ECOWAS in Mali: GEO Economic and Strategic Insights [Why Mali?] – By EL Harun Muhammad


Historian of African expertise would take you into memory lane of at least 400-800 years ago .Mali as Far back as 12 century A.D was centripetal force in commerce, scholarship and statecraft .Its rich intellectual tradition was symbolized by Sankore University in Timbuktu[1]. It was known to have trained honest tradesmen who saw their business in the society as community service, with profit making as secondary. It produced administrators whose expertise in state craft and treasury management was selfless and exemplary. Its cream of jurists made dispensation of justice a hallmark in the celebrated Mali Empire. Its known Gold wealth sharpened its role in transaharan trade that almost integrated west and North Africa into midetirrenean, the example of one of its leaders, Mansa Musa and his donations to Saudi Arabia, long before they discovered oil portrayed the international importance Mali had. The scholars it has produced the likes of Sheikh Muhammadu Bagayoyi(1552-1593) , Sheikh Ahmad Baba  Al Massufi Al Timbuktu(1556-1627) and Sheikh  Sidi Mukhtar Al kunti(1728-1911) not only spread knowledge and promoted scholarship but shown an exemplary life on how knowledge instills moral excellence and communal obligations[2] .By 1774, Mali was at its pinnacle, influencing changes and political reforms across west Africa. The influence of sankore scholars on Sheikh Usman Danfodio , as an example, the 19th century Nigerian revolutionary scholar resulted in revolution and formation of new political system in what Professor Walter Rodney[3] described sokoto caliphate ,by product of his revolution as,one of the greatest empire in Africa. That was the time United States of America was struggling for independence from Britain, after earlier colonial subjugation by various European colonial powers. Mali was already leading economic block, independent political system, intellectual fountain, indeed a civilization at a time when US was organizing itself for self rule to begin with[4].

Today Mali suppliers about 6% of world Gold resource and strategically part of Gulf of Guinea by virtue of the 2 Guineas ; source of 24% of US oil needs, higher than Persian Gulf, with 17% from the Guinea and Chad.[5] A year earlier, General William Ward, then commander of AFRICOM was in Nigerian air force base Abuja, Nigeria for the closing ceremony of US European Command Operation Africa Endeavour , an Interoperability and  Information training conducted for Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sierraleone, Senegal, Ghana, The Gambia, Rwanda, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia,  Botswana, Cape Verde and Uganda.  By 2009, US has foreseen the strategic significance of this geography in a military endeavour exercise it conducted for  ECOWAS, and including Benin, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria among many in Gabon under the US military command known as AFRICOM[6]. It was a training that included the second largest communications exercise in the world. Not only have US, NATO seemed fully involved in the wars that are planned in Africa. Surprisingly, this was the AFROCOM vehemently opposed by the entire African continent when US announced its formation in 2005, and was forced out of the continent to Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany. In Mali,  AU and ECOWAS would only served as proxies, considering the number of dead US-NATO are recording in IRAQ, Somalia and Afghanistan. African soldiers would now do the fight while Washington, Brussels and other European capitals control the resources. In part, the UN resolution assigning the proxy role on ECOWAS, calls in part : on UN member states, regional and International organizations to provide coordinated assistance, expertise and capacity building support[7]. According to pro NATO think tank, Atlantic council [8],the Gulf of Guinea is at the brink of becoming a greater supplier of energy to the United States than the Persian Gulf and is therefore of far higher strategic importance than has historically been the case. Nigeria-US binational commission was one of the legal tools Washington employed in 2011 to give cover to its military takeover of the Gulf in what the documents called: vehicle for security cooperation, including maritime security”. Gulf of Guinea, described a Washington policy paper,”nexus of vital US foreign policy priorities”.[9] NATO has already been redesigned to have the swift ability to deploy 21,000 troops in case of needs outside its traditional zone of operations.   This include resource rich Africa. Thus, the rebellion in Mali, the coup and now the UN resolution to use ECOWAS as a fighter group are preludes, carefully contrived for NATO engagement in Gulf of Guinea. Algeria may not survive the scheme, being the largest country in Africa and third supplier supplier of oil .. Also needs for effective exploitation of Mediterranean lane and Indian Ocean for smooth flow of goods, is one of the calculation that AU is now mobilized into Somalia through Kenya. War on Terror is always the ground, pretext if you like for launching profound military invasion and destruction. UN and US policy documents throughout 2012 are trying to establish the linkages between the main AlQaida, AlQaida in Magrib and the various ansars and Boko Haram. If at all they mean anything different. Once this is done, full scale US led military adventures are justified. According to John Brennan,(closest) Special Adviser to President Obama on counterterrorism and home Security Adviser, Whom New York times describes as ‘Obama’s Drone “priest” states: …We’re not going to rest until Al Qaida the organization is destroyed and is eliminated from areas in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Africa and others’. But the rate and scale at which troops are mobilized into Africa has deeper agenda. The $24 trillion mineral deposit in Kinshasa has already attracted US bases in Djibouti, Kampala, Dafur. Bangui, Mogadishu[10] , among other places..  The scenery suggests Boko Haram in Nigeria, Ansasusharia in Libya, Ansasudeen in Mali are all designed to provide ground for US-NATO recolonisation of Africa. Nigeria the richest country in the continent, its population resource alone which is drawing soft actors like Bill Gates to launch population related activities is a stragetic war already. As regular visitor to the country, the Bill Gate Foundation was formally registered as International NGO in Nigeria[11]

