Academic journal article Parameters

Why the United States Should Robustly Support Pan-African Organizations

Academic journal article Parameters

Why the United States Should Robustly Support Pan-African Organizations

Article excerpt

"Ultimately, the path of political and economic freedom presents the surest route to progress in sub-Saharan Africa, where most wars are conflicts over material resources and political access often tragically waged on the basis of ethnic and religious difference. The transition to the African Union with its stated commitment to good governance and a common responsibility for democratic political systems offers opportunities to strengthen democracy on the continent." (1)

President George W. Bush

This article presents a rationale for it should be the policy of the United States to robustly support pan-African sub-regional organizations that seek to have Africans help themselves. To do so, it analyzes one sub-regional organization, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), using the furtherance of stated American policy for peace in the region as a litmus test. The guiding principles of ECOWAS and its record of accomplishment are highlighted relative to the US goals for Africa as promulgated in the National Security Strategy. The article argues that it is in the United States' interest to support sub-regional organizations such as ECOWAS as a viable way to promote a self-sufficient Africa. A stable and prosperous Africa provides the conditions for political and economic growth and counters the incidence of "failed states" which can serve as terrorist breeding grounds such as in the Sudan.

The article contrasts the sub-regional organization ECOWAS with a regional organization, the African Union, in terms of policies and performance and draws the conclusion that supporting sub-regional organizations offers a greater return on our investment. Supporting a focused transnational organization such as ECOWAS is a rational strategy to symmetrically defeat a stateless foe such as al Qaeda. Finally, the article recommends that the United States provide financial and logistical support through third-party organizations and nations that have existing working relationships with ECOWAS. It is in the national self-interest of the United States to promote democracy, safeguard human rights, and foster development in sub-Saharan Africa in order to promote a peaceful and pro-America region. Collaterally, there are compelling economic and humanitarian incentives to actively engaging African sub-regional organizations. In its assessment, the article not only considers the policy and performance of ECOWAS, but its stability and the extent to which it is networked with other international organizations and sovereign states.

The National Security Strategy includes three interlocking strategies for Africa:

* Countries with a major influence on their neighborhood, such as South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Ethiopia, are anchors for regional engagement and require focused attention.

* Coordination with allies, friends, and international institutions is essential for constructive conflict mediation and successful peace operations.

* Africa's capable reforming states and sub-regional organizations must be strengthened as the primary means to address transnational threats on a sustained basis. (2)

All of these strategies imply forming "coalitions of the willing" with pan-African organizations. However, the roles of conflict mediation and peace operations are relatively new ones for these agencies. Historically, these organizations have addressed chronic issues on the continent such as promoting democracy, improving access to quality education, confronting the effects of underdevelopment, empowering disadvantaged sub-groups, and documenting human rights abuses. However, both "regional and sub-regional organizations are retooling themselves in two ways: revising their mandates from being purely 'developmentalist' to encompass conflict management and, where applicable, revamping their fledgling regional security mechanisms. Evolving under circumstances of insecurity, the response of these organizations to crises and conflicts is developing in an ad hoc manner. …

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