Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Ghana: Prospects for a regional war are heating up

The bombing of a military column thought to be linked to Al Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has raised the stakes in what is quickly becoming an undeclared regional war in northern Mali and the wider Sahel region. We understand that a Mauritanian aircraft was involved in the bombing raid and that it was working in close collaboration with US and French forces in the region.

Although the regional organisation – the Economic Commission for West Africa States (ECOWAS) – has expressed the will to mount a military force to confront the separatist rebel forces in northern Mali, the planning is still at an early stage. Despite Burkina Faso taking on an ambitious brief to negotiate with the Tuareg separatists, there is no clear political track to the ECOWAS intervention strategy.

Any intensification of this war will unavoidably affect Ghana. President John Atta Mills' government is under pressure to take a more pro-active role in the crisis, given that the other two big states in the region – Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire – have their own internal crises to deal with. Ghana would be expected to commit a substantial military force to any expeditionary operation but it is unclear how this would be funded. Internal finance is extremely limited currently.

A wider war in Mali could – but is currently unlikely to - create another regional refugee crisis, and Ghana has the reputation for being a favoured destination. At the least, Mali's deepening crisis will put economic pressures on Ghana's military and test its capacity to absorb more refugees. Much less clear are the political implications for Ghana's own northern region if the government should engage in this growing regional confrontation.

For more news and expert analysis about Ghana, please see Ghana Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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