The spillover of eliminated Gaddafi and destroyed Libya is what brings the rebellion in Mali. The strategic objective is to give absolute access to US from the southern border of Libya to entire North Africa, Central and the western Africa The extensive reserves of Uranium in Niger, Cocoa in Ivory coast and above all the Oil in Guinea, combine to make Mali a spotlight that would soon become war zone for the balkanization of the sub region. With US troops all over, its intelligence network within the waves of the Arab spring would continue to weaken French control over Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.[12] Thus with USNATO puppet governments in place, Washington would not only be the grand imperial force in Africa, but making the 21st century truly New American century. Countries like Nigeria, Niger, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Senegal are already pupating.

ECOWAS –Economic Community of West African States is the organ that would fight the rebels in Mali and restore order. Influential African heads of Governments like Nigeria’s President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan are at the fore front of advocating Ecowas to engage in this profound military adventure .Together with Malian Prime Minister, they called, before the 64th session of United Nations General Assembly for an International collaboration to fight the rebels .Francois Hollande of France very strongly defined the rebellion in Mali as threat not only to Africa but Europe as well. To smoothen the adventure UN passed resolution for the Ecowas undertaking immediately. The resolution serves as legal ground for the war that would happen in Mali. This would be done through African Union framework for the Ecowas adventure. On the roles the continental and regional organizations are set to do ,a declassified Intelligence assessment prepared as part of Nation Security Review 30  concluded that post-cold war developments in Africa provided both ,”significant opportunities for, and obstacle to US interest—Africa’s regional or sub regional organizations…….(have) potential utility for the achievements of US foreign policy objectives”. Here lies the connection between ECOWAS adventure and Geo strategic, cultural and economic interests of Euroamerica not only in Mali but West Africa and the continent as a whole.

ECOWAS was established essentially “to facilitate economic integration of West African States as a key to the rapid socio economic development of the sub region.”[13]It is in this objective the treaty that brought the organization was signed (May 1975) over 35 years now. In pursuance of this 57 protocols and conventions have been adopted; of these, only 3 protocols border on military engagement .In fact the first one signed in 1978 was the protocol on non aggression. Clearly defining, the boundary of ECOWAS not to interfere in the internal affairs of member states, indicating respect to independence of members. The second was the protocol on mutual assistance on Defense 1981. Sequel to the conflicts in Liberia  (1989-2003) ,Sierra Leone (1990- 2001),Guinea Bissau (1997-1998) that marked the organisation’s extraordinary meeting IN Lome in 1997 on the mechanism for conflict management, peacekeeping and conflict prevention. Two years later the protocol was ratified (ECOWAS, 1997, 1998, 1999).

