Stakeholders have called for uninterrupted funding for and sustainability of
ECOWAS peace support initiatives, especially the resettlement and
rehabilitation of thousands of conflict displaced persons in the region.
Over the past seven years, the Support to ECOWAS Peace and Development Project
(PADEP), which is funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) has been
promoting the culture of peace, regional integration and providing vital
humanitarian assistance to populations displaced by conflicts in Member
States. However, the 15-million-US-dollar project implemented in four pilot
post-conflict countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea Bissau
ends in June this year.
Speaking at the just-ended stakeholders’ forum organized by ECOWAS in
Freetown, Sierra Leone, the participants including representatives of UN
agencies, Government officials, NGOs, civil society organizations, as well as
host communities and beneficiaries of the PADEP project in the country made a
strong appeal for the sustainability of the project gains and continued
support for the displaced.
Mr. Jean Bosco Rushatsi, Country Representative of the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), which is the implementing partner of the PADEP
humanitarian support activities in the four countries, commended ECOWAS and
the African Development and ECOWAS for the impactful project. However, with
the project winding down in June, he stressed the need for development
partners to ensure the sustainability of the gains, transfer of ownership to
the beneficiaries and continued support to enable them continue their normal
lives outside their home country.
Also, while expressing gratitude to ECOWAS and PADEP partners, including the
Government of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Marion Sawyer, a former Liberian refugee in
the Bo urban settlement, who spoke on behalf of her compatriots who have
chosen to be integrated into the Sierra Leone society, said they needed more
support in the area of women and youth empowerment, access to education for
their children, skills training and other livelihood support.
Echoing the same sentiment, another ex-Liberian refugee Mr. Charles Kemboya,
explained that some of the shelters at the resettlement sites needed
rehabilitation, while the land should be properly demarcated to avoid possible
encroachment and friction between host communities and the former refugees.
Speaking on behalf of Mr. Dieudonne Nikiema, Manager of the ECOWAS Peace Fund
(EPF), which coordinates the PADEP Project for the ECOWAS Commission, Mrs.
Gloria Ugwunze, outlined the project objectives, achievements, challenges and
the goals of the six-day ECOWAS evaluation mission.
PADEP’s key objectives, she said, include: “to contribute to promoting peace
in ECOWAS Member States,” as well as “to strengthen the institutional
capacities of ECOWAS and civil society organizations in countries experiencing
conflict, with a view to achieving coordination and implementation of conflict
management and preventive actions in an environment characterized by good
As the project comes to a close, the priorities now are to address and
strengthen its ownership and visibility through an effective exit strategy, so
as to ensure sustainability of the project gains and also to document the
achievements and the lessons learnt, Mrs. Ugwunze added.
Mr. Sandy Jambawai, who represented the African Development Bank at the forum,
reaffirmed the Bank’s continued support to ECOWAS in promoting peace and
regional integration, including by mitigating the humanitarian consequences of
He commended the forum as timely saying it coincides with the preparation of
the Bank’s Country Strategy Paper, which is focusing on Local Economic
Development (LED) programme.
Mr. John, Sumailah, Development Secretary in the Ministry of Finance and
Economic Development, who chaired the meeting, said the lessons learnt from
the PADEP project should prepare the minds of development partners on future
support to conflict displaced populations in the region.
“We have to bring our collective wisdom to bear on how to assist our
distressed brothers and sisters and their children, beyond the end of the
PADEP project,” he added.
The forum and a press conference on 3rd May, 2013, were part of the six-day
project assessment mission to Sierra Leone by the ECOWAS delegation. The
events were attended among others, by Sierra Leone Government officials;
representatives of UNHCR, the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA);
host communities and former Liberian refugees now integrated into the Sierra
Leone society, as well as Mr. Yusuf Benga Somma, Head of ECOWAS Unit in Sierra
Leone, from the Finance and Economic Development Ministry, which oversees
ECOWAS affairs in the country.
Before the forum, the ECOWAS team, which included Mr. Paul Ejime of the ECOWAS
Commission’s Communication Directorate, Mr. Gibril Camara of the Financial
Controller’s Office, Mr. Zakaria Kieta, Country Coordinator of the ECOWAS
Volunteers Programme, and Mr. Wilfred Ewaleifoh, head of the Nigerian
Television Authority (NTA) crew, gathering materials for the production of
documentaries for enhanced visibility of the PADEP project, had separate
meetings with UNHCR, African Development Bank and NaCSA officials.
The delegation, which paid courtesy visits to the Government ministries
represented at the forum, also undertook field visits to resettlement sites in
Kenema District – Hangha, Gbenderu, Jembe, Gerihun, Bandajuma and Banduma,
East of Freetown – as well as Bo urban and Kissi Town near Water Loo, West of
Freetown where the PADEP project is supporting former Liberian refugees with
housing, micro economic, education, health, sanitation and other social
The PADEP project is in three dimensions including direct support to ECOWAS
Member States through the provision of humanitarian assistance to displaced
persons, and the ECOWAS Volunteers Programme, under which young West Africans
with expertise in various disciplines are deployed to post-conflict countries
to help promote socio-economic development and integration, especially of
Its third pillar focuses on the promotion of the Culture of Peace, through the
development of a Reference Manual on the Peace Culture, Citizenship and Human
Rights, to be popularized using various platforms including its incorporation
into primary and second school curricula across the region.
Similar ECOWAS evaluation mission has been to Liberia and is underway in
Guinea and Guinea Bissau.