ECOWAS and African Integration

ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, seems to be pushing for the deployment of troops into Guinea-Bissau, which is suffering from the problem that most of its high-ups are in fact drug dealers mainly interested in bumping each other off.

This is interesting – especially given that ECOWAS has already suspended the other Guinea over a coup there. It seems that a number of Africans are trying to rectify the long-running instability of African polities through supra-national organisations – no doubt in the hope that greater integration will also bring greater economic strength.

I haven’t been following African affairs for very long, so this may have been happening for ages. And for all their words, nothing seems to have happened so far. This is one reason why events in Guinea-Conakry (the one that’s not Guinea-Bissau) are worth watching – the ability of the AU and ECOWAS to manage events there, and prevent the obvious outcome (idealistic leader seizes power promising to root out corruption and punish the associates of the late dictator, becomes corrupt dictator) seems like it could be a signal of how strong it is and how far it presents the prospect of turning an Africa as divided and unstable as 30’s Europe into one as united and stable as 00’s Europe.

Of course what this amounts to is that African capital is seeking to establish the form of order in which it will be best able to do business. For that it needs and efficient and reliable network of rulers, not a bunch of squabbling kleptocrats.

It’s common for lefties to claim that ‘only proletarian internationalism can end capitalist wars’. Certainly the struggle for profits and the need for control make class society a fertile ground for war. But at the same time, it would seem to require visionary foresight to be so sure of the potential for future developments of class society. War between Western European countries, for example, seems to have been made very unlikely for the foreseeable future – despite that being a part of the world with a vastly bloody and unstable history (ancient tribal feuds, donchaknow?).

So the point is, it seems quite possible for relative stability and internal peace to come to some areas of the world on the basis of capitalism. But the global context is important. Western Europe holds almost the opposite place in the global economy from subs-Saharan Africa. And already, the ever-rising prosperity here is fading, and with it comes a rise in civil disorder – very mild, but enough to suggest a link. Which means that West Africa, without the same economic advantages, may well be unable to establish stability except by altering its relationship to other regions – perhaps following China in trying to play capitalist to the worker of, say, East Africa. But that seems rather like squabbling for crumbs. Which suggests that squabbling may be involved – squabbling with guns.

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