COMMISSIONER DEFENDS ECOWAS’ ROLE IN MALI, TASKS HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGNERS ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, Dr. Adrienne Diop, has
affirmed ECOWAS’ total involvement in the crisis in Mali and attributed the
current global interest in the country to the untiring efforts of West African
The Commissioner was addressing the opening of a two-day workshop and annual
general assembly of the Network of National Human Rights Institutions in West
Africa on Thursday, 25th April 2013 in Abuja.
The Commissioner debunked suggestions that ECOWAS did not show sufficient
interest in the Malian crisis, insisting that from the onset, the organization
declared zero tolerance over the March 2012 coup d’état that toppled former
President Amadou Toumani Toure and attempts by insurgents to split the country.
She said that never in the history of the organization have regional leaders –
both at the ministerial and heads of state level – held over 10 extra-ordinary
meetings within such a short space of time, trying to resolve the crisis in
any Member State.
“We have been at the fore-front and at the centre of the crisis in Mali, even
to the deployment of AFISMA. We will be there even after the United Nations
has fully taken over, because we want to see the return of normality to that
country”, she stated.
Dr. Diop who represented the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace
and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini-Suleiman at the meeting, expressed
optimism about the prospect of the restoration of peace to the country,
adding: “We hope that what has happened in Mali does not happen in any of our
Describing the timing of the meeting as apt, she said it coincided with a
period “when ECOWAS finds itself addressing alleged impunity and other forms
of human rights violations perpetrated by terrorists and extremist groups in
She disclosed that ECOWAS has appropriately responded by empanelling a group
of human rights observers drawn from the members of the Network of National
Human Rights Institutions in West Africa “to contribute to putting an end to
these despicable and denigrating acts”.
The commissioner noted that the Mali mission had reinforced the relevance of
the network in the practical protection and promotion of human rights in the
While acknowledging certain challenges faced by the Network, she urged the in-
coming leadership to reposition itself so as to accomplish its objectives by
leveraging on capacity building initiatives facilitated by ECOWAS to enhance
institutional efficiency at the national level.
According to her, areas of activities should include monitoring, reporting and
documentation of atrocities and other forms of human rights violations,
enhancement of cross-border cooperation and collaboration through the
institutionalization of functional medium-term exchange programme.
Dr. Diop called on members of the Network to work more closely with the civil
society through the West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF)’s thematic group
on human rights and other relevant regional mechanisms aimed at mainstreaming
the civil society in the protection and promotion of human rights.
In addition, she challenged members of the Network to respond to the human
rights abuses in their various countries as “West Africa must no longer be
singled out for its human rights abuses. Your task is indeed a tough one”.
She thanked the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for
its “fidelity” to the Network, and pledged ECOWAS continued support for the
implementation of the Network’s work plan.
Nigeria’s Secretary to the Government of the Federation, represented by the
Permanent Secretary in charge of Special Duties, Dr. Jamilia Shuara, addressed
Representatives of the OHCHR and the European Union, as well as the Network’s
out-going chairperson, Mr. Alioune Tine and the ECOWAS Director of Political
Affairs who was represented by the organization’s Head of Electoral Assistance
Unit, Mr. Francis Oke, also sent goodwill messages.
The workshop is to create a more effective approach for the NNHRI to prevent
and tackle emerging human rights challenges in the region.
More specifically, it is expected to increase the capacity of members to
respond to emerging human rights challenges in the region; reinforce the
capacities of senior officials of Member States of the NNHRI in investigation,
monitoring, documentation and reporting of human rights violations; as well as
reposition the NNHRI and its Secretariat for more effectiveness in the
protection and promotion of human rights in West Africa.