The chairman of the West African bloc ECOWAS said a surge of coups since a military government took power in Mali in 2020 must be contained before it devastates the whole region.
At the opening of a second ECOWAS summit on dealing with the January coup in Burkina Faso, chairman and president of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo said the resurgence of coups in West Africa is worrying and must be stopped.
“It’s with a heavy heart that I welcome all of you today back to Accra after our virtual meeting last week,” Akufo-Addo said. “Your presence here is a strong indication of your willingness to find a sustainable solution to the resurgence of the cancer in our region. Let us address this dangerous trend collectively and decisively before it devastates the whole region.”
West Africa in the past year has seen a series of coups and attempted coups in Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
The Economic Community of West African States suspended Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali from the 15-member bloc and imposed sanctions on Guinea and Mali after military takeovers. The African Union also suspended the three countries.
But analysts question if the sanctions are effective when the coups are being driven by popular concerns about security and the fight against Islamist militant groups linked to Islamic State and al-Qaida.
Dean of the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College Vladimir Antwi-Danso told VOA that ECOWAS must be more proactive in helping member-states deal with insecurity.
“The 21st century is a century of terrorism,” he said. “It’s festering. And that is what we should be thinking about rather than the AU and ECOWAS being seen condemning coups and closing borders. What are we talking about? Let’s be serious.”
Former director of the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa Takyiwaa Manuh was more critical of the African groups of nations. Speaking on Ghana’s Asaase Radio, he said ECOWAS and the AU had failed to condemn elected leaders who change the law to extend their rule.
“When somebody changes the rules and runs for a third term we didn’t hear ECOWAS condemning that. Why did ECOWAS not condemn that? Why did the Africa Union not condemn that? Right now, everybody is laughing, when ECOWAS imposes sanctions is like ‘There you go again, where were you when this was happening?’ And what it does is that it eats into the credibility of ECOWAS and the African Union,” Manuh said.
Regardless of the causes behind the coups, analysts say the military takeovers will scare investors away from West Africa.
Daniel Amateye Anim, an economist at the Ghana-based Policy Initiative for Economic Development, told VOA the culture of coups could have dire economic consequences if foreign direct investments, or FDIs, dry up.
“Investors may be deterred from bringing in investment into the region because the region will be considered no longer safe for investors,” he said. “Those who are already on the ground may be thinking of redirecting their investment into other economies where those places could be considered safe. And once FDIs are not coming into the equation what it means is that it may affect the overall GDP growth of the economies in the sub-region.”
Meanwhile, West African leaders must decide how best to discourage more coups and get militaries to return to the barracks while countries are dealing with growing insecurity.