Abuja - Nigeria — The President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Kadre Desire Ouedraogo has called for urgent international action to reverse the deteriorating security situation in northern Mali, which has been taken over by secessionists and extremists.
"Urgent action is indispensable in order to avoid further deterioration of the situation following the unacceptable destruction of the country's cultural heritage, the violation of human rights and the humanitarian consequences of the crisis," the President told a delegation from the Kingdom of Spain led by that country's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Gonzalo de Benito Secades.
"What is happening in the north of Mali is unacceptable to us, that is why we are working with partners to resolve it not only because of its potential to destabilise neighbouring countries and the region, but also because of its link with criminality and extremism," he added. The President told the delegation that the Concept of Operations for an African-led force to assist Mali recover its territory from the separatist groups had been submitted to the UN Security Council in response to the Council's 45-day deadline for the clarification of aspects of the proposed deployment.
The Concept of Operation was produced with the support of partners including the UN, the African Union and the European Union. President Ouedraogo also briefed the delegation on the efforts being made to resolve political crisis in Guinea-Bissau where a military coup in April 2012 was followed by an ECOWAS brokered interim political arrangement in the country until elections scheduled for April 2013.
To ensure durable democracy in the country, he said ECOWAS has contributed US$63 million to implement a defence and security sector reform programme that will professionalise the country's military, insulate it from politics thereby subordinating it to civilian control. The Agreement for the reform programme was signed on 7th November 2012 by the ECOWAS Commission and the Guinea-Bissau Government. The President also informed the delegation about a planned summit of West and Central African leaders next year to develop a joint policy to address the maritime security challenges confronting the two regions.
In his response, Mr. Secades praised ECOWAS as Spain's strategic partner and pledged the country's determination to continue to support the region towards realising its mandate of promoting economic development, consolidation of peace and security and dealing with migration issues. He also assured that Spain will study a request by ECOWAS to support the deployment of the African-led force to help Mali regain its northern territory and stressed the need to encourage collaboration between the private sectors of West Africa and Spain particularly in renewable energy where the country possesses some expertise that could be the shared with ECOWAS.
At the end of the meeting, the two parties agreed to undertake a joint evaluation of their collaboration in the first quarter of 2013 to ensure that the concomitant programmes are aligned with their strategic objectives. Spain supports ECOWAS projects mainly in the areas of migration, agriculture, energy, peace and security.
The ECOWAS team at the meeting included the Commissioners for administration and finance, agriculture, macroeconomic policy, human development and gender, political affairs, peace and security and trade, customs, free movement and tourism.