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14.06.2004 General News

Early warning mechanism - recipe for conflict prevention

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Accra, June 14, GNA - Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on Monday said the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) would focus on an Early Warning System and the expertise of members of the Council of Elders to prevent conflicts in the Sub-Region.

"In view of the high cost of conflict management and resolution in human and material resources, ECOWAS was now laying greater emphasis on conflict prevention that hinged on two pillars, the Early Warning System and the Council of Elders" he said.

Nana Akufo-Addo, who addressing the ECOWAS Council of Elders' workshop in Accra, said for the Early Warning System, ECOWAS had set up an Observation and Monitoring System (OMS) at a Centre at the ECOWAS Secretariat and four zonal bureaux.

The bureaux located in Cotonou, Ouagadougou, Monrovia and Banjul are expected to collect, analyse and report data in a timely manner for decision-making.

The workshop which is on the theme: "The Role of ECOWAS in Election Observation," is being attended by the 15-member Third ECOWAS Council of Elders, established under Article 17 of the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security.

The Council is an organ to assist ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council in the task of restoring peace and stability to the Sub-Region. Membership is made up of a representative from each Member State. Nana Akufo-Addo, who is also the Chairman of the Mediation and Security Council of ECOWAS, said for preventive diplomacy, ECOWAS relied on the Council members, who were often the first to make contact with dissenting groups within Member States in trying to seek solutions to particular problems.

He said the effort of leaders within the Sub-Region was yielding dividend, as there were significant movement towards peace and stability in the area once considered as turbulent.

"We need to capitalise on this momentum in order to transform the Sub-Region finally into a haven of peace. We need to intensify our efforts at conflict prevention in the Sub-Region and strengthen preventive organs, this is why this seminar today is of great significance," he said.

Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, said the Protocol that established the Council defined its mission as one of preventive diplomacy and early warning to potential conflicts. He said the Council had carried out its mission by working closely with the Chairman of ECOWAS, Sub-Regional Leaders and various stakeholders in member States.

The Executive Secretary commended the members, whom he said had shown consistent availability, commitment and effectiveness in carrying out their duties in preventive diplomacy.

Dr Chambas said as facilitators, conciliators and arbitrators, members of the Council used their good offices in combination with traditional African conflict resolution methods to douse the flames of crises and thus prevented their escalation into conflicts.

"The Executive Secretary, also relies on the informed and wise counsel of the distinguished Council for appropriate decision making", he said. Dr Chambas said the success of the Council in conflict resolution and election assistance had created hope that the Council should be more involved in the promotion of peace and security in the Sub-Region. He said it was expected that their experiences along with those of the Secretariat and other actors within and outside the Sub-Region involved in issues pertaining to peace and security, would lead to the strengthening of the current Protocol on Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security.

Members of the Council are Mr E. M. Debrah, Ghana; Mr Bernardine Do Rego, Benin; Dr Ouidi Naba Douamba, Burkina Faso; Former President of Cape Verde, President Antonio Mascarenhas Monteiro and Mr Essienne Dieudonne from Cote d'Ivoire.

The others are, Alhaji John Biran from the Gambia, Mr Abdourahaman Sow from Guinea; Ms Eugenia Stevenson from Liberia; Mr Sira Diop from Mali; Mr Amirou Garba from Niger and former Nigerian President, General Abdulsalami Abubakar.

The rest are, Mr Mbaye Mbengue from Senegal and Mr Bitokotipou Yagninim from Togo. Guinea Bissau is the only Member State that has no representative on the Council. 14 June 04