Africa: Regional Establishments are Key in Peace keeping

The Gambian President, Adama Barrow returned to Banjul, after Yahya Jammeh was coerced into stepping down as president. This came after an intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to prevent a post-election crisis, restore democracy in the Islamic Republic of the Gambia and ensure peaceful transition of power.
The Ecowas pursued peaceful and political solutions to the Gambian situation, however, the Ecowas assembled troops at the border of the Gambia to coerce Jammeh to leave office. This signalled an intent of military intervention through deployment of Ecowas troops on Gambian territory. This assembly of military arsenal amounts to a military intervention (“threat of use of force”) at international law which is subject to restrictions especially under the United Nations Charter. The act, though justifiable demands an examination on scope of regional interventions under international law.
Chapter 8 of The United Nations Charter allows regional establishments to intervene for purposes of dealing with matters that relate to the maintenance of international peace and security, so long as such an intervention is consistent with the principles of the United Nations. These regional measures are to be taken only after consideration of pacific modes of settlement of disputes, authorisation by the Security Council and should be initiated by or with the consent of the state concerned.
One African Regional intervention worth examining is the 1998 military intervention in Lesotho by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). It was largely an intervention by South African and Tswana troops’ to avert an attempted military Coup in Lesotho. While the SADC achieved its purpose and spared Africa of another Military Coup, it left a lot to be desired, in terms of the hundreds of lives lost, and the economic crisis that followed. The intervention is criticised because it was engineered without the proper requisite authorisation and ratification the SADC member states. The intervention, while considered successfully was condemned for undermining the sovereignty of Lesotho and being inconsistent with the principles of the United Nations Charter.
The Lesotho incident is distinguishable from the Gambian Situation. The Ecowas decision to intervene in Gambia was adopted by the January 19 Security Council Resolution No. 2337(2017). The Security Council recognised the grave concern of the deterioration of the situation in Gambia and expressed full support to the Ecowas commitment to ensure, by political means “first” the respect of the will of people of Gambia. While it has been argued, that the Security Council approval; only approved “peaceful means” of settling the situation in Gambia, the resolution referred to the word “political means first.”

This can be argued, leaves room for other alternatives after failure of political means. The assembly of troops at the Gambian border with Senegal was in anticipation of the failure of political means of ensuring the will of the Gambian people is preserved. This Resolution, set in motion and “ratified” the series of actions by the Ecowas in pursuance of a solution to the political crisis in Gambia.

Further, the Ecowas was invited by the (then) president elect Adama Barrow to help ensure that democracy and constitutionalism is restored within the Gambia. It was in the interest of stability in the Ecowas States to prevent the escalation of refugees from Gambia to other West African States like Senegal and Guinea Bissau that had already received over 10,000 refugees. Learning from Election Violence cases in Burundi and Kenya necessitated prevention of a similar crisis.
On the other hand, while it is argued that the assembly of troops was initiated before the Security Council approval, we cannot lose sight of the fact, that the Ecowas deterred a ticking time bomb in the Gambia, and as such it is a testament to the adage, that regional solutions should be applied to regional problems.
This article was published in the Daily Monitor on  7 February 2017. Follow the link .
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