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29.09.2004 General News

ECOWAS Military Chiefs meet in Accra

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Accra, Sept. 29, GNA - The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Defence and Security Commission made up of Chiefs of Defence Staff of the ECOWAS community is meeting in Accra to deliberate on Sub-Regional security.

The aim of the two-day meeting is principally to review some important decisions regarding pressing issues facing the Commission and some of the challenges to security in parts of the ECOWAS Region.

This is the 10th meeting of the Commission. It is under the theme: "Sub-Regional Peace and