Accra - Ghana — Responses to emerging political and security challenges in West Africa require new thinking, well coordinated efforts with high technology, skills and renewed commitment, Ghana's Deputy Defence Minister Honourable Ebenezer Okletey Terlabi told the meeting of the Committee of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff (CCDS) in Accra, on Wednesday 26th June 2013.
Opening the 32nd Ordinary session of the Committee at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, the minister said: “You should able to look at our efforts in rapid mobilization, combating of terrorist activities and the use of our waters for piracy and drug trafficking, the porous nature of our borders and the proliferation of small arms among others.”
After a series of extra-ordinary meetings towards the resolution of the political and security crises in Mali and Guinea Bissau, the two-day Accra session, is among other issues, discussing the political reconciliation process in Mali and the transformation of the African-led International Support Mission in that country - AFISMA - into the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSA).
This follows the 18th June cease-fire accord signed in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, by Mali's main rebel Tuareg group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MINLA) and the Interim Government in Bamako, to help pave the way for national elections planned for 28th July in Mali to be preceded by the replacement of the estimated 6,000 AFISMA force, by a 12,600-strong UN mission by 1st July 2013.
The Accra meeting themed: “Enhancing ECOWAS Military Cooperation, For Peace, Stability and Development,” is also discussing the proposed African Immediate Crisis Response Capacity (AICRC); the status of Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea and regional counter-terrorism initiatives.
While Deputy Minister Terlabi considers the AICRC as a “duplication” of the African Standby Force (ASF) initiative, he requested that the proposal be “referred to the Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) for detailed study and analysis.”
The regional defence chiefs will also discuss the ECOWAS-supported Defence and Security Sector Reform Programme (DSSRP) in Guinea Bissau, and the operations of the ECOWAS Mission in that country - ECOMIB.
In her remarks, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, noted that efforts by ECOWAS and the international community including the UN, African Union, EU, France and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, CPLP have continued to yield positive results in Mali and Guinea Bissau.
“The response by our community and particularly this august Committee since the inception of this crisis, leading to the deployment of AFISMA, is a clear indication of our common efforts in seeking a lasting solution to the security threat not only confronting Mali but the entire region,” she added.
On the re-hating of AFISMA by July 1, the Commissioner said: “We must congratulate ourselves and ensure that our troops are brought to standard to the requirement of the new (UN) mission.”
As regards, piracy and other maritime insecurity challengers, she said the ECOWAS Commission is developing a Maritime Security Strategy that would provide a framework for collective interventions.
Addressing the meeting, the chairman of the CCDS and Cote d'Ivoire's Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Soumaila Bakayoko, urged the Committee to work out personnel and logistics details for a seamless transformation of AFISMA into MINUSA.
He commended troop contributing countries and called for renewed solidarity and united efforts by all ECOWAS Member States to ensure sustained peace and security of the region.
While welcoming his colleagues, Ghana's Chief of Defence Staff, Vice Admiral Mathew Quashie noted that the CCDS meeting coincided with Exercise Western Accord jointly organized by Ghana and US military and designed to build capacities of partner countries for the conduct of Peace Support Operations and Post-Conflict Reconstruction exercises, through learning and introduction of best practices.
Also attending the meeting, are the ECOWAS Special Representative in Mali and Deputy Head of AFISMA, Ambassador Cheichk Toure, the Force Commanders of AFISMA and ECMIB, as well as the Chief of Staff ECOWAS Standby Force Gen. Hassan Lai.