ECOWAS Leaders Meet In Accra To Discuss Insecurity

ecowas parliamentIssues of mutual and urgent concern in the West African region, especially the security situations in Mali and Nigeria, will top discussions, as leaders of the Economic Community Of West African States hold an extraordinary session on Friday in Accra, Ghana.

The one-day summit followed the latest clashes between rebel groups in Kidal, northern Mali and government forces which resulted in the loss of lives while thousands of people were displaced.

It is the first to be hosted by Ghana’s President, John Dramani Mahama, since his election in February 2014 as chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Community,

The regional leaders will also discuss the security situation in parts of northern Nigeria where the militant group, Boko Haram, has waged a terrorist campaign that has left many people dead, wanton destruction of property and kidnappings.

In one of the group’s latest attacks on Chibok a town in Borno State, over 200 girls were abducted from their dormitory in Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok.

President Mahama will address the summit while the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, will present memoranda on the security situations in the two member countries.

The President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan and leaders of countries in western and northern borders held a meeting in France organised by French President Francois Hollande to seek ways of ending the increasing insecurity in the West African region.

At the meeting, the West African leaders agreed that “an attack on one is an attack on all”.

Such collaboration is expected to be discussed at the Ghana meeting to ensure that terrorism, which the Nigerian president said on Thursday was threatening Nigeria’s gains from democracy, would be brought to an end before it spreads to other countries in the region.

Jonathan Meets U.S. Ambassador, Receives Messages Of Support And Solidarity From UN, ECOWAS

President GoodluckGoodluck-Jonathan-WEFA-2014 Jonathan met Thursday in Abuja with the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. James Entwistle, to discuss modalities for the actualization of the offer made by President Barrack Obama to assist Nigeria in rescuing the girls abducted from Chibok, Borno State.

The meeting on the side-lines of the ongoing World Economic Forum on Africa was a follow-up to talks held yesterday between Mr. Entwistle and Nigerian security officials on the United States offer of assistance.

At the talks with the Ambassador, President Jonathan reiterated Nigeria’s appreciation of the United States offer to deploy U.S. security personnel and assets to work with their Nigerian counterparts in the search and rescue operation, which was conveyed to him on Tuesday by the U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry.

The President told Mr. Entwistle and other delegations which met separately with him at the venue of the World Economic Forum that the much greater support which Nigeria was receiving from the United States and other members of the international community in the aftermath of the Chibok abductions, will certainly help the country to rapidly overcome the Boko Haram insurgency.

Others received by President Jonathan include the President of Ghana, Mr. John Mahama and the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr. Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo who brought him a message of solidarity from ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.

President Mahama informed President Jonathan that to support Nigeria’s efforts to rescue the abducted girls and defeat terrorism, ECOWAS leaders have decided to invoke the community’s protocols on counter-terrorism.

The Ghanaian leader said that a meeting of Heads of Intelligence Services of ECOWAS member-countries will hold in Accra next week to work out a new framework for intelligence sharing in support of the effort to eradicate the threat of terrorism in Nigeria and the entire West African Sub-Region.

President Jonathan also had private meetings with Prof. Klaus Schwab, the Founder of the World Economic Forum who said that Nigeria deserved the maximum solidarity of the world at this trying moment.

He later met with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, former President Lula Da Silva of Brazil and the Prime Minister of Mali, Mr. Moussa Mara all of who conveyed the solidarity of their governments and people.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki Moon also spoke with President on the phone today to convey the sympathy and solidarity of the global community with the government and people of Nigeria.

Mr. Ban Ki Moon assured President Jonathan that the United Nations was ready to help Nigeria in every possible way to rescue the abducted girls and achieve greater security of lives and property in all parts of the country.

African Leaders Call For U.N. Mandate For Mali Mission

West African leaders on Thursday called for a regional military operation against al Qaeda-linked rebels in north Mali to be transformed into a U.N. peacekeeping mission as quickly as possible to secure desperately needed funding.

France sent troops into its former colony last month to drive out Islamist fighters, claiming their seizure of Mali’s north last year posed a threat to international security.

Paris hopes that from March it can start withdrawing its 4,000 troops but is awaiting the effective deployment of an African force (AFISMA), plagued by logistical and financing setbacks.

Meeting in Ivory Coast’s capital Yamoussoukro, presidents from West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS backed calls from France, the United States and Mali itself for the mission to receive a U.N. peacekeeping mandate.

“This shouldn’t distract from ongoing operations on the ground,” ECOWAS commission president Kadre Desire Ouedraogo told Reuters.

“It’s simply an indication that, once peace has returned, we need the support of the United Nations system both for logistical and financial support.”

Some two thirds of the 8,000 troops of the African-led mission (AFISMA) have deployed to Mali.

Many still lack the capacity to carry out combat operations and remain in southern Mali, leaving French forces and around 2,000 troops from Chad to secure northern towns and hunt down Islamist fighters hiding in desert and mountain redoubts.

After struggling for months to secure funding for its deployment, international donors pledged over $455 million for Mali at a meeting in Addis Ababa last month.

With the number of troops more than doubling since deployment plans were first hashed out last year, ECOWAS projects the cost of the mission at nearly $1 billion this year.

Transformation to a peacekeeping mission would ensure funding from the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations and facilitate the deployment of air assets essential for moving troops in Mali’s vast northern desert.

However, a decision by the U.N. Security Council remains weeks, if not months, away. France’s U.N. envoy said on Wednesday that the Security Council would ask Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report by end-March on the possibility of creating a peacekeeping force.

Despite the rapid French advance which has seen the Islamists’ former urban strongholds rapidly retaken, security on the ground in Mali remains tenuous, amid a mounting wave of guerilla raids on towns and suicide attacks.

French and Chadian forces are currently hunting die-hard Islamists holed up in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains. Algerian television reported on Thursday that French troops there had killed Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, a leading al Qaeda field commander.