Bissau - Guinea Bissau — The President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Kadre Desire Ouedraogo on Wednesday, 7th November 2012, paid a lightning visit to Guinea-Bissau accompanied by the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Husseini-Sulaiman, and General Soumaïla Bagayoko of Côte d’Ivoire, Chair of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CCDS).
The main purpose of the visit was for the signing of two important agreements with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Honourable Faustino Fudut Imbali - a Memorandum of Understanding on the implementation of the roadmap on the defence and security sector reform programme (DSSRP) and the Status of Mission Agreement (SOMA) formalizing the deployment of ECOWAS Mission in Bissau (ECOMIB) in May 2012.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, President Ouedraogo recalled that “many years have passed since Guinea-Bissau proposed the defence and security sector reform at a Geneva meeting,” adding that the International Community considers the initiative as essential and of paramount importance for the country’s peace, stability and socio-economic development. “Reform is important for creating the enabling environment necessary for improving the living conditions of the people,” he said, stressing the need for the people of Guinea-Bissau to own the process and ensure its successful implementation.
“It (reform) must be endogenous since the citizens know their country better than anybody else,” the President noted. The DSSRP and SOMA underscore the joint commitment of Guinea-Bissau and ECOWAS to cooperate with a view to promoting the development of democratic governance in the defence and security sector in the country and for strategic dialogue. The DSSRP seeks to accelerate implementation of the priority activities of Guinea-Bissau’s defence and security sector reform programme, while SOMA, which comprises 61 Articles is aimed at promoting peace and stability in the country, in conformity with international law, the UN Charter, the Revised ECOWAS Treaty, the ECOWAS Protocol on Conflict Prevention Mechanism as well as the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
SOMA defines ECOMIB’s mandate, functions and legal status, and highlights areas relating to the Mission’s presence and progress in Guinea-Bissau, including the conduct of mission staff, conflict resolution, facilities, supplies, and field missions. In his remarks, Guinea-Bissau’s Prime His Excellency Rui Duarte Barros expressed great satisfaction with the signing of the two texts which, he said, demonstrates ECOWAS’ solidarity and commitment to the return of stability in the country. He expressed gratitude to the Organization and its Member States for facilitating the process for the return of the rule of law in Guinea-Bissau and reiterated the commitment of the Transitional authorities to respect their promise to the Community.
“ECOWAS is our one and only region and our challenges must be resolved within this region,” the Prime Minister affirmed. After the signature ceremony, President Ouédraogo paid a courtesy call on Guinea-Bissau’s Transitional President, His Excellency Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, and later undertook a field visit that provided him with first-hand knowledge on the challenges faced by ECOMIB troops. He visited the site of the former Army Headquarters, being rehabilitated by Senegalese military engineers, and which is expected to house the ECOMIB Nigerian contingent. President Ouedraogo also visited the proposed headquarters of the Nigerian Police Unit and the military hospital within the Bissau General Hospital. The heads of the structures visited briefed him on the challenges, which he promised to address.