28 February 2013

West Africa: Ecowas Summit Communiqué Highlights Situation in Mali, Guinea Bissau

Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire — The West African regional group, ECOWAS, ended its 42nd Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government in the Ivorian political capital of Yamoussoukro, with several agreements reached.

The ECOWAS Authority, in their two-day deliberations, concluded by signing a communiqué that highlights the situation in Mali and in Guinea Bissau. The leaders voted unanimously to extend the mandate of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara as Chairman, due to his outstanding leadership demonstrated in the year since he assumed the position.

According to an Executive Mansion release, the regional body agreed to support the interim government of Mali in its quest to hold elections by July. It also extended the mandate of the interim government of Guinea Bissau while political negotiations are concluded for the holding of free, fair and transparent elections. The Authority agreed that these two interim arrangements have demonstrated their political will to return their respective countries to civilian rule.

Both Mali and Guinea Bissau were rocked by military coups that overthrew the legitimate leaderships - a move that received widespread condemnation from world leaders as the actions had the propensity to undermine the emerging democracies in the region and Africa as a whole.

The military takeover in Mali, for example, with just few months to the holding of elections, made the vast north of the country vulnerable to Islamic militants and a conduit of terrorism. This prompted a military intervention by Mali's former colonial power, France in collaboration with ECOWAS whose forces from Member States are fighting alongside French and Malian troops for the liberation of the north of the country.

ECOWAS Presidents, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, also agreed to increase the number of Commissioners from 12 to 15, which will give each Member State the opportunity to have representation.

The regional body, which now has as its slogan, From ECOWAS of States to ECOWAS of People, as part of the two-day Yamoussoukro Summit, signed an agreement with the Republics of Cuba and Venezuela to fund the construction of three pharmaceutical factories - in Nigeria, Ghana and la Côte d'Ivoire - that will manufacture anti-malaria drugs for the region. Although a start date for the construction was not mentioned, the regional body called the decision a giant step that would turn their actions into interventions that will physically impact the lives of citizens of its Member States.

All ECOWAS Member states pledged their commitment to Nigeria's bid to contest a seat as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council - a commitment that led to loud applause and a standing ovation for President Goodluck Jonathan of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The Economic Community of West African States, established in 1975, is a regional group of 15 countries. Its mission is to promote economic integration in "all fields of economic activity, particularly industry, transport, telecommunications, energy, agriculture, natural resources, commerce, monetary and financial questions, social and cultural matters."

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