PRESS RELEASE

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE

Year 2014 Selected
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N°: 013/2014
8 February 2014 [Akosombo-Ghana]

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 a deployment. These were among the key recommendations that emerged from the just-ended Experts’ After-Action Review of ECOWAS’ intervention in Mali’s multidimensional crises. 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 ECOWAS. 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, among others.


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