Vanguard (Lagos)

18 January 2013

West Africa: Jonathan Jets Out to Abidjan for Ecowas Meeting

Abidjan — President Goodluck Jonathan on Friday arrived in Abidjan, the Ivorian capital, to participate in the extra-ordinary session of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.

The session of the regional bloc, scheduled for Jan. 19, was summoned ahead of the full deployment of the community's troops to Mali, following renewed military offensive by Islamists occupying the north of that country.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the president and his entourage arrived at the Felix Houphouet-Boigny International Airport and was received by the Ivorian President, Allasane Quattara.

Also on ground to receive the president were the Minister of Foreign Affairs II, Alhaji Nurudeen Mohammed, the Minister of State for Defence, Mrs Olusola Obada and the Nigeria Ambassador to Cote d'Ivoire, Mr Kayode Obajuluwa.

In the entourage of the president were the Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Ibrahim and the Special Adviser to the President on International Relations, Dr Pius Osunyikanmi.

Ahead of the Saturday session, the president and his counterpart from Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, who are mediators on the Mali crisis, are expected to hold a preliminary meeting.

A statement issued in Abidjan on Friday by the ECOWAS Commission stated that 20 non-ECOWAS member states and some organisations had been invited for the extra-ordinary session, to discuss the evolving political situation in Mali.

The statement noted that the session would deliberate on how the region could work with the international community for the resolution of the crisis within the context of the UN Security Council Resolution 2085 of December 2012.

"The leaders will be briefed by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Désiré Ouédraogo, on the political and security situation and by the regional mediators on the Mali crisis, Compaore of Burkina Faso and Jonathan of Nigeria.

"They will also be updated on the status of preparations for the deployment of the African-led Mission in Mali (AFISMA), by the Chairman of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, Gen. Soumaila Bakayoko.

"The Cote d'Ivoire's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Charles Koffi Diby, will present the outcome of the meeting of the Mediation and Security Council, taking place before the summit also in the Ivorian capital," the statement added.

The summit, according to the statement, is also expected to confirm the appointment of Nigeria's Maj.-Gen. Shehu Abdulkadir, as the Force Commander for AFISMA and Brig.-Gen. Yaye Garba of Niger, as his Deputy.

It also stated that the regional leaders would discuss the situation in Guinea Bissau, where the ECOWAS Mission (ECOMIB) was deployed in 2012.

The Nigerian Senate on Thursday approved Jonathan's request to increase the number of troops to be contributed to the military expedition in Mali from 776 to 1,200.

The 1,200 contingent to be deployed for the operation in Mali were drawn from the air force, navy and the army.

It will be recalled that last week, the rebels who have controlled northern Mali since March, begun to push to the south of that country.

The development prompted France to launch a military intervention in its former colony, while the EU pledged to financially support an African-led mission to Mali. (NAN)

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