Okello Oculi urges leaders of ECOWAS to enthrone peer review mechanism

Chinua Achebe once described Ibadan as ‘’China in the Sun’’. He may have viewed the second week of events in Mali’s capital, Bamako, as “Churning Stew in the Sahel’’, as angry demonstrators called for the head of President Boubacar Keita. Their besieged ruler sat hidden in the recesses of the architecture of political power. That political alchemy was exciting imagination in military barracks.

Several weeks earlier, President Donald Trump in far away moustache of the Atlantic Ocean, had called a military unit to fumigate a rude crowd with teargas and batons so that he could trek to a holy spot for cameras to eat his spirit and spit it out to his admirers. He needed their warm in the face of the hostility crowding him in his citadel. The president of Mali had followed his example. The 20 Malian demonstrators killed by his police acted like smoke from dry cow dung inciting clouds of honey bees to raw anger. Trump’s vaccine for taming wraths of democracy had yielded ‘moboCrazy’ on this bank of Sahara’s sand dunes.

In Mali a man of voodoo lit candles inside religious pools. His followers knew chants, not the tediousness of dialogue and speech as the palm oil with which democracy is cooked, as Chinua Achebe might say. They danced and chanted till dry gun powder exploded inside military stomachs hungry for food inside television sets.

President was accused of not sitting down to do his job of farming security, weeding education crops, and weaving roads. The chanters shared President Barack Obama accusation of Trump of Not beating the enormous drum of presidenting ‘’because he can’t’’; working to put America’s democracy under threat.

Kamala Harris accused Trump of being invisible. Said she: ‘I know a President when I see one’’. Her doctrine that ‘’there is no vaccine for Racism’’ would have served the angry demonstrators in Bamako if she said to them that there is no vaccine for Bad Governance; Africans have to work hard to build good politics. The exasperated messengers of governments in ECOWAS were telling the same truth to angry crowds in Mali.

The last time that soldiers gave Malians a military coup, long fingers of Al-Qaida rushed in large bundles of foreign currency earned from selling oil in the Persian Gulf to pay poor unemployed youths to hire their wrath for whipping and gunning down local critics. They surged south to grab power in Bamako. The arrival of Al-Qaida was also linked to wishing to compete with American, French, British and Chinese companies for digging up gold and uranium from under the feet of Malians; asking with salted ancient arrogance: ‘’Why is their gold and uranium under the sand of Malians?’’

Perhaps the angry mouths and restless feet in Bamako are also hired with funds. That proposition may be both too simple and misguided. The seeds of wrath which flourished in Algeria and Sudan were contained in the thrill of throwing up hidden political courage and intellectual lucidity by young highly educated women. In Sudan women addressed crowds as they wore garments with historic roots in the bravery of great grandmothers who had fought against enemies of their freedom: glorifying humanity. They knew the power of memory and symbolism.

The leaders of ECOWAS would do well to enthrone that product of African genius for building good politics known as ‘’Peer Review Mechanism’’. Its rules of operation are simple. Experienced experts drawn from all over Africa constitute a team which studies affairs of governance in a country to be reviewed. The Secretariat of the African Union helps in assembling background information for the team. After studying this body of information the team visits a country and shares views with local ‘’stakeholders’’, notably: academics, professional associations, media workers, trade unionists, religious groups, civil society groups, women associations and public intellectuals.

The primary team of Peer Reviewers draft a preliminary report which they submit to government for comments. The final report is distributed to other African governments for their interest and comments. A Committee of Heads of State would meet with the government of the country under review for an open-ended exchange of opinions, including commendations and recommendations of what should be done.

One vital element in this process in the participation of individuals and groups outside government in the Research which guides judgement; their input into what is to be done, and their involvement in oversight of implementing recommendations.

When in 2012 the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa sent me to Ghana to assess their implementation of recommended reforms, I was impressed by how they had taken peer review processes to ward levels of local governments. Delegations from Mozambique and Botswana and Nigeria had come to learn from this novel initiative.

ECOWAS should make it a Lingua Franca.