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Obasanjo leads joint AU-ECOWAS mission to Senegal

Feb 21, 2012, 11:43 AM

The 40th ordinary session of the Authority of ECOWAS heads of state and government has endorsed the dispatch of a joint African Union-ECOWAS high-level mission, led by Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo, to engage all political stakeholders in Senegal, with a view to promoting dialogue and ensuing peaceful, fair and transparent elections in that country.

Presidential elections are scheduled for 26th February 2012 in Senegal, where recent protests by opposition parties over presidential term dispute resulted in loss of lives and destruction of property.

As part of the determination to deepen democratic culture and good governance in the region, the summit directed the ECOWAS Commission to continue to assist member states in their electoral processes to ensure they conduct of free, fair and transparent elections.

Specifically, the leaders called on member states and the international community to provide full support to Guinea Bissau in its preparations for the forthcoming presidential elections to ensure a peaceful and successful outcome. The election will produce a replacement for former President Bacai Sanha, who died recently.

On peace and security, the Authority strongly condemned the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) rebellion in Mali and expressed its full support for the efforts by the government of Mali to defend the country’s territorial integrity.

The leaders called for immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities by the rebels, and on all parties involved in the crisis to engage in an inclusive dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

The summit chaired by Nigeria’s President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, also approved the decision of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council for the release of three million US dollars to assist Mali deal with the humanitarian consequences of the rebellion as well as address the worsening food insecurity in the Sahel region.

The regional leaders equally called on humanitarian agencies and the International Community to join ECOWAS in taking all necessary measures to guarantee protection, relief and succour for the populations adversely affected by the crises in Mali, which has resulted in the displacement of thousands of people into neighbouring countries.

On the threats of piracy and organized crime in the Gulf of Guinea, the leaders tasked the ECOWAS Commission to urgently develop a holistic strategic maritime policy framework to guide future actions and cooperation.

The Commission was also urged to strengthen collaboration with the Economic Community Central African States (ECCAS), the Gulf of Guinea Commission and other relevant stakeholders with a view to ensuring the confronting the challenges in a concerted manner.

Specifically, the summit instructed the ECOWAS Commission to convene an urgent meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff to review all the emerging security threats in the Sahel region and the Gulf of Guinea and propose concrete recommendations to address them.

On the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between West Africa and the European Union (EU), which was to have been concluded by 2007, the meeting underscored the urgency for both parties to rapidly conclude a development-oriented agreement by demonstrating greater flexibility and goodwill.

The summit, which elected President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire as new the ECOWAS Chairman for the next one year, paid tribute to President Jonathan for his wise counsel and quality leadership.

The leaders also commended the commitment and dedication of the out-going President of the ECOWAS Commission, James Victor Gbeho, and his team.

Ambassador Kadre Desire Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso was appointed to succeed Gbeho, to steer the affairs of the ECOWAS Commission for the next four years.

The regional leaders agreed that their next summit will take place in June 2012 in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, at a date to be communicated by the ECOWAS Commission.