Abuja — President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is in Abuja, Nigeria at the invitation of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to a dispatch from Abuja, Nigeria, the Liberian leader, who arrived in Abjua late Friday night from Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire as Special Guest of President Jonathan, will participate in the Seventh Joint Annual Meetings of the AU Conference of Ministers of Economy and Finance and ECA Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development which takes place from March 29 to 30, 2014.
As Chair of the High Level Committee (HLC) on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, President Sirleaf will address the opening of the Conference on the Common African Position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda which was adopted at the AU Summit on January 2014.
The theme of this year's Conference, Industrialization for Inclusive and Transformative Development in Africa, builds on the recommendations of previous Conferences, particularly those of the 2013 Conference, which addressed the theme of Industrialization for an Emerging Africa.
Meanwhile, the 44th Ordinary Summit of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government ends on Saturday, March 29, with the new chairman of the sub-regional organization taking over for a one-year term.
Ghanaian President, H.E. John Mahama, was elected at Friday's Closed Door Session, after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf withdrew from the race and pledged support to President Mahama's candidacy.
The Liberian leader, who chairs several of the regional organization's institutions, including a sub-regional organization, Mano River Union, decided to support President Mahama and urged her colleagues to follow suit.
As stipulated in the ECOWAS rules, Francophone and Anglophone countries rotate the chairmanship of the organization after every year. Côte d'Ivoire, a Francophone country, has served for the last two years, now was the term of an Anglophone country. Sierra Leone, Ghana, Liberia, Gambia, and Nigeria were all eligible.
At Saturday's closing, Heads of State and Government between Côte d'Ivoire and Nigeria are expected to sign a treaty related to the Lagos-Abidjan Highway. ECOWAS Heads of State and Government will also sign a number of Community Acts and Decisions.
The final item during the closing program will be outgoing chairman, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara handing over to the incoming chairman, Ghanaian President John Mahama.
During Friday's opening, the outgoing Chairman of ECOWAS, President Ouattara praised the organization and welcomed the meticulousness with which the organization had adopted during his tenure, especially in providing response to the crisis in Mali and Guinea Bissau.
He said, they were in the process of restoring constitutional normality in Guinea Bissau where presidential elections are expected to be held in two weeks. He urged the Bissau authorities to create the enabling environment so that the polls can be held in a safe and secured environment so that the country can embrace a free and democratic life.
President Ouattara also praised the organization for making significant progress on several economic, political and diplomatic issues during his tenure.
He highlighted the irreversible step it has taken to set up a single currency. He hoped that the single currency will become a reality by 2020.
Recounting achievements during his tenure, he mentioned the adoption of the draft ECOWAS Common External Tariff in Dakar in October 2013. The draft was based on Harmonized Commodity Description and that the common external tariff will become effective from January 2015 after more than seven years of discussions.
He said, in 2015, the project to move from an ECOWAS for States to an ECOWAS for the people will come true.
As regards infrastructure, the outgoing Chairman mentioned the Abidjan-Lagos Highway project as well as the Abidjan-Ouagadougou-Niamey-Cotonue railway. In fact, the treaty related to the Abidjan-Lagos Highway project is expected to be signed by the concerned Heads of State and Government on Saturday.
Also speaking, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, while nothing the progress the organization has made during the period, highlighted the challenges that still remain.
He said in spite of the projections making West Africa one of the best-performing regions of the continent, growth rates are too far below the required minimum to enable the sub-region achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
He said the situation calls for a sustainable adaptation of the development and integration strategy to the structural transformation of the economies, development of human capital and the consolidation of peace and security, adding that human security must be at the core of regional concerns.
The ECOWAS Commission President said even though the institutional crisis are about to be fully resolved, the new threats being posed by terrorism and organized crime cannot be totally ruled out. He named the atrocities of Boko Haran sect in Northern Nigeria, which the organization condemned, as a stark reminder of the need to embark on some cooperation efforts at regional level.
H.E. Ouédraogo predicted that the war against terrorism will certainly be won through military actions. Nonetheless, he said, the long term solution to fighting terrorism is economic development, governance and youth employment; adding that democracy and respect for human dignity constitute another avenue for combating terrorism as well as protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. "Regional integration needs to be deepened while giving due attention to peace and security," he pointed out.
Also addressing the Opening Session were the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and a proxy for the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.
During the Closed Door Session, the Heads of State and Government discussed the 2013 Annual Report of the President of ECOWAS; Report of the 71st Ordianry Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers; Reports of the 12th and 13th Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, and the Report of the 31st Meeting of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council, among other items.
Observers considered the meeting impressive due to the turnout. Of the 15 Heads of State and Government, only the Presidents of Cape Verde and Togo, Carlos de Almeida Fonseca and Faure Gnassingbe were absent.