4 July 2005

Africa: ECOWAS Explains Withdrawal of KK's Appointment As Togo Envoy

Lusaka — THE Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS) has regretted that Dr Kenneth Kaunda was caught in the mix-up over a recent decision that was made by African Union (AU) Commission chairman Alpha Oumar Konare to appoint him as special envoy in the peace process in Togo.

In an interview in Sytre yesterday, ECOWAS executive secretary Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas clarified that the withdrawal of Dr Kaunda as special envoy to Togo had nothing to do with him as a person, but was as a result of communication breakdown between responsible parties.

Dr Chambas said ECOWAS, like other African regional bodies, had a lot of respect for Dr Kaunda and that it was regrettable that his name was unnecessarily brought in the mud because of lack of adequate communication between the parties involved in the matter.

"ECOWAS cannot be opposed to a role for Dr Kaunda anywhere in West Africa or for that matter in Africa. He is one of the founding fathers of African independence. He is a leader who is very highly respected, particularly in West Africa because of the role that he played in the liberation of our continent and as the first generation leader of the continent. That I should make very, very clear," Dr Chambas said.

"The difficulty was lack of adequate consultation between the AU Commission and ECOWAS regarding the peace process in Togo. ECOWAS is a sub organisation of the AU but in order for us to be efficient in Africa, we must avoid duplication. That means that we must be in regular consultations with each other. The truth is that at the time Dr Kuanda was proposed, the ECOWAS was not aware of it, Togo itself was not aware. And in fact the chairman of the AU was not aware. But it's something we should not harp on, we think that that issue has been resolved for now.

"But I just like to end by once again emphasising that we highly respect Dr Kaunda. We believe that he has a role to play in stabilising not just West Africa but all of Africa and that in conflict situations, when there have been adequate consultations and fair agreement on the rules, he or any other head of state can be able to play that kind of a role.

"It can not be that ECOWAS in way would be disrespectful to Dr Kaunda because, look for some of us personally, he has been a source of inspiration. We have high regard for him for the role he plays in Africa. It's unfortunate that Dr Kaunda got caught up in that mix-up. It had nothing to do with Dr Kaunda's personality who is somebody held in very high regard not only in ECOWAS but I can assure you in the whole of Africa."

Dr Kaunda was recently appointed as special envoy to Togo but his appointment by AU Commission Alpha Konare was overturned by AU chairman, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who said the decision by Konare lacked consultation and he would not be turned into a rubberstamp AU chairman.

Meanwhile, Dr Chambas said at the moment the situation in Togo was quite assuring.

"As you know a government has been formed, with a Prime Minister who is from the opposition," Dr Chambas said.

He said the new Togolese government includes many members from the opposition, civil society including the president of the Bar Association of Togo.

Dr Chambas said what ECOWAS now expected the government to do was to ensure early return of Togolese refugees who may be in countries such as Ghana and Benin.

He said another issue was commencing with implementation of the 22 agreements entered into between Togo and the European Union in order for the EU and other partners to lift the sanctions that have been slapped on the tiny Western African state.

He also urged the Togolese government to embark on a process of reform and national reconciliation.

He said what was pleasing was that the same issues that ECOWAS was pushing were accepted by the Togolese government.

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