The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on February 3 kicked off across southern Liberia another phase of its awareness campaign for the implementation of the free movement of citizens, goods and services throughout the Community.
The campaign called on regional leaders to observe the protocols of free movement and begin the implementation of the policy without delay.
The ECOWAS Special Representative to Liberia, Ambassador Barbatunde Ajisomo, who made the pronouncement in Ganta said the ECOWAS protocol covers everything, including security, trade and the free movement of citizens, goods and services.
“This specifically concentrates on the implementation of the free movement protocol. We need full implementation of the protocol of free movement by all regional leaders,” he said.
The protocol, he said, covers eleven pillars, including free movement of citizens, goods and services; cross border trade, cooperation and security; extreme violent/radicalized behavior prevention; status of single currency; anti money laundering; ECOWAS trade policy; and biometric identification.
Others are ECOWAS Brown Cards; community development program; promoting peace, reconciliation and good governance; and addressing the challenges of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
The occasion, which began with a parade from the Ganta border followed by an indoor program, ended with outdoor sporting activities including eight high schools in a day long tournament.
The coordinator of the Sustainable Development Goals in the office of the President of Liberia, Dr. Abdoulaye Dukely, said President Sirleaf dreams of the free movement of people, goods and services to be respected as well as the rule of law and the rights of people.
For his part, Senator Thomas Grupee called on regional leaders to include traditional methods in peace initiatives to bring disputed parties together under what he termed as the “kola tree” to reconcile their differences.
“Under the kola tree, we reconcile our differences and have a feast where we eat together and forget the past,” he said.
Senator Grupee praised West African leaders for settling the Gambia conflict amicably without the involvement of any of the world’s super powers.
Mr. Boima S. Kamara, Minister of Finance & Development Planning (MFDP), who formally opened the campaign on behalf of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who is also chairperson of ECOWAS, said upon her ascendency to the chair of ECOWAS in June last year, she outlined four priority pillars to be implemented during her tenure.
The four priority pillars include the consolidation of peace, security and good governance; the improvement of economic and financial stability in the community; the conclusion of all community legal text, including trade agreements and the ratification and domestication of protocols; and the transformation of vision 2020 with emphasis on institutional reforms in the community.
Minister Kamara noted that as President Sirleaf’s tenure as chairperson of ECOWAS expires in May this year, there is a compelling need to fully implement the four pillars of the agenda.
“As a first step towards achieving this objective, the technical working group through its legislative engagement ensured the passage and ratification of 32 longstanding ECOWAS protocols, which became expedient to sensitize the citizenry on the importance of these various instruments that led the TWG to decide organizing this program in Ganta,” he said.
Minister Kamara explained the importance of increasing awareness across Liberia, particularly at strategic points linking Liberia to key border towns in Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, adding: “It is important to point out that in our attempt to create and increased awareness on the four pillar agenda, we are not unaware that a vast majority of our population and other ECOWAS citizens residing within the borders of Liberia are not fully informed about the benefits, challenges and prospects of these ECOWAS activities.”
“It is within this context that this program is organized to begin the sensitization process, starting with Ganta City, and we have identified several issues of vital importance for discussion, with particular emphasis on the free movement of persons, goods and services under the concept of promoting the ECOWAS Agenda.”
The occasion was attended by some members of the diplomatic corps, including the Ambassador of South Africa and Charge d’Affaires of Nigeria.