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Opinions of Sunday, 23 May 2004

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Restructuring Ecowas Security

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong argues that while West Africans agree that there is the need for new security architecture the core of this should come from within West African culture because of the region?s experiences and history

West Africa is the most unstable area in Africa. Why? Because 32 out of 37 successful military coups, not counting the unsuccessful attempted ones, in Africa have occurred in West Africa. It is in this context that Dr. Daniel Tetteh Osabu-Kle, a former squadron officer in the Ghana Air Force and currently a political scientist at Carleton University in Ottawa, has reflected that all military officers involved in coups are not good officers. Nigeria's Defence minister, Rabiu Kwankwaso, in this joins the on-going debate about the need for security restructuring of West Africa. Sensing the continuing security fragility of the sub-region especially his own Nigeria says there is an urgent need for security reorganization in the sub-region. Why? Because the challenges of security sector governance in Africa, especially West Africa, calls for reforms that are realistic in reach since security in West Africa continued to change and expand, driven more by poverty and cultural factors such as juju-marabou and other spiritual mediums.

Kwankwaso tapped into the need to look at West Africa's security holistically by arguing that security now comprised both the classical concepts (that's the European imposed structures) of state security as well as societal and human security. Kwankwaso said that the intrinsic (that's internal) relationship between security and development had made it crucial for reforms to stabilize the sub-region and that an improved performance of security apparatuses would secure political, social and economic space that would facilitate faster and greater economic progress and development. Naming worst affected regional states to include Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and Cote d?Ivoire. Kwankwaso grieved that West African state security apparatuses had been variously converted into instruments of oppression and suppression since independence to now.

What is missing in Kwankwaso's contribution to West Africa's security debate is the region's culture - one of the most inhibiting in Africa in terns of witchcraft, juju-marabou, witch doctors and other similar 'dark' crafts that have disturbed West Africa's security. Juju, marabou and other native spiritual mediums have contributed to the security crisis in West Africa, as have been other factors such as globalization, social and economic decline. Most of these spiritual crafts are more prominent in West Africa than other parts of Africa. Hear this: the Accra-based Chronicle reported that a delegation of repenting fetish priests from the local voodoo Anyigbaton Hunorgah fetish shrine of Klikor in Ghana's Volta Region was shown making a pilgrimage to Lome, Togo "begging President Eyadema to free them from a demonic curse. The curse was believed to have been imposed on them after a spiritual ritual they claimed they had indulged in to kill President Eyadema, allegedly backfired." The challenge to Kwankwaso and his associates is how do you miss this important cultural value juju in your security policy?

As much as Nigeria of all countries in the sub-region demonstrates how almost all coup plotters or armed robbers work with juju-marabou mediums to insecure the sub-region in one way or another, Kwankwaso should know by now how juju-marabou mediums aides the disastrous regime of Gen. Sani Abacha and the long long-running military regimes in the sub-region that has resulted in insecurities. From rebel leaders and their cohorts to armed robbers to coup makers, all have been inspired by juju-marabou mediums. Kwankwaso, like other African sector ministers, should challenge his advisors and bureaucrats to think holistically through the security situation or the current security doctrine/policy of the sub-region by considering all factors including how West Africa's culture of juju-marabou aids instabilities. This demands the surveillances of potential prominent juju-marabou mediums, spiritualists, and shrines known to have helped coup plotters, rebel groups, and armed robbers. Perhaps drawing from the South African Police Force (which has an occult unit), the Ghana Police Service now includes spiritualists and juju-marabou mediums mentioned by criminals as criminal facilitators, a situation unknown some 40 years ago.

The dawn of rebel movements have compounded the complex security problems of the region, resulting in the proliferation of small arms in the region and the alarming rate of armed robberies. A recent report says that 550 million arms were in circulation globally. Other factors are the daily increase in the number of child soldiers and armed gangs, the increasing rate of deaths resulting from crime and general violence, as well as political assassinations, a situation more pronounced in West Africa, especially Nigeria. Kwankwaso observed that internal factors like poverty, limited economic opportunities, ethnic animosities and a history of political abuse and corruption had also combined to fuel insecurities in the sub-region. This is West Africa's own making and not any outside forces. The problem of blaming outside forces for our troubles emanates from the West African culture where the average person blames witchcraft and other unseen forces for his/her problems instead of pointing his/her hands at himself/herself for problems or challenges. While Kiwankwaso did not elaborate he said that West Africa's security sector would be better off with a modern security reform to deal with the challenges of democracy and development as the region is emerging from a long period of dictatorship, a situation that calls for emphasizing the need for a regional re-orientation that would make professional security men appreciate being subservient to political leaders. This situation is lacking because of long-running one-party and military regimes in the region, and how this has impacted on the region. The said modern security reforms should encompass elements of the West African culture such as juju-marabou that contribute to the region's insecurities.

Part of the reasons for such a situation is that civic virtues are weak in the region, thus weakening law and order, and hence making professional men not being subservient to political leaders. Dr. Sunday Ochoche, Director-General of Nigeria's Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR), is quoted as saying that peace and security are "equal and opposite partners" and that "there cannot be peace in an unsecured environment, just as the lack of peace engenders insecurity for democracy and good governance to thrive." Liberia comes to mind where its security is so rotten that the UN is trying to create a new police service. Dr. Ochoche's remark reveals that West Africa's security is still fragile almost 50 years after independence from colonial rule, as the on-going Cote d'Ivoire fragile security situation shows more because of poverty, which has fuelled the rush for'dark' cultural practices. If West Africa's security troubles are anything to go by then its security must involve access to resources and the basic necessities of life, "as well as the right to participate in the process of governance and enjoying the protection of human rights," Kwankwaso said. How do you achieve this in a region known as the poorest areas in the world, where civic virtues are weak and the proliferation of small arms has resulted in the ceaseless crises and juju-marabou mediums are ready to help criminals? Where is the policy to address this? This is the task Kwankwaso and his associates should contemplate and come out with realistic solutions for the peace of a region that for the past 500 years has not known peace.


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