Peace and security issues topped the agenda of the 21st Ordinary Session of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Mano River Union (MRU) where the four leaders of the sub-regional group ended the summit on the back of a recent cross-border raid on the Liberian-Ivorian border.
Presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Ernest Bai Koroma, Alassane Ouattara, and Alpha Conde of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea respectively also used the occasion to unanimously renew the Liberian President's mandate as Chair of the MRU for another year. Held at Belle Vue in Conakry, the Summit was held to review and take decisions on recommendations made by the Union Ministerial Council (UMC) on issues bordering on the MRU Secretariat, developments in the sub-region and on the African continent.
The signing of a Communiqué bearing the signatures of the four leaders climaxed the one day's event which was also graced by the presence of His Excellency, Saïd Djinnit, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to West Africa, says a Foreign Ministry release.
The MRU leaders took several discussions including the categorical condemnation of the recent armed attack on peacekeepers serving the United Nations Operations in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI) and some civilians within Cote d'Ivoire along the border with Liberia. They at the same time consoled the Nigerien Government, the UN family and the Government of Cote d'Ivoire for the Nigerien soldiers and Ivorian soldiers and civilians that lost their lives as a result of the June 8 unfortunate incident.
The Heads of State then commended both the Governments of Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia for the constructive initiatives they have undertaken to strengthen their bilateral relationship and to deal with the security challenge along their common border. The Heads of State also commended the UN for the support they have given to the efforts of both countries to restore peace and stability to their border.
Seven UNOCI peacekeepers from Niger and unspecified number of civilians were killed during the June 8 attack, which has since led to both countries combining efforts in strengthening security along the over 700 kilometers stretch of borderline.
While calling upon ECOWAS states to take all measures to facilitate peace and stability in all countries of the sub-region, the Heads of State further emphasized that no government or country of the sub-region should encourage dissident groups to use their countries as launching pads to create instability in other countries.
Other security discussions held between the leaders included the approval of the Revised 15th Protocol on Peace and Security, the approval of the recommendations of the Joint Border Security and Confidence Building Units (JBSCBU), as they instructed the Secretariat to ensure the implementation of those recommendations.
The MRU leaders, through the Communiqué, endorsed the Operational Plan on Peace and Security, and instructed the Secretariat to ensure its full implementation, in collaboration with the Member States.
The MRU's position on the twin crises of Mali and Guinea Bissau was also discussed that led to the Heads of State fully endorsing ECOWAS' zero-tolerance position on the unconstitutional acquisition of power, and to support the full restoration of democratic order in those sisterly states.
The Heads of State and Government concluded the Summit by reiterating their profound gratitude to the development partners for the support provided to the Secretariat and to the Member States, not only to ensure the consolidation and maintenance of peace but also the socio-economic development of the sub-region.
The four Heads of State then unanimously renewed the mandate of the Liberian President, Johnson Sirleaf as Chair of the Union for another year.
The Liberian Leader and delegate comprising of Justice Minister Christiana Tah, Information Minister Lewis G. Brown and Defense Minister Brownie Samukai were joined by Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan from Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire where he had earlier concluded high-level security discussions and a joint communiqué signed with his Ivorian counterpart, Daniel Kablan Duncan.