Friday, 11 July 2014

Crises stalk West African summit

A sense of crisis loomed over the regional summit on 10-11 July as West African leaders gathered in Accra, with security, migration and the Ebola virus high on the agenda. Insurgencies, organised crime and political rivalries are intruding on grand plans for economic development and cooperation.

Leaders were due to finalise details for launching a common currency by 2020, free movement of people and cutting constraints on cross-border trade but concerns about security implications have held back agreement. Pointing to growing worries about terrorist attacks and cross-border crime, the presidents of Cameroon, Chad and Mauritania were to join those from the 15 member-states of the Economic Community of West African States. Most pressing is the spread of the Boko Haram insurgency across Nigeria’s north-east to neighbouring countries.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in Islamist attacks over two months despite a new regional security coordination centre in Ndjamena. In Mali, Ibrahim Ke├»ta’s government has failed to reach agreement with northern rebels, some nine months after coming to power. Presidents John Mahama and Macky Sall are under growing domestic pressure as Ghana and Senegal struggle with their own economic and political demons. West African commercial energy is not in doubt but economic development is hindered by political and bureaucratic blockages. The summit’s willingness to tackle these issues as well as the security threats will show where the region is heading.

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