Africa Report N°181 7 Nov 2011
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Political and security cooperation in Central Africa is in urgent need of revival. More than a decade ago, the African Union (AU) tasked the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) to give life to its peace and security architecture. ECCAS member states signed relevant treaties and protocols, but the multinational body has struggled to shape and implement a regional policy. To ensure this conflict prone region moves toward greater political integration, Central African states need to reinvigorate ECCAS, reform it and decide on clear security priorities. Foreign partners should coordinate their support to the organisation in line with its needs, absorption capacity and objectives.
The spiral of conflict that set Central Africa on fire in the 1990s made painfully clear the need for a regional political and security response. With the double blessing of the AU and the European Union, ECCAS committed to prevent, manage and resolve conflict in the region. Unfortunately, like previous efforts to promote economic integration, political and security cooperation has not produced the hoped-for results.
On paper, ECCAS looks good. Central African states signed a mutual assistance pact and a protocol establishing the Peace and Security Council for Central Africa (Conseil de paix et de sécurité de l’Afrique centrale, COPAX). They also set up a Regional Staff Headquarters (Etat-major régional, EMR) that runs multi-national military training exercises and the Peace Consolidation Mission in the Central African Republic (Mission de consolidation de la paix en Centrafrique, MICOPAX). But in reality, regional leaders have been reluctant to create and invest in an institution that constrains the way they cooperate in security matters. They voice support to a regional peace and security architecture, but half-heartedly commit to ECCAS while turning more readily to old and trusted bilateral relations to mitigate their security concerns, thus generating a confused web of partnerships.
ECCAS suffers from serious internal governance problems. Decisions on in-house issues are highly centralised and have to be made by consensus among member states. Instead of generating cohesion among regional actors, this means sensitive issues on which member states differ are avoided. It is also an institution still under construction. Human resource management is a constant problem, as is the body’s financial dependence on outside backers.
Only decisive political commitment by its members can breathe new life into ECCAS. But the successive postponement of the heads of state summit and the failure of members to appoint representatives in some of its organs reveal a lack of interest in the organisation’s purpose. Members’ distrust of each other, ingrained by a violent past, and the absence of regional leadership also drain ECCAS of its usefulness. As a result, the most serious security problems are dealt with outside the ECCAS framework, and Central Africa’s peace and security architecture has difficulty leaving the drawing board.
The region’s governments should urgently deepen their political commitment to ECCAS’s structures and projects and sort out their common priorities. They must decide if they really want to be members of ECCAS. If so, they should prove their will by undertaking several crucial steps: respect their financial obligations to the organisation; name their representatives to it; and organise a summit as soon as possible. A reform agenda should focus on the decision-making system, ensuring smooth running of the secretariat in Libreville and greater involvement of civil society. Security priorities should seek practical implementation and concrete results.
Foreign partners should establish effective coordination, tailor their support to ECCAS’s peace and security priorities and adjust it to the organisation’s absorption capacity. The first major goal is to strengthen the secretariat so it can implement its programs and avoid overspending and duplicating efforts.
In the next few years, the fundamental challenge is to give political meaning to an organisation whose members exist in a tangle of mistrust, rivalries and thinly veiled hostility. If this zero-sum geopolitics endures, Central African countries will continue to put their own narrow interests above the project of peace and security architecture. Political and security integration would then risk following in the tragic footsteps of economic cooperation.
To reinforce political commitment and to reform ECCAS
To Member States:
1. Undertake a cost/benefit evaluation of participation in ECCAS and, based on this, decide to stay or leave.
2. Organise quickly a heads of state summit aimed at publicly launching a reform agenda, deciding the thorny question of the nomination rule for senior positions and naming a new secretary general.
3. Decide the priorities of ECCAS’s peace and security policy and annually make the work plan public.
4. Pay membership dues to ECCAS regularly (contribution communautaire d’intégration) and apply sanctions on those who do not pay, as set out in the ECCAS Constitutive Treaty.
5. Designate representatives to the committee of ambassadors and to the deputy secretary general posts, as well as in each member state a high-ranking civil servant to act as liaison with ECCAS.
6. Include ECCAS in processes aimed at resolving political and border disputes between member states.
7. Evaluate the Peace Consolidation Mission in the Central African Republic (MICOPAX) and prepare an exit strategy with a clear timeframe.
8. Revise the Constitutive Treaty to adopt decision-making by majority for administration and management issues; introduce emergency procedures and simplified consultation; and delegate some aspects of the decision-making to the Council of Ministers and the Defence and Security Commission.
9. Ensure balance between the civilian and military components of the Regional Staff Headquarters (EMR) and reaffirm the superiority of the Department for Human Integration, Peace, Security and Stability (Département de l’intégration humaine, de la paix, de la sécurité et de la stabilité, DIHPSS) over it.
10. Organise joint communication campaigns involving the ECCAS general secretariat and national authorities to make plain ECCAS’s role and functions to the general public.
11. Revise the COPAX Protocol to conform to the Constitutive Act of the African Union and to increase civil society involvement.
To improve the running of the secretariat
To the ECCAS Secretariat:
12. Establish the subsidiarity principle as a basic rule of internal management.
13. Recruit new staff through transparent procedures, taking into account the need for member states to be represented and for new personnel to be experienced in project management.
14. Update ECCAS’s financial regulation and create new salary levels to attract qualified candidates.
15. Increase the means and privileges of the human resource department.
16. Increase financial control by introducing annual audits, the results of which are made public and that are followed up, as necessary, with sanctions.
17. Provide the DIHPSS with a coordination desk.
To increase the effectiveness of donor support
To Foreign Partners, in particular the EU, France and the U.S.:
18. Coordinate support within the Group of Friends of ECCAS, which should be enlarged to include current and prospective partners.
19. Make support proportional to ECCAS’s absorption capacity and align it to the organisation’s peace and security priorities and the need to strengthen the secretariat.
Nairobi/Brussels, 7 November 2011