Over 98% of Ecowas protocols were ratified on issues pertaining citizenships, tranborder movements of goods and persons and other mechanics necessary to facilitate economic development and integration of the subregion. . Less than 2% of the protocols border on Defense and conflict management. And even this is an area of great contention among experts. There is the argument that although ECOMOG was constituted as ad hoc military force whose conduct in Liberian and Sirreleone was remarkable in the areas of intervention, peace enforcement and peace keeping, the conceptual legality of the force and its modus operandi have all violated the provisions of the protocol that provided military basis in the first place. Articles 13 and 14 on the mutual defense assistance protocol talks of Allied armed Forces of the Community (AAFC), who’s Commander, Headquarters and finances would clearly be defined .In the area of finance, contribution from all members becomes an obligation on all rather than the body’s Standing Mediation Committee (SMC). Till now when the organization is set for another encounter, AAFC has not been formed, amendment has not taken place to give ground for ECOMOG, if it is the one to reincarnate again in Mali and beyond. No any designated headquarters and worst of all USNATO and other European nations would provide finances, logistics, trainings and all other supports needed for ECOWAS troops. Clear violation of the mutual Defense Protocols.

Experience of Afghanistan and Iraq has made the sponsors of ECOWAS to save lives of their citizens, By the same token, lives of black people are much cheaper; worst still, Arab Leagues, Gulf cooperation councils, etc should have been selected for similar military engagements in the USNATO wars in Middle East and beyond. In other words, one would have expected deployment of troops from Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) in the ongoing wars in Congo, East African Economic Community in the war Kenya is fighting in Somalia, and in other places; Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) should also have been financed in the Arab springs or Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) to fight Robert Mugabe. None happens in these regions, fully occupied by US troops/bases.  Only in West Africa, ECOWAS paradoxically is the   war machine. ECOWAS through ECOMOG was accused of partiality as it took sides at long run in its intervention; with the dominant role Nigeria played say it all;  questionable credibility as it supervised elections that triggered further conflicts and legitimacy, legitimacy challenge as the legal provisions and modus operandi fall short of the protocols on peace keeping and intervention. The mere concentration of the body more on military than socio economic activies has already deligitise the body as an economic organization. These are against the backdrop of its persistently inconsistent ability to make any appreciable policy in the areas of common custom, tariff and citizenship policies. Common currency zone remain a mirage. Dates keep rescheduling and deadlines always adjusted for the past 30 years.

The organization has woefully failed to liaise with member states and partner with genuine interests to provide access to basic services, boast Agriculture, help small scale /cottage industries Quality education and improve investment climate in the sub region. More than any other time the most vocal states in the organizations have  the most corrupt, incompetent, unaccountable governments. . These must have contributed in spread of grudges, hatred, and enmity that generate conflicts and even rebellions as in Mali. These must have further invited the imperial powers to exploit the neocolonial characteristics in the Ecowas leaders to engage the organization in what would end up a full scale surrogate war.

It couldn’t or didn’t make any serious effort to diffuse the colonial legacy of Anglofranchophone divide that keeps stifling the organizational process[14]. It has no clear humanitarian intervention programmes even at times like this when the sub region is threaten by drought, hunger and diseases for than any where or time in the world. The poorest parts of the world are found here. And Ecowas operates more as rhetoric than an economic development instrument. From 1975-2005, Ecowas economy grows around 3.2% per annum .( though is able to double somehow in the new millennium).[15] In 2008 GDP per capita of the region was $3076.41 per purchasing power parity with France comparatively, at $50,642.3.[16] Same France that sees war as solution to this underdevelopment!

The attempt to redesign ECOWAS into military force is an aberration .At best is a process to un do its objectives and all the protocols and conventions that would have consolidated its institutional significance and operational imperatives . It is the greatest irony that the most remarkable policy  in ECOWAS history of about 4 decades is its military adventure in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Mali is a proxy war EOWAS is made to fight, the outcome would be most disastrous not only to the organization but to the sub region and African continent as a whole. Though all support is being mobilized for ECOWAS, the War is likely to be protracted and therefore would at long run render it incapable which would subsequently bring AFRICOM and NATO troops into the war, considering its spread beyond Mali. This would mark the balkisation and eventual recolonisation of the continent later than soonest, perhaps. The huge untapped resources in the context of the economic meltdown Europe and America are experiencing.

