With presidential and legislative elections scheduled in Liberia in October 2017, ECOWAS Heads of State and Government have directed the ECOWAS Commission to provide the necessary assistance to Liberia in conformity with the relevant provisions of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
According to a dispatch from Abuja, Nigeria, sub-regional Heads of State and Government took the decision during the 50th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel – Abuja on Saturday, December 17.
In the communiqué read by Foreign Minister and Chair of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, Madam Marjon V. Kamara, at the end of the Meeting, the Authority also decided that in order to promote human rights and inclusive governance mainly with regards to women and youths, set aside January 16th of every year as the ECOWAS Human Rights day. This day is symbolic in the region as it marks the ascension to power of President Madam Sirleaf as the first African Woman Head of State.
On peace, security and democracy, ECOWAS leaders reaffirmed the importance of peace, security and stability in the sub-region for the economic development of the region.
They expressed deep indignation at the terrorist attacks of Friday, December 16, 2016 against a detachment of the Groupement des Forces Anti-terroristes de l’Armee (GFAT), which resulted in the death of 12 people whilst many others sustained injuries. The leaders strongly condemned this latest attack and expressed its sympathy and full solidarity with the people, Army and Government of Burkina Faso. They honored the memory of the victims of the attacks, presented its condolences to the bereaved families and wished the wounded persons speedy recovery.
The Authority reaffirmed their determination to relentlessly pursue the fight against terrorism and lauded the efforts by Member States to prevent and address this scourge. They commended the activities of the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, as well as the clear results obtained by the Force in spite of the difficulties encountered.
On the situation in The Gambia, the Authority considered the worrying political situation there arising from the decision of President Yahya Jammeh to reject the results of the presidential election of December 1, 2016 which had resulted in the election of Adama Barrow as the president-elect of The Gambia.
The Authority called on President Yahja Jammeh to accept the result of the polls and refrain from any action likely to compromise the transition and peaceful transfer of power to the President-elect.
Additionally, ECOWAS leaders agreed to “undertake all necessary actions” to enforce the result of the election. Among the measures, they agreed to uphold the results of the December 1st 2016 election, guarantee the safety and protection of President-elect Barrow, attend his inauguration, which needs to take place by January 19, 2017 when the mandate of the incumbent president expires, called on the government and coalition parties to show restraint to preserve national unity and respect the will of the Gambian people as expressed in the election.
In addition, the Authority requested the African Union and the United Nations to endorse the decisions of the ECOWAS leaders on the situation and to support the ECOWAS mediation, which will be led by Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari and co-chaired by out-going Ghanaian President John
Dramani Mahama and conducted on the basis of terms agreed by the Authority of Heads of State and Government.
On the situation in Guinea Bissau, the ECOWAS leaders reaffirmed its deep concern over the protracted political and institutional crisis in that country due to the inability of political stakeholders to reach a lasting and consensual solution. They noted that the crisis undermines the implementation of commitments made by development partners since March 2015, to support the economic and social reconstruction of the country.
The leaders urged the President of Guinea Bissau to comply with the provisions of the Conakry Accord and called on all parties to strictly respect and comply with the tenets of the Accord. They further commended the non-interference of the Army in the political crisis and strongly urged it to continue in like manner, though they reiterated the withdrawal of ECOMIB on June 30, 2017, directing the Commission to commence operations for the gradual withdrawal starting in the first quarter of 2017.
On the situation in Mali, ECOWAS leaders noted that in spite of progress made there, there are still challenges to the full and effective implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement, including insecurity, lack of commitment by some armed group signatories to the Agreement and inadequate financial resources, despite pledges made by the international community.
They strongly condemned the recent terrorist attacks on civilian populations, humanitarian workers, the Malian Defense and Security Forces, and MINUSMA, and reaffirmed its strong attachment to the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Mali. They reiterated support for the peace process and urged all stakeholders to comply with it.
The Authority directed the President of the Commission to take the necessary steps to organize, as soon as possible, an international conference on the security situation in Mali, in conjunction with the AU and United Nations, with a view to accessing the most appropriate means of intervention likely to enhance the efficiency of the actions underway in order to preserve Mali’s territorial integrity.
On West African economic performance, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government welcomed the progress made in some Member States, nearing double-digit growth rates, but expressed concern about the region’s poor performance due mainly to the combined negative effects of the fall in oil prices since 2014 on the fiscal balance of oil-exporting countries, particularly Nigeria, deteriorating prices of other commodities, especially mineral ores as well as the fragile political situation in some countries.
In this respect, they urged Member States to initiate the necessary structural reforms and take appropriate economic and financial stimulus measures in order to be less vulnerable to commodity price fluctuations and improve their economies’ resilience to exogenous shocks.
On regional integration and development matters, the ECOWAS leaders expressed concern about the continuing obstacles to free movement of persons and goods in the Community and have invited Member States to take all the necessary measures to strictly implement all the provisions of the Protocol on free movement of persons and goods, right to residence and establishment.
They welcome the setting up of the Presidential Task Force on free movement, and urged the Task Force to recommend as soon as possible innovative and effective measures to curb the scourge. They also directed the Commission to intensify awareness creation for the Community citizenry and regularly organize joint sensitization meeting between border security service and the local populations.
On infrastructure development, the ECOWAS leaders emphasized the need to develop road, railway, air and maritime infrastructure necessary for boosting intra-Community trade, to enhance development prospects and to assist in the fight against poverty.
On institutional matters, the ECOWAS Authority took note of ongoing institutional reforms in the Commission and other ECOWAS Institutions but stressed the need for the reforms to take account of the economic and financial situation within the region thus paving the way for the establishment of cost effective, efficient and sustainable structures for the Community.
Meanwhile, outgoing Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, who attended his last meeting, thanked his colleagues for its role in the success of his country’s elections. He also thanked the ECOWAS and other observer missions for the role they played in the successful elections.
He extended an official invitation to his colleagues to observe the inauguration of his successor on January 7, 2017. “Ghana has enjoyed a very positive reputation as a model of democracy and I believe that this election has consolidated that reputation further,” he said.
President Mahama thanked his colleagues for the friendship and cooperation he has enjoyed since he ascended to that high office. “My association with you has made some firm friendships and I will continue to keep these relations going forward,” he reaffirmed.
He also thanked his colleagues for the opportunity to have served a Chair of the ECOWAS Authority, and recounted the many challenges during his tenure, especially the Ebola virus disease in 2014.
He expressed great faith in the sub-regional body and believed that with the political will ECOWAS leaders are demonstrating they will be able to speed up the integration process within the sub-region for the benefit of the people.
He also thanked his colleagues for the honor of asking him to work with Nigerian President Buhari on the Gambian crisis and hoped that they will work diligently to resolve it.
On future plans, Mr. Mahama said he had none for now but to take a well-deserved rest after working for three years without a single break. Going forward, he hoped to be involved in sub-regional, continental global matters.
The Chair of the ECOWAS Authority, President Sirleaf, in response, praised the outgoing Ghanaian president, for the leadership he has exhibited in all the many years he had served ECOWAS. “He was always demonstrated in quality of his interventions,” she said, adding that his leadership at home is also clear by the growth and development of Ghana. She asked that he continues to play a part in the sub-regional organization.
The 51st Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority will take place in Monrovia in May 2017.