Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS member states have ended their 23rd meeting in Conakry, Guinea, approving a field training exercise (FTX) in 2009 for the logistic component of the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) to evaluate its capacity to support Peace Support Operations.
Some 1,250 troops, comprising the logistic elements of the 6,500-strong force, will participate in the US$3 million exercise, which has been scheduled for Burkina Faso.
A statement from ECOWAS said the 10-day exercise, scheduled for June 2009 will enable the Force to test its logistic concept and standard operating procedure; evaluate the deployment of logistics in the field; help improve inter and intra operability among the troop contributing countries and identify areas that required improvement.
The three-day meeting of the Committee of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff also approved an information and communication doctrine for the Force, which is scheduled to become operational by 2010 in line with the timelines by the African Union for regional standby forces.
The doctrine specifies the elements for the use of the communication and information systems for the ESF.
The re-designation of the ECOWAS Logistic Facility in Freetown, formerly the logistic depot, was also approved.
Under the new arrangement, it will now serve as a unit under the ECOWAS Department of Peacekeeping and Security. Consequently, it will be managed by a corps of professionals who will be headed by a manager.
However, the chiefs recommended that the ECOWAS Commission revisited the US$4 million annual budget required to run the facility to ensure affordability by the region after the handover by the government of the United States following a four-year transition period.
The facility will inherit some US$50 million equipment at the Murraytown depot that was used by the US government to support UN peacekeeping operations in the country.
The facility will enable the region to support peace support operations within and outside the region and will be based in Lungi instead of Hastings which will enable it to meet the new African Union guidelines for such depots.
As part of this arrangement, the depot will also have the use of the facilities at the Freetown port and ferry services.
At the closing of the meeting, Guinea's Minister of Defence, Mr Almamy Camara urged the members to contribute to resolving the new post-conflict challenges in the region such as human and drug trafficking as well as the proliferation of arms.
He pledged that the country would not be used to destabilize any of the member states.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Committee, Burkina Faso's Chief of Defence Staff, Air Commodore Ali Traore, said the meeting agreed on new initiatives to promote regional peace and security.