Friday, June 17, 2011

Abuja Bombings Must be a Clear Call for ECOWAS to Adopt the ECOWAS FBI!

Back in March 2009, I wrote a piece on my ghana blog entitled The Unbearable Lightness of Being...ECOWAS-ian & Fighting Crime in ECOWAS/AU Member States ("http://ekbensahinghana.blogspot.com/2009/03/unbearable-lightness-of-being-ecowas.html) in which I opined:

"I was very happy to read at the beginning of this week that the UN and the AU have launched a joint initiative to support an AU plan to fight drug trafficking and related crimes over the next five years.. I am also deeply encouraged that the AU has a "Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention (2007-2012)".

In the long run, these protocols are great, and it's nice to know that ECOWAS is strong on peacekeeping and peace enforcement, but I would rather hope to see not just ECOWAS disposing of a
Criminal Intelligence Bureau , but ALL regional economic communities—starting with the more formidable AU!
"

Truth be told, the AU has an agency dealing with terrorism that is based in Algiers. Established in October 2004, it's called the African Centre for Studies and Research on Terrorism (http://www.caert.org.dz/an/apropos.php). According to its website, its main functions are:

  • Complementing international efforts by strengthening cooperation between African countries to prevent and combat terrorism;
  • Assisting in the full implementation of international conventions relating to terrorism;
  • Playing the role of a monitoring and alerting tool by incorporating in its approach the concept of preventive management of situations.
Now, all this would be well and good if public education on it were strong enough. Fact is, it is not. As such, we as citizens are all left feeling powerless to put sufficient pressure on our governments to provide us with information on their role at this AU-agency.

But it's more serious than that.

Yesterday's bombing in Abuja, in my view, has brought into sharp relief not so much the state of Nigeria's security as the state of REGIONAL SECURITY in West Africa and, by extension, security in other regional economic communities.

Today, I read from the UK's  Daily Telegraph newspaper that "Al-Qaeda-linked suicide bomber targets Nigeria police station" (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/nigeria/8580438/Al-Qaeda-linked-suicide-bomber-targets-Nigeria-police-station.html). We have all already heard much talk about the Al-Quaida in the Maghreb over here in West Africa and felt that it was so isolated for us to care.

In May 2010, I was in Bamako for a meeting, and noticed at the airport that there were US soldiers lurking around. I later learnt that it was in connection with assisting Mali security services to fight Al Quaida in (Arab) Maghreb.

So, not so far away, huh?

So it prompts the question of why ECOWAS is being so lackadaisical about establishing its Criminal Investigative Intelligence Bureau. In the same March 2009 blog post, I wrote:


"The Europeans established EUROPOL the very moment the Treaty of Maastricht was established. Why did AU member states not equally view law enforcement as an important element in the facilitation of regional integration? "

My question still holds, but I want to go further: why did the AU not include the establishment of a Pan-African police organisation (with regional devolution at the very worst) to deal with impending issues associated with drug-trafficking and abuse of free movement protocols? Okay, so the AU, alongside the RECs, were caught off-guard, but it is never too late.

If you're interested, you might want to read the "Political Declaration on the Prevention Of Drug Abuse, Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organized Crimes in West Africa" here: http://www.unodc.org/westandcentralafrica/en/ecowaspoliticaldeclaration.html.
It is clear that West Africa has gotten fairly serious on countering crime, and I have to say that judging by some of the publications by the eponymous Dakar-based Intergovernmental Action Group against Money-Laundering(GIABA) that was established in 2000 as an ECOWAS agency, ECOWAS has moved significantly. But it must clearly do more -- as illustrated by my comment on Facebook on the BBC worldservice for Africa page:

Personally, I believe it is high-time ECOWAS got serious about adopting the Protocol of 2005 establishing the Criminal Investigative Intelligence Bureau. The AU should also use this opportunity to use the Algiers-based African Centre for St...udies and Research in Terrorism to start compiling a list of terrorist groups and the deploym...ent of strategies to deal with them. ECOWAS has done well to establish West African Police CHiefs Committee Organisation, and Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering(GIABA), but these are not enough.
With ECOWAS citizens enjoying free movement, ECOWAS can no longer say this is a Nigeria-specific problem. Passports can be faked. As such, any of these fundamentalists are likely to exploit the free movement AND the absence of a criminal intelligence bureau in the region to cause more havoc in Nigeria and beyond. ECOWAS must kindly wake up -- fast!! (from: http://www.facebook.com/bbcworldserviceafrica#!/bbcworldserviceafrica)

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