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20.03.2004 General News

11 Heads of State and Gov't attend ECOWAS Summit

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Accra, March 20, GNA - Eleven Heads of State and Government attended the Summit of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on "Challenges of Integration and Development and NEPAD Implementation in West Africa" held in Accra on Saturday.

They were President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin; President Blaise Campaore of Burkina Faso; President Yahaya A.J. Jammeh of the Gambia; President Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali and President Mamadou Tandja of Niger.

The others were President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria; President Maitre Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal; President Ahmed Teejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and the host, President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana.

Prime Ministers, Mr Kofi Sama and Mr Seydou Diarra, represented Togo and Cote d'Ivoire, respectively, while Vice Chairman Wesley Johnson represented the Chairman of the National Reconciliation Government of Liberia.

Mr Jose Armando Duarte represented Cape Verde; Mr Mamadi Conde stood in for Guinea while Mr Joao Jose Silva Monteiro came from Guinea Bissau Democracy in West Africa must be undiluted - President Obasanjo Accra, March 20, GNA - Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has asked West African Leaders to ensure that their commitment to democracy remained undiluted.

He said this was the only way to mobilise their people and involve them in the process of democratic consolidation.

President Obasanjo was speaking on: "Addressing the Sources and Effects of Conflicts in West Africa" at an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Government Summit on "The Challenges of Integration and Development and The NEPAD Implementation in West Africa" held in Accra at the weekend.

He said democracy allowed for consultation, dialogue, accommodation and debate adding that it was the only way to reassure the poor, the unemployed, the minority and others that might feel marginalized that they had a voice in the management of society.

"It is the only way to give hope to the people and ensure political and economic transparency and accountability", he said.

President Obasanjo said the hub of democracy was the ability of the Leaders to keep their electoral systems transparent and fair. He said the mismanagement and mishandling of electoral processes by political parties and governments had caused a lot of havoc in the past. President Obasanjo noted that all countries in the world had problems with elections, but people should feel and see that there were transparent efforts to keep the political landscape level for all and that inadequacies and problems were explained.

"Periodic free and fair elections, to the very best possible level, are the sure ways to secure stability, give every constituency an opportunity to contest for political power and galvanise all citizens towards popular development. I am happy to note that we are doing very well on this front but we still need to do more", he said. ´ President Obasanjo asked the Leaders to remain constant and very strong in their collective opposition to anti-democratic approaches to getting into power.

He said they should continue to make it abundantly clear that coups d'etat were no longer fashionable and were totally unacceptable at all times and everywhere within the Sub-Region.

President Obasanjo said a challenge to Leaders in the newly democratising Africa was how fast they could open up their politics and governance to give everyone a sense of belonging.

These, he said, included strategies to open up and democratise their parties, respect for ethnic and religious diversity, strong campaigns against corruption and waste.

Others were respect for gender equality and creating economic opportunities for all.

President Obasanjo said the truth was that when citizens felt that they were part of the system, they were committed to the system, defended it and tolerated difficulties.

"When they feel left out or ignored, they oppose the system overtly and covertly", he said.

President Obasanjo called on the African Continent to carry out a Strategic Conflict Assessment (SCA) with a view to developing a holistic strategic, policy and institutional response to conflicts.

He said such a study would then be followed-up with an Action Plan for implementation of findings and prescriptions.

President Obasanjo said Nigeria had completed such a process and her Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution would be very willing to provide guidelines and support to help any West African Country to conduct a Strategic Conflict Assessment.

He said commitment to peace and stability was probably the most important factor in avoiding conflicts and the commitment should not just be at the leadership level but also in civil society. President Obasanjo called on the Leaders to generate, sustain and sell a credible political will to their people and their communities once they were committed to democracy and democratisation.

President Obasanjo said they should also carry out far-reaching structural reforms to reposition their economies for growth and development and mobilise the their people through open commitments to transparency and accountability.

He said with such measures, they would have taken serious steps towards the containment of violence, alienation and conflicts.

"We have sacrificed too much in lives and properties, wasted so much time and resources on conflicts and created the impression that we are unrepentantly bound to violence", he said.

President Obasanjo said the Leaders owed history a duty to change this perspective because in West Africa as well as the rest of Africa, the Leaders were pathologically committed to peace, stability, growth, development and democracy.

"This is the message and perspective we want to give to the world", he said.

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