The Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission in Liberia, Ambassador Tunde O. Ajisomo, has called on government to use its various means of communication to disseminate information about the regional body’s activities to the Liberian people.
Ambassador Ajisomo made the suggestion when he shared his views about the recent success of ECOWAS in the peaceful transfer of power from former President Yahya Jammeh to Adama Barrow in The Gambia.
The ECOWAS envoy said this success, in addition to efforts to promote regional integration by which every citizen of ECOWAS will have free movement and stay in any country of the region without a visa, is a plus for the organization that Liberians in all parts of the country must be aware of.
“We want people to feel the presence of ECOWAS as a leading regional organization. We are challenging the Liberian government to carry out awareness about projects we are carrying on for regional integration to enhance free movement, peace and security,” he said.
On the issue of The Gambia, Ambassador Ajisomo said, “I am elated about ECOWAS’ success. Although there are still challenges arising from terrorism in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in the Sahel belt, it is a global problem. My view about ECOWAS is that it has done well, but there is still a lot to be done.”
He recalled that besides the recent intervention in The Gambia, where no gunshot was discharged, ECOWAS has made several other interventions in countries in the region, including Liberia, Ivory Coast, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone and Mali.
Defending ECOWAS’ military interventions in conflicts in member states, he said: “Though the regional grouping was established in 1975 to promote economic activities in member countries, when member states started having crises and insecurity challenges became the order of the day, there arose a need for peace and security to be addressed.”
He argued that investors cannot come into an environment that is not secure, “and peace is a super structure and fundamental.” To ensure that peace and security are maintained in member countries, ECOWAS adopted a protocol in 1999 under the “Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management,
Peacekeeping and Security” that whenever peaceful transfer of power becomes difficult in any member country, the body has the power to deploy a standby force.
According to Ambassador Ajisomo, it was due to this protocol, coupled with UN Security Council Resolution 2337 that ECOWAS, after several mediations and negotiations with Yahya Jammeh, recruited and deployed military forces to Senegal from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Togo, to mount the pressure on Jammeh to transfer power to Barrow.
He said ECOWAS also went on to swear in Adama Barrow in the Gambian Embassy in Senegal, which according to him is lawful under international law since the incumbent was clinging on to power.
Regarding justice in the sub-region, the Ambassador said the ECOWAS Justice and Peace Commission is established to look into human rights abuses and disputes among member states, but does not address criminal matters.
He said justices of the court are considering expanding the court’s jurisdiction to extend to criminal matters, for which some justices were recently in Liberia and are expected to return in February to discuss with Liberia’s Supreme Court judges and lawyers.
He said, according to views from some African countries, the application of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is discriminatory with overt focus on African heads of state, leading some countries to withdraw their membership, with Kenya, South Africa and Burundi being the latest to express such criticism.
However, Ambassador Ajisomo said those wishing to withdraw have the option, but as a regional body, they are afraid of impunity, “because some people will use power to slaughter others and want to go free.”
He said because of impunity, ECOWAS is working to ensure that its court’s jurisdiction extends to criminal matters so that cases of such nature can be addressed.