By Awah Leonide Azah
The identity of Central Africa is arguably still to be defined. Due to plurality of integration and co-operation systems, countries in the Central African Region belong to multiple regional blocs. This has led to a stagnant integration process and the inefficacy of the regional body Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS,) which consists of Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and São Tomé and Príncipe.
Geopolitically, however, ‘Central Africa’ refers to six member states Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic (CAR), Congo Brazzaville, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea all under the umbrella body CEMAC (Central African Economic and Monetary Community). CEMAC runs parallel to ECCAS in the Central African Region but is the dominant body in the region which has made measurable attempts towards integration.
In a further attempt at integration, the 25th of October was named Central African Regional Integration Day. However, few citizens know or observe this day because citizens of one of Africa’s least cohesive, least developed and most conflict-prone region have little to celebrate. Socio-political and economic progress in the region has been marred by security challenges borne out of greater leadership and governance failures in the various member states.
The region has over the years been besieged by a multitude of threats— the conflict in the Central African Republic, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, illicit trafficking in arms, internal sociopolitical and economic crises in various member states and the recent unrelenting insurgencies posed by Boko Haram. The complex security dilemma in the region is nothing new, but of late it has gained prominence due to the regional impact of the Boko Haram menace and the absence of a hegemon to serve as the driver of a regional security initiative. Granted, Chadian troops have been deployed to Northern Cameroon to assist in combating the Boko Haram group, but this is within the framework of a bilateral military agreement, and not a multinational force.
An analysis of the current security situation across the region begs for a transformation of inherited state structures and institutions. The adherence to a narrow primarily military approach to insecurity challenges in the region impedes considerably on sustainable solutions to the conflicts. This article recommends that what is required at this moment is a robust regional security and development strategy under the regional body (ECCAS) implemented at various country levels. Any effective process to defeat Boko Haram and other sectarian conflicts in the sub-region should be focused on inter-community dialogue, an inclusive development agenda and sincere effort governments in the sub-region to enjoy high levels of legitimacy in the eyes of the electorate.
About the author:
Awah Leonide Azah is a Research Assistant at the African Leadership Centre