The BBC’s renowned West Africa reporter, Umaru Fofana, believes West African countries must do more to ensure that the integration of the sub-region is not just between governments, but also citizens of their respective nations.
Speaking on Citi FM‘s Eyewitness News, Umaru Fofana, a Sierra Leone national, stressed that, integration efforts had to be “deliberately people-led”.
The media and Civil Society Organisations in the West African countries don’t engage as much as they should, he also noted, as he intimated that, the lack of intra-regional trade, raises questions about whether the dreams of founders of the Economic Community of West African States are being realized.
He recounted how West Africa’s interest in The Gambia only perked up during the nation’s political crisis, when Yahya Jammeh refused to step down from office after losing the nation’s 2016 election.
But before that, Umaru Fofana reminded that, no one stood up for The Gambia’s citizens during Jammeh’s harsh 22-year dictatorship
Speaking of the leaders of West African countries, he said “they are all friends, and I think that is one thing affecting the growth of West Africa in this case because the relationships seem to be more between leaders than between people.”
Even in the Mano River Union, which comprises of Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Umaru Fofana described that sub-regional body as “more of a friendship between the presidents and the people of those countries don’t bond well despite their cultural similarities.”
“So if Ghanaians and Sierra Leonians bonded as West Africans as opposed to their leaders bonding, that would bring about a lot of improvements in relations,” he noted.
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(Via: CitiFM Online Ghana)