By Raphael Oni
ECOWAS counties must work together to achieve peace and economic development and integration.
This was the position of President Muhammadu Buhari and Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and Sahel (UNOWAS) at the 54th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Government held in Abuja Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledged the collective commitment of members States in promoting peace and regional development. According to him, the meeting of the ECOWAS leaders was a clear testimony of their collective resolve and commitment to the effective integration of the West African sub-region.
He applauded the reported progress made by the community particularly in the areas of political governance, peace and security as well as in the economic and social fields. In his words, “the fact that we have gathered here today is a clear testimony of our continued collective resolve and commitment to the effective integration of the West African sub-region.”
President Muhammadu Buhari also called on the need to build new strategies in combating terrorism in the region. According to Buhari, “It is a matter of concern that terrorism and violent extremism have continued to threaten the peace and security in our sub-region. This threat calls for collective action on our part, if we are to effectively and definitely eliminate it. As we work on new strategies to combat and eradicate this menace, we require the support of our partners to ensure the achievement of our objectives.”
The President noted that the determination to create a safe and stable sub-region must be predicated on a strong and capable organization, adding that no institution could function without adequate funding. “This would require that all hands are on deck and that all member states ensure the payment of the statutory community levy as and when due. By so doing, we will empower and enable the commission to implement the integration agenda alas we march towards the year 2020 and actualize our vision of building an ECOWAS of peoples and not states,” Buhari, who is the Chair of the Authority, added.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas in his remark, significant progress has been made in the subregion, and today, West Africa is frequently cited as a shining example of peace consolidation and democracy on the continent.
Chambas said more efforts needed to be made to address contentious issues related to conduct of elections in order to prevent and mitigate electoral violence, human rights abuses and promote respect for the rule of law.
He said, “Upcoming elections in the sub-region will present opportunities for further consolidating democracy. UNOWAS is coordinating efforts with ECOWAS Commission to ensure appropriate support to these countries in their efforts to organize free, credible and peaceful elections.”
On his part, His Excellency Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the President of ECOWAS Commission highlighted the achievement of ECOWAS sub region and the commitment of the Heads of States and Government to a peaceful sub region. Brou noted the significant challenges and called for a continuous consolidate of policy.
He said we will also continue to focus our efforts on improving the operational performance of the ECOWAS Institutions, particularly by completing the reform institutional course with a greater emphasis on the implementation of programs and their impact on populations.