EXPERTS CALL FOR AN EFFECTIVE ECOWAS STANDBY FORCE
ECOWAS should establish a Special Standby Two-Battalion rapid response Force
ready to intervene within thirty days of any complex emergency in the Region.
The Organization should also enter into Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with
its Member States for the provision of standing units dedicated to the regional
Standby Force, the ESF, which would be self-sustaining for the first 90 days of
These were among the key recommendations that emerged from the just-ended
Experts’ After-Action Review of ECOWAS’ intervention in Mali’s multidimensional
The meeting in Ghana’s eastern town of Akosombo also called for the
establishment of a Trust Fund for managing Peace Support Operations (PSOs) by
These recommendations are geared towards further strengthening the anticipatory
and response postures of the regional Peace and Security Architecture, in
particular the rapid response capability of the ESF.
The ESF presently comprises “pledged forces,” and the aim of the MOUs is to
extract concrete commitment from troop-contributing Member States to make the
regional Force ready for rapid response operations, with training in
counter-terrorism, all-terrain warfare, and human rights also made compulsory
for its components, in line with extant decisions of the African Union.
“Military planning and deployment in future PSO Missions must be done in
relative secrecy in order to retain the element of surprise and enhance mission
effectiveness and efficiency,” the experts recommended.
The 4-6 February 2014 Akosombo meeting, organized by the ECOWAS Commission in
collaboration with the Government of Ghana, reviewed the background to Mali’s
recent political and security crises following the rebel and terrorist
occupation of the north of the country and the subsequent military coup of March
2012, which led to the international intervention by ECOWAS, Malian forces,
France, AU, UN and other partners to restore the country’s territorial integrity
and constitutional order, culminating in the recent successful presidential and
parliamentary elections in the country.
The experts in political, military and security matters, social and humanitarian
affairs, diplomacy and communication, among others, examined ECOWAS’
multifaceted interventions before and during the crises with the purpose of
drawing appropriate lessons for the future.
The meeting, which was also attended by representatives of Civil Society
organizations, research institutions and Centers of Excellence, was premised on
the report of last November’s internal ECOWAS debriefing exercise on the ECOWAS
intervention in Mali.
The meeting also recommended ways of improving and strengthening the Region’s
legal instruments, the Early Warning Mechanism, its mediation and post-conflict
peace-building and reconstruction frameworks.
While calling for the expeditious operationalization of the ECOWAS Mediation
Facilitation Division, the experts also recommended the active participation of
Member-States and Civil Society in conflict prevention, mediation and management
in the Region, and called on ECOWAS to facilitate the development of inclusive
political and economic governance frameworks in Member States in order to
facilitate political consensus, respect for human rights and to enhance
stability and development in the region.
“Youths in West Africa, and especially those in Mali, should be exposed to
entrepreneurial skills, as necessary complements to their academic
qualifications. Such a measure will reduce youth unemployment and contribute to
structural conflict prevention,” the meeting recommended.
The experts noted that beyond material empowerment, ECOWAS and Member States
should re-orientate the youths through sensitization as a means of
“de-radicalizing them and instilling in them the ideals of tolerance, regional
integration, stability and development in the region.”
They further urged ECOWAS to ensure gender balance in its PSO missions and also
enhance the participation of women groups at all levels of decision-making and
implementation during intervention.
Going forward, the meeting recommended that ECOWAS should continue to engage
with Mali to finally resolve the crises, adding that “it is imperative for
ECOWAS to continue the momentum it has created in the country in peace building
and post-crisis reconstruction engagements.”
ECOWAS should also coordinate local, national and regional efforts in developing
a post-conflict roadmap to enhance the recovery, reconstruction and development
efforts in Mali, the experts said in the recommendations at the end of the meeting.
“Conflict patterns and dynamics are changing rapidly across the world.
Consequently, it is important and urgent for ECOWAS to assemble a
multi-disciplinary team of experts that will critically undertake wide-ranging
mapping of conflicts in the region and provide conflict scenarios that will
enable the Commission to prepare for and respond in a timely and effective
manner to conflicts in future,” the meeting said.
In her closing remarks, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and
Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, thanked the experts for their frank
reflection and the quality of their recommendations, which she promised would be
presented to the authorities for consideration and implementation.
Prof. Amos Sawyer, former President of Liberia’s Interim Government of National
Unity, who chaired the opening and closing sessions, called for synergy and the
cooperation of all stakeholders in the collective efforts to bring lasting peace
not just to Mali but across the region.
The Akosombo meeting, whose outcome will feed into the meeting of the ECOWAS
Technical Committee on Political Affairs and ECOWAS Ambassadors in Accra from
10-11 February 2014, received goodwill messages from the African Union, the
European Union, the United Nations and the West African Civil Society Forum,