There are many reasons to question the eruption of rebellion in Mali considering how the country and the sub region is effectively integrated in various US led schemes on International war on Terror. For example Mali  was part of Pan Sahelian Initiative (PSI)[17], US led project to provide security training and equipment. The programme was designed to protect borders, track moment of people, combat terrorism and enhance regional cooperation and stability. This project had $7 million as take off funds  as far back  November 2002.The special operations command Europe were in Bamako ,Gao and Timbuktu where they provided foreign internal defense training for the SPI, according to US European command website written by 1st Lt.  Phillip Ulmer, 435th Air Base Wing Public Affairs (March 4th 2004). These types of programme became expanded in 2005 into Tran Saharan Counter Terrorism Initiatives (TSCTI) with congressional approval of $500 million for 6 year period.  Key Training activity was Operation Enduring Freedom –Tran Saharan Africa aimed at assisting governments to better control their territory and to prevent long tracts of largely deserted African territory from becoming safe haven for terrorist groups[18].. These govts are : Mali, Algeria, Chad, Mauritania ,Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia with additional members of Burkina Faso, Libya and Nigeria By 2008, such trainings were transferred to wider and more grounded agency: AFRICOM.[19] Comprehensive counter terror activities that entailed border patrols, tracking movement of people training and logistics that runs for about a decade only to hear coup d’état in Mali as a result of attempts by terrorists to break the country away. Mali of all , that is central in  these US programmes   fall in the trap .One may be at liberty to deduce that these elaborate counter terror activities breed the terrorists, rather than countering them. Already Al-Qaida has threatened to attack the ECOWAS members states if they attack the rebels. It also threatens France. EU has announced deployment of 200 troops to provide logistics to ECOWAS, this is addition to the earlier declaration to   deploy key military personals to support the Malian army. These naturally would include intelligence officers and field commanders’ NATO is likely to be on ground as well as Algeria registered its rejection of the ECOWAS force.

.A situation that looks everything but staged managed: the counterterror, the rebellion, the coup, the Ecowas military engagement and AFRICOM NATO adventure that may come. With the fall of Gaddafi, AFRICOM has announced 14 major military exercises in African countries for 2012,[20] including UBANGAME EXERCISE (for Nigeria at Gulf of Guinea). With about 60  billion barrels of proven reserves, in Libya alone, Gulf of Guinea as the second largest pool of oil resources after Persian Gulf,80% of world coltan in Kinshasa,30% of world Diamond reserves with total of about $24 trillion reserves[21] of various strategic minerals in Congo alone, not to talk of Algeria, southern Africa like Angola and Namibia, there are every reasons for US to set its bases and expand its military tentacles in Africa. Gaddafi must have for seen this all out imperialist drive to recolonise Africa for him to have strongly insisted for United States of Africa. African leaders with defective thoughts and whimsical motives accused Gaddafi of been ambitious to dominate Africa. He didn’t dominate Africa. Euroamerica would come to do worst .Whatever these military exercises and trainings are named and coded, the final objective has been summarized by General Carter Ham Africom Commander in a speech he delivered at Arlington Virginia on June 26th 2012: “The absolute imperative for the US military (is) to protect America, Americans and American interests in our case (to) protect US from threats that may emerge from the African continent.”[22]This threat cannot be far from emergence of Africans that are independent and ready to transform its resources into Garden of Eden for its people.

. With UN resolution, the International Community would be there. What International Community means is a subject of fresh discussion all together.

Nobody is talking about promoting agriculture in West Africa which is the main stay of economic survival in the sub region. A crucial sector for foreign investment and industrialization. China, the only country that considers such potentials as assets for all is now on a show down with Euroamerica, not only in West Africa, or Africa, but in the whole world. So also how penalized criminals are making their ways in to government is not a concern to any.  The fast lane on which Nigeria is going into lawlessness and anarchy with an average of 10 different reported killing, murder or related crime in national newspaper daily, and similar average reporting of loots from public treasury has already concluded Nigerian rating on the 2015 agenda (MDGs).

