22 January 2013

West Africa Readies Troop for Mali - Pres Sirleaf Returns from High-Level Talks

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Saturday, January 19, attended an Extraordinary Session of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in the Ivorian political capital, Abidjan. The Liberian leader was accompanied by Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai, and Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Dr. Edward B. McClain, Jr., and was received, following airport ceremonies, by Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan of Cote d'Ivoire.

The Summit was convened under the Chairmanship of H.E. Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire and Chairman of the Authority, to review the latest political and security development in Mali, particularly the modalities for the accelerated deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) in the light of the deteriorating security situation in the north of the country in the aftermath of the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2085 (2012). The Summit also reviewed the latest political and security developments in Guinea Bissau.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian President joined the Presidents and Heads of Government of Benin, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire to commit troops to the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).

A 41-count Communiqué adopted and issued by the Summit welcomed, among its provisions, the decision taken by Liberia, Ghana, Benin, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Côte d'Ivoire to contribute troops to the deployment of AFISMA, and congratulated Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo on the speed with which they have pre-positioned their contingents for urgent deployment in Mali. The Authority also welcomed the decision taken by Chad to expedite the deployment of troops in support of the AFISMA operations and called upon other Member States of the African Union to make contributions.

The appointments of Major-General Shehu Usman Abdulkadir of Nigeria and Brigadier-General Yaye Garba of Niger were endorsed by the Authority as Force Commander and Deputy Force Commander, respectively, of AFISMA.

The Heads of State and Government also expressed their deep gratitude to France for launching operations in Mali, within the framework of respect for the sovereignty of Mali and international legality, to halt the advance of terrorist and extremist groups, thus paving the way for the implementation of the Security Council Resolution 2085 (2012). The ECOWAS leaders further expressed gratitude to international partners for the timely intervention to support the Government of Mali to defend its territorial integrity within the framework of Resolution 2085, and also welcomed the announcement by international partners, particularly the European Union and the United States of America, to provide urgent financial and logistical assistance in support of AFISMA operations.

The Communiqué reiterates the unflinching support of the ECOWAS Authority to the ongoing transition in Mali, and to the Interim Transitional Authorities, particularly the Interim President and Prime Minister, and urged President Dioncounda Traoré to take all necessary measures to chart a transitional roadmap and establish mechanisms for its implementation, including preparations for an inclusive, free, fair and transparent electoral process, national dialogue, and the extension of State authority throughout the territory of Mali. The document also commends President Traore for his courage and resilience in the face of adversity and challenges in the country.

The Abidjan Communiqué requests the United Nations to provide immediate logistical and financial support for the deployment of AFISMA pending a UN Security Council decision on a Logistical Support Package, consistent with Resolution 2085, and bearing in mind the unfolding situation on the ground in Mali that necessitated the accelerated deployment of AFISMA. The Authority welcomed the steps already taken by the UN Secretary-General to present to the Security Council, in the coming days, options on the logistical support that could be provided to AFISMA.

The ECOWAS Authority also resolved that the President of the ECOWAS Commission take all necessary measures to mobilize internal resources in support of AFISMA operations, and called on Member States to fulfill their community levy obligations as a matter of urgency. It also directed the President of the Commission to ensure follow-up and expressed gratitude to the Government of Nigeria for the financial assistance to Mali.

The Communiqué quotes the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government as stressing the need for an ECOWAS Standby Force to be strengthened and pre-positioned for rapid deployment to face challenges that could arise in the region, and called on humanitarian agencies and partners to intensify assistance to Mali and the neighboring countries to meet the humanitarian consequences of the deployment, including assistance to affected populations, protection of humanitarian corridors, spaces, and actors. The Summit also called on the partners to coordinate their efforts to facilitate the implementation of the humanitarian aspect of Resolution 2085.

The Authority directed the President of the ECOWAS Commission to expedite high-level consultations with the Government of Mali, the AU and the UN towards the establishment of a Joint Coordination Mechanism on Resolution 2085 to facilitate regular consultation on political leadership, resource mobilization, reporting, monitoring and evaluation, and also directed the President of the Commission to take the necessary measures to ensure that other African contingents are taken into account by the AFISMA Command.

On the situation in Guinea Bissau, the Authority expressed its commitment to support the country in accomplishing the transitional process, including the conduct of urgent multi-sectoral reforms and the holding of inclusive, free, fair and transparent elections during that transition.

The Heads of States and Government reiterated their call upon the African Union to urgently consider the recognition of the ongoing transition and the suspension of sanctions against Guinea Bissau, and also urged the AU, EU and other international partners to resume cooperation with that country and to support efforts aimed at ensuring a more inclusive transition in the country.    The Authority extended further financial assistance to the Government of Guinea Bissau to assist in the running of the government.

The Authority expressed gratitude to the troop-contributing Member States to ECOMIB and commended ECOMIB troops for their efforts aimed at ensuring security in Guinea Bissau; it also expressed deep appreciation to H.E. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Chairman of the Regional Contact Group on Guinea Bissau (RCG-GB), and Member States of RCG-GB, for their assistance to Guinea Bissau and their commitment to ensuring a successive inclusive transition. Finally the ECOWAS Authority decided to remain seized by the matter of Mali and Guinea Bissau.

The January 19 Extraordinary Summit of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government was attended by: H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; H.E Boni Yaya of Benin; H.E Alassane Ouattara of Côte d'Ivoire; H.E. John Dramani Mahama of Ghana; H.E. Alpha Conde of Guinea; H.E. Manuel Serifo Nhamajo of Guinea Bissau; H.E  Dioncounda Traoré of Mali' H.E.  Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger; H.E. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; H.E Macky Sall of Senegal; H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone; H.E. Susan Waffa-Ogoo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of The Gambia; H.E. Charles Agba Kondi, Minister of Health of Togo; and H.E. Francisco Pereira Da Veiga, Ambassador of the Republic of Cape Verde to Côte d'Ivoire.

H.E. Idriss Deby Itno, President of the Republic of Chad, and H.E. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, participated in the Summit as Special Guests; while Belgium, Burundi, Canada, Egypt, Germany, Italy, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, South Africa, Spain, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the African Union represented by its High Representative for Mali and Sahel, H.E Pierre Buyoya and the United Nations represented by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, H.E Said Djinnit, and the European Union participated as Observers.

The Liberian President and delegation returned to the country on Saturday evening.

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