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Analyst: ECOWAS Should Not Abdicate Responsibility on Ivory Coast

  • James Butty

Heads of state and members of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) pose for a photograph after attending the 39th ECOWAS Summit in Nigeria's capital Abuja March 23, 2011

Heads of state and members of the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) pose for a photograph after attending the 39th ECOWAS Summit in Nigeria's capital Abuja March 23, 2011

Kabiru Mato of the University of Abuja says President Johnathan's appeal for UN action on ivory Coast shows ECOWAS does not want to use force

A Nigerian university professor says West African leaders should not abdicate their responsibility on the situation in Ivory Coast.

This comes as Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan Wednesday called on the United Nations to take what he called "serious steps" to help resolve the political crisis in Ivory Coast.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has previously threatened military action if Ivory Coast's incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, does not relinquish power to the internationally-recognized winner of last November’s run-off election, Alassane Ouattara.

At an ECOWAS summit Wednesday, Jonathan reportedly said he wants the regional bloc to pass a resolution asking the United Nations to do more.

Professor Kabiru Mato, chair of the political science department at the University of Abuja, says Jonathan’s comments could be an indication of a lack of consensus in carrying out the regional bloc’s earlier threat to use “legitimate force” to end the crisis in Ivory Coast.

“I think the call clearly shows that either the organization [ECOWAS] is unable to really do its work by using limited force to take Gbagbo out of office or, on the other hand, it still feels the need to perhaps expand the horizon by involving the United Nations organization in ensuring that a more peaceful methodology is adopted in the transition of power in Cote d’Ivoire. So, the call by President Jonathan exposes, in my view, the inherent weaknesses of ECOWAS on one hand and, on the other hand, the failure of African leaders to assert their authority at a very crucial moment in our history today,” he says.

Mato says by his appeal to the United Nations, Jonathan might have failed to use his country’s influence to force a solution to the crisis.

“I think, in some instances, it can be interpreted as a manifestation of failure on the part of the kind of leadership that Nigeria ought to play in this. To some extent, one would say the leadership in Nigeria has been unable to convincingly put the issue straightforward to the presidents of both Ghana and Liberia and whichever country, for that matter, is opposed to military action in Ivory Coast,” Mato says.

He says Nigeria’s coming April 1 parliamentary, gubernatorial and presidential elections, where Jonathan is seeking reelection, could also be key factor in Nigeria’s hesitance to move the Ivory Coast crisis to a resolution.

“The current political climate within Nigeria could be a fundamental factor as to why President Jonathan perhaps might not want to deploy troops and materials to fight the battle in Ivory Coast. If he deploys troops now, it would be another political minus on his part because it would require also the deployment of tremendous resources, and what have now is that the Nigerian government is broke,” Mato says.

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