As Nigeria coordinates the attack on West African subregion, Human development Index for the last 10 years on average, rates the country among the most corrupt, poor countries in the World. Paradoxically, same country that is put to anchor War from another angle. This raises questions on the relationships between national security, poverty, empowerment in Africa and the persistently domineering role International imperialism does to perpetuate the dividing dynamics between Development and Underdevelopment.

Algeria is against the proxy war Ecowas is set do. Egypt is also against it. As more African countries run parallel to Nigeria US EU interest to wage war, what would be the scenery is subject to a fresh analysis all together. It may change the pretext and the timing, but the agenda to recolonise would surely appear in new gab

As usual with mechanics of control and domination, stooges are created and maintained as indispensables in making the New World Order, Whom Walter Rodney describes as sellouts.

Patriotic voices have to coordinate their energies towards remaking of a truly independent Africa for its resources to benefit its people and make balanced contribution to a fair and just International order.

[1] Said Hamdan and Noel king (ed),Ibn Batuta in Black Africa,1975,pp52-53.Also Elias N .Saed, Social History of Timbuktu: The role of Muslim Scholars and Notables 1400-1900,New York 1985

[2] Ibid. Also Scholars of Timbuktu, Timbuktu Educational Services, Mali. Also Waziri Junaidu, Speech of acceptance on his award of Honorary Doctorate, Ahmadu Bello University, 197

[3]  Rodney Walter, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,Pnaf Publishing,Abuja,2009,pp 158-159


[5]  Rich Rozoff, Militarisation of energy policy: US. Africa command and Gulf of Guinea ,January 8,

[6] US Africa comm. And January 14,2009

[7] UNSC Resolution2071 on Mali,13th, Oct.2012 . The resolution was presented by France (Francois Hollande) and cosponsored by 3 African members of the Security Council-South Africa, Morocco, and Togo and by India, Germany and United Kingdom

[8]  Atlantic council, November 30th ,2011

[9] Xu Yi-chong, China and the United States in Africa: Coming Conflict or Commercial Coexistence?, Griffith University. Also A Report of Center for Strategic and International Studies Task Force ON Gulf of Guinea Security: A Strategic US Approach to Governance and Security in Gulf of Guinea Security, Washington DC,  July 20th, 2005. James JF Forest and Matthew V.Sousa, Oil and Terrorism in the New Gulf: Framing US Energy and Security Policies for the Gulf of Guinea,      Lexington Books, Lanham,MD,2006

[10]  Rich Rozoff, Militarisation of energy policy: US. Africa command and Gulf of Guinea, January 8, Stars and Stripes, July 31, 2005.Again,

[11] The Times of Nigeria, November 5th 2012. Also, Matthew Herper,With Vaccines, Bil Gates Changes The World Again. February  2nd Also, Bill Gates admits Vaccinatio Population Control on CNN,

[12] Leo J. Meyer, the decision to Invade North Africa (TORCH). Also, Department of State, Hillary Clinton four nation trip to U K, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco,February,22-26,2012ww.state/secretary/trvl../183103/html.

[13]  The Treaty, Protocols and Conventions of the Economic Community of West African States, The Ministry of Cooperation and integration in Africa, The Presidency,2006

[14]  John M.Kabia, Humanitarian Intervention and Conflict resolution in West Africa, Farnhan Ashgate

[15] ECOWAS Executive Secretary’s Reports For similar analysis see journal of African Development, Spring and fall 2011/vol13 no.1&2,Tufts University, US pp112-113

[16] Richard Simsons and Vainessa Tang, Strategic Policy Responses to Aid and Investment Flows: Growth and Development in Ecowas, School of Economics and Finance, University of Kwazulu Natal S/A

[17] TSCTI ,

[18] Ibid.

[19] www.africom./US Africa Command OEF-TS.10:57:45GMT

[20] AFRICOM 2012

[21] 2016:When China overtakes US, The Guardian ,April 27th,2011.Also The Free Library,Feb.1st ,2009,The World Most Resource Nation: OTC Investor,Oct.26th ,2010

[22] Pan Sahel Initiatives (PSI),,March 26th, 2012.Also, TSCTP is  an extensionof the successful Pan Sahel Initiative in Africa,,Oct 28th ,2012, 10:44:30 GMT



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