Abuja, June 2018. Because of the complexities surrounding its operations, terrorism is a threat to all states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Sahel whose decimation requires a holistic approach.
Such an approach, according to the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) General Francis Behanzin, also requires a Defense Force that is adapted to the new threats of terrorism which knows no national boundaries.
Commissioner Behanzin was speaking on the 20th of June 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria while opening the 28th Session of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council (MSC) at the Ambassadorial level.
Addressing the Ambassadors of Member States accredited to ECOWAS, the Commissioner said there is a high need for coherent action to be taken which relates to peace and security mindful of the matter of democratic governance within the context of the prevailing challenges to peace, security and regional integration.
“In our region, threats to security is a real concern to us because of the activities of terrorists and armed groups. Terrorism is a threat to all states of the region and the Sahel. Hence there is a need to have a defense force that is adapted to the new threats to guarantee the safety of West African citizens” He stated.
General Behanzin however noted that all of the security issues identified are being patiently and methodically dealt with by the Commission precipitating the decision by the Heads of State and government of the Authority of ECOWAS at their extraordinary meeting held in June 2018, to collaborate with the G5 Sahel Force. The joint effort is expected to advance the cause of the fight against terrorism. 3 of the 15 Member States of ECOWAS are in the Sahel group.
Maintaining that the ECOWAS region has nonetheless witnessed positive developments, he gave a situation report across Member States spanning areas of security concerns, mediation efforts, elections as well as significant achievements in terms of peace and stability.
In his address, the chairman of the MSC (ambassadorial level) and Ambassador of the Togolese Republic Mr. Lene Dimban sued for cooperation across board in order to achieve the desired stability in the region, stressing the importance of working closely with deliberations holding under an atmosphere of conviviality.
Specific reviews were held on the situations in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia,Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo with updates, analyses and recommendations read out by the ECOWAS Commission’s Director, Political Affairs Dr. Remi Ajibewa.
The Forum was told for instance, that the existence of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in The Gambia is a demonstration of the entrenchment of democracy and the promotion of cohesion in the country while in some other states, the outlining of National Development Plans as well as Security Sector Reforms has been noted as part of the collective action aimed at fostering democratic consolidation.
Similarly, Council was briefed on the deteriorating security situation in Burkina Faso’s northern region, particularly at the border with Mali. Council noted that the Joint G5 Sahel Force launched its first operations on the common border between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso on 31st October 2017.
The MSC took note of the efforts by the government of Nigeria to halt terrorists operations but urged the country’s authorities to sustain dialogue processes to resolving internal agitations and also to sustain its efforts towards finding peaceful solutions to conflicts in the country.
Recommendations made at the meeting are to be forwarded alongside a draft agenda to the 40th MSC meeting at the Ministerial level for consideration and adoption.