•Expresses worry over recurrence of Boko-Haram attacks
•Says trade among member states not encouraging
The political crisis in the Gambia dominated discussion yesterday when the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), met in Abuja.
It was the 50th Ordinary Session of the meeting of the highest organ of the regional body.
Worried over turn of events in the Gambia, the Chair of the Authority of Heads of State and Government, Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, demanded action from the body so as to prevent serious crisis.
The Liberian president urged ECOWAS leaders to come up with a peaceful resolution before January 19, 2017, the constituted date when the mandate of president Jammeh comes to an end.
Johnson-Sirleaf also reminded her colleagues of the unpleasant political situation in Guinea Bissau, which according to her has undermined the regional peace and security in the region.
She said, “Since our last Summit in Dakar, regional peace and security has been undermined by unfolding situations in The Gambia and Guinea Bissau. With respect to Gambia, on December 1, the people of the Republic of The Gambia voted decisively for a change in the political leadership of the country by electing the candidate of a seven-party opposition coalition.
“On the same date, the incumbent president conceded to the result of the election and congratulated the elected president. On December 10, the incumbent president rescinded his concession and called for a fresh vote.”
While disclosing that efforts by a delegate from ECOWAS to prevail on President Yaya Jammeh to drop the call and accept the result as the wish of the people did not yield desired result, she said it is time for ECOWAS to live up to expectation and salvage democracy in the region.
“In response, on December 13, an ECOWAS Mission which I headed and comprising Presidents John Mahama, Muhammadu Buhari and Ernest Bai Koroma, accompanied by Dr. Mohamed Chambers, Special Representatives of the UN Secretary General to West Africa and the Sahel, proceeded to Banjul to mediate with the concerned parties toward a resolution that would respect the will of the people.
“The mission was successful in its consultative effort by holding meetings with the president, the president-elect and all the relevant stakeholders. It is now important that the authority, at this summit, considers recommended measures to bring this matter to successful conclusion before January 19, the constituted date when the mandate of the incumbent president expires,” she said.
On security matters, the chairperson said ECOWAS is very concerned about the Boko Haram recurring attacks in Nigeria and other countries of the Lake Chad Basin. She added that the commission is equally worried about terrorist attacks on civilians and military targets in Mali and the recent attack in Burkina Faso where several persons were said to have been killed.
She called for a minute silence in regards of the victims and charged the summit to find lasting solution particularly to the new transhumance security challenge which he noted has not only claimed the loss of many lives but is impacting negatively on regional food security.
She advised other countries facing similar problems to adopt the Nigerian approach to managing transhumance challenges noting that it is a model that can be shared at bilateral levels.
On the economic front, Johnson-Sirleaf who expressed worries over recent growth performance of the community said, “Trade within the community is very low which currently stands at around 12 percent. We need to do more. The success of regional integration rests largely on our collective resolve to fully implement the protocol on free movement of people and goods, particularly the Common External Tariff (CET) and the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS)”.
She also urged states to endeavour to meet their financial obligations to ECOWAS to ensure the smooth and effective implementation of the community development programmes. (The Nation)