Abuja - Nigeria — The President of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Kadre Desire Ouedraogo on Monday, 11th February 2013 dismissed as "criminals and drug traffickers hiding under the guise of religion," the armed militants and terrorists in northern Mali being flushed out in joint operations by French and Malian forces.
At a ceremony for the accreditation of the Austrian Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Joachim Oppinger as the country's special representative to the ECOWAS Commission, the president said the militants "are not true Muslims but only using the religion to deceive the people." He told the envoy, one of eight accredited during separate brief ceremonies at the Commission that while the region would continue to encourage dialogue between the Government of Mali and elements in the country with legitimate grievances it would never condone terrorism. The President noted that with the restoration of government control over Malian territory, the next challenge was how to expedite the deployment of the UN Security Council-approved Africa- led International Force in Mali (AFISMA), to assist the country's security forces in restoring security and engender a conducive environment for the conduct of presidential and National Assembly elections.
In his response Ambassador Oppinger announced a new initiative by his country to build capacity of the ECOWAS Standby Force through the Accra-based Kofi Annan Centre for peacekeeping. This will complement its support in peace and security as well as regional energy development through ECREEE, the Praia- based ECOWAS Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency. While accrediting the Swedish Ambassador to the Commission, Mr. Svante Kilander, the President said that after a period of relative calm, the region was going through a "testing period" caused by the crises in Guinea Bissau and Mali, but expressed optimism that the region will overcome the challenges to enable it concentrate on its core mandate of economic development and regional integration.
President Ouedraogo used the opportunity of the accreditation of the envoy of the Republic of Korea, Ambassador Choi Jong-Hyun to canvass for increased investment from that country in order to boost the economic development of the region and contribute to the realization of the organization's full mandate. "We want to promote increased relations between our private sectors and leverage your development to stimulate economic development of our region, which is in dire need of foreign investment for the benefit of our people," he told the ambassador. The president also said the region looked forward to working closely with the envoy in creating a prosperous, peaceful and more successful region.
Expressing the same sentiments while accrediting the Switzerland's Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Hans-Rudolf Hodel, the ECOWAS chief, acknowledged that country's contribution during the donors' round table on Mali held on the margins of the last AU summit in Addis Ababa and for supporting the region's integration projects. Switzerland supports the region in peace and security, agriculture and migration and development among others areas. The envoy pledged the country's willingness to continue to work with the region in addressing its various challenges. Also accredited was Jamaica's High Commissioner, Mrs. L. Ann Scott who promised to initiative a process for closer collaboration between ECOWAS and CARICOM, its Caribbean equivalent in order to strengthen affinities between them.
While the president praised relations between both regions under the ACP, he said West Africa looked forward to leveraging the experience of CARICOM in the negotiations of trade relations with the European Union with which it is conducting negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The President also accredited the Ambassadors of Bulgaria, Burundi and Norway, praising the countries' excellent relations with ECOWAS and expressed the hope that the new initiatives would broaden collaboration in support of the region's integration agenda. He also acknowledged Bulgaria's contribution to the decolonization of the continent.