West African leaders have climaxed the 46th Ordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), highlighting major issues ranging from peace and security to the political situation and Ebola virus in the sub-region.
The Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS Authority gathered in the Federal Capital of Nigeria, Abuja, on Monday, December 15, 2014, expressing deep concern over the deepening security concerns in the sub-region and reaffirming ECOWAS' determination to resolutely combat all security threats, especially terrorism, maritime piracy, and all forms of illicit trafficking and organized trans-border crime.
A Foreign Ministry dispatch, quoting the Communiqué, says the Authority of the sub-regional body placed high on its agenda the continuing terrorist attacks of the Boko Haram group in Nigeria and expressed sympathy to the Government and people of Nigeria as well as to the families of victims of the recent terrorist attacks in the north of the country.
President Goodluck Jonathan of the Federal Republic of Nigeria lamented the rising trend of terrorism in West Africa as a worrisome issue that threatens the peace and security of the sub-region as a result of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons which, he stressed, has direct consequences.
Held under the Chairmanship of John Dramani Mahama, President of the Republic of Ghana, and current Chairman of ECOWAS, the 46th Ordinary Session was attended by President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin, Michel Kafando, Interim President of Burkina Faso, Alassane Ouattara of Côte d'Ivoire, John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, José Mario VAZ of Guinea Bissau, and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali.
Others include Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe of Togo, while Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were represented by Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, Ebun Strasser-King and Lounceny Fall, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Guineans Abroad respectively.
According to the Communiqué, the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS appealed to the International Community to support neighboring Niger in order to enable it deal with the effects of refugees inflow due to Boko Haram attacks in Northern Nigeria.
On Burkina Faso, leaders of the sub regional body, while taking note of the consensus reached by all the stakeholders in that country and the establishment of transitional organs, urged the transitional authorities to strictly comply with the deadline for holding democratic elections by November 2015.
Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo who heads the ECOWAS Commission, read the Final Communiqué in which the West African leaders, commenting on the situation in Mali, expressed deep concern over the security situation in the northern part of the country. They reiterated their call on all the armed groups in Northern Mali who are signatories to the Ouagadougou Agreement of 18 June 2013 to distance themselves from the terrorist groups.
For Guinea Bissau, ECOWAS, according to the Communiqué, underscored the need to mobilize sufficient financial resources to support Guinea Bissau in its post-transition consolidation efforts.
With 2015 being an important year for West Africa's consolidation of democracy, the Heads of State and Government underpinned the importance of upcoming presidential elections in five of its countries which include Nigeria, Togo, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso.
The West African leaders reiterated their call on all Member States concerned for those elections to be conducted in a peaceful, free, fair and credible manner.
The Heads of State and Government also reaffirmed their commitment to remain mobilized in the coordinated fight against the Ebola scourge with a view to consolidating the performance recorded for over a decade and containing the adverse impacts of the virus.
After thorough consideration of the current challenges in the deepening of the integration process, the Authority said it takes note of the region's improved growth prospects for 2015 despite the impact of the Ebola virus on the region's economy.
Other issues highlighted during the Summit included the launching of the Common External Tariff (CET) slated for January 1, 2015 that will set the pace for the consolidation of the Common Market, the effective circulation of the ECOWAS Biometric National Identity Card, among others.