On May 28, 1975, Lagos, Nigeria, West African countries met to form a regional body called The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The founding fathers had a dream of building a robust regional bloc to improve the living standard of its citizens, but forty-five years later, ECOWAS is a skimpy slice of what it promises to be.
Over the years, the bloc has made a tremendous effort in helping to restore peace in many West African states – its peacekeeping missions in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau is worth commending. In 1999, the bloc adopted a mechanism for conflict prevention, resolution, peacekeeping and security management. It’s the same protocol used to help resolve a political impasse in The Gambia when ex-President Jammeh refused to hand over power to the newly elected President back in 2017.
Three years after, ECOWAS troops are still operating in The Gambia and some citizens are beginning to criticize their presence in the country. Many argued that the government of Adama Barrow who has been in power since 2017, should have been successful in reforming the national army by now. One of the main issues of concern is the presumption that The Gambia government is spending huge amounts of money in financing ECOWAS military operation.
However, in a recent interview, the spokesperson of the government debunked the claim that The Gambia is spending millions on ECOWAS military operations in the country. According to him, the operation which comes at a cost of EUR7.5million is fully paid by the European Union. One would have thought that a region so rich in natural resources and human capital would be able to finance its own security operation.
EU footing of the security bill irked many who want to see a financially independent Africa. The continent of Africa has its economies heavily reliant on foreign institutions, and scornfully, they will dictate the affairs of the continent. Why is the EU financing ECOWAS military operation? Is there a catch? The independence and financial sovereignty of our continent shall always be the underpinnings of a successful Africa. There is an African proverb that says, ” he who gives you his eyes can only ask you to watch what he wants you to see.” If Africa has to continue accepting funds from institutions like the EU, the idea of neo-colonialism will never be obliterated.
Financing projects in Africa more-so in the ECOWAS region that covers 349million people and one of the strongest regional-blocks speaks volumes. ECOWAS jointly with the AU should be able to finance themselves. Is time for AU to see the EU as a body whose prime responsibility is to protect the interest of the Europeans and not Africans.