Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), meeting in their 48th Ordinary Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, during the week, took several decisions in the interest of the Community.
The decisions covered issues of regional integration and development, peace, security and democracy and institutional matters. The regional leaders also observed the 40th Anniversary of the Community.
A dispatch from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja says Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari played host to his West African counterparts at the two-day event held on 16th and17th December, 2015. The 48th Ordinary Session followed the 75th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers and the 35th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council held previously between the 13th and 15th December.
Through a Final Communiqué, the regional leaders reiterated their commitment to peace and security and the prevention of various security threats in the region, particularly terrorism, violent extremism, maritime piracy, trafficking and other forms of organized transnational crimes in the region.
According to the dispatch, the West African leaders reaffirmed their determination to relentlessly pursue the fight against terrorism and consequently underscored the need for a coordinated international struggle.
As one of several steps to achieve that, the Heads of State urged all Member States to take appropriate measures in line with their national realities to ban any dress code that may make it difficult to identify people.
“Similarly, the Heads of State and government are of the view that certain dress codes, which make identification of the persons concerned difficult, may considerably hinder actions geared towards protecting people and properties,” the Communiqué added.
They also welcomed the conduct of credible, transparent, free and peaceful presidential elections in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.
Touching on regional integration, the Authority of the Heads of State stressed the need to step up the process for the establishment of the common market. To this end, the leaders agreed on the need to increase the volume of intra-community trade, make the free movement of persons and goods a reality and pay particular attention to strategic sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, energy and human capital.
Taking due account of the principles of rotation and modalities of appointment laid down in Supplementary Act (A/SA.14/02/12) of 17th February, 2012 governing the allocation of the positions of President and Vice-President of the Commission, the Authority allocates the position of President of the Commission to Benin and the position of Vice President to The Gambia.
The Authority’s decision comes as the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso and Vice President Dr. Toga McIntosh of Liberia, end their tenure in February 2016. The Presidents of Benin and The Gambia have therefore been asked to propose to the current Chairman the nomination of one their nationals for these positions who will serve from March 2016 to February 2018.
For the 40th Anniversary, the regional body honored and paid special tributes to ECOWAS’ founding fathers. An honorary award was granted to Yakubu Gowon, former Head of State of Nigeria and Gnassingbe Eyadéma, former President of Togo.
Portraits of Dr. William R. Tolbert, former President of Liberia and 13 other former West African Heads of State had special places in the souvenir program in recognition of their contributions towards the formation of the regional body as “founding fathers whose visions continue to guide their successors.”
President Buhari played host to President Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin, the Transitional President of Burkina Faso, Michel Kafando, President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia, President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, President Alpa Conde of Guinea and President Jose Mario Vaz of Guinea Bissua.
Other West African leaders at the Summit included President Ibrahim Keita of Mali, President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo and President Macky Sall of Senegal, who is also Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and government of ECOWAS.
Vice President Joseph N. Boakai represented Liberia on behalf of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. President Sirleaf was attending an official state visit to the east African nation of Kenya.
Others included the Prime Minister of Niger, Brigi Rafini, the Foreign Minister of Cape Verde, Jorge Tolentinio and the Deputy Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ebun Strasser-King, who represented their respective countries.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mrs. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, were also in attendance.
The West African leaders then concluded with a decision to hold the next Ordinary Session in Dakar, Senegal, at a date to be agreed upon after consultations.