ECOWAS Leaders Commit to Peace and Security as 54th Ordinary Summit Opens in Abuja22 Dec, 2018
Abuja, 22nd of December, 2018. Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have restated their strong commitment to peace and security as the 54th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government opened in Abuja, Nigeria on the 22nd of December 2018.
Declaring the summit open, the chair of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari maintained that the gathering is a clear testimony of the continued collective resolve and commitment of the leaders to the effective integration of the West African region.
Applauding the significant progress made by the community in the recent past particularly in the areas of political governance, peace and security as well as economic and social fields, President Buhari said the achievements, “have positioned ECOWAS as an example of a regional economic community on our continent”
He paid special tribute to Presidents Nana Akuffo-Addo and Alpha Conde of Ghana and Guinea respectively who as ECOWAS facilitators in the resolution of the Togolese political crisis, have been tireless in the search for its peaceful settlement.
Noting the progress being made in the resolution of the political and institutional crisis in Guinea Bissau, he said while addressing the food challenges in parts of the region, the governments of Togo and Mali have also been assisted within the framework of the community’s regional solidarity.
Welcoming the successful elections in Sierra Leone and Mali in 2018, President Buhari noted the electoral support given to some countries, and said the Authority has also acted pro-actively to neutralise potential conflicts through preventive diplomacy before they exploded.
However, the president said despite the positive strides, ECOWAS is still confronted by several challenges in the economic, governance, peace, security and humanitarian fields.
Stressing that the noble objective of the setting up of ECOWAS cannot be achieved without peace and security, the Nigerian leader opined that the matter of terrorism and violent extremism in the region must be tackled through collective action.
ECOWAS, he maintained, requires the support of its partners even as new strategies for combating and eradicating the menace are being worked out.
In his opening remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Kassi Brou told the august gathering that his team has been working to strengthen and accelerate the implementation of Community programmes and projects in the different fields.
Attributing the continuous growth of ECOWAS to positive leadership over the years, President Brou disclosed that 2018 has witnessed economic growth, inflation is in decline while the situation of public finances remains stable.
But despite these undeniable advances, he said the community still faces significant challenges, stressing in this regard that “it is for us to continue to consolidate our customs union and our common market, to deal with extremism and terrorism and to fight effectively against the effects of climate change”
Apart from improving the security measures to enhance peace and stability, President Brou said job creation particularly the employment of young people, remains a priority for Member States.
He expressed the optimism that these challenges “will be overcome only in the solidarity and cohesion that have characterized our organization since its creation on May 28, 1975”
Also addressing the 54th Ordinary Session, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas noted that the frequent citing of West Africa as a shining example of peace consolidation and democracy on the continent stems from the strong and positive role of ECOWAS as consistent promoter of integration.
While acknowledging the efforts at the consolidation of democracy, Chambas however said that more exertions are needed in order to address contentious issues relating to the conduct of elections, to prevent and mitigate election-related violence, human rights abuses and promote the respect of the rule of law.
Regarding the state of play in the Sahel, Chambas said UNOWAS will continue to work in coordination with ECOWAS and other partners within the framework of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS), to advance long-term stabilization goals.
“We must continue to work collaboratively on the implementation of the regional strategy for stabilization, recovery, development and resilience of the Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin which constitute a comprehensive and sustainable response to the challenges facing that region” He added.