty of Somaliland constitutes strained relations within the EAC, raising concerns about the cohesion of neighboring nations. 

These tests the efficacy of the EAC in mediating and resolving inter-state conflicts. Legal battles, such as the fuel charges dispute between Uganda and Kenya in the East African Court of Justice, represent the fragility of economic cooperation within the EAC. 
In the EAC, significant shifts in peacekeeping dynamics are evident as the East African Standby Force is replaced by the SADC Force in the Eastern DRC.
 Questions arise about the reasons behind this change and strategies for maintaining regional stability.

Also, the media accusations surrounding President Evariste Ndayishimiye’s speech in Kinshasa highlight the challenges associated with geopolitical changes and the potential impact on diplomatic relations within East Africa. The OAU Founding Fathers’ wisdom applies to both regions, emphasizing intrinsic forces that bind nations together. 
The dream of a United States of Africa, championed by visionaries like Col. Muammar Gaddafi, should be revisited, armed with the lessons of history. The onus is on current leaders to break the chains of discord and forge united and prosperous collaborations.

 The current state of fractures within regional economic communities reveals a reminder of the challenges inherent in maintaining regional alliances. The collective efforts of African leaders are crucial for charting a course toward a future characterized by stability, cooperation, and prosperity their diversity, and shared aspirations.

Authored by Dr Kisembo Ronex Tendo,         Group CEO Afrika Mashariki Fest,
[email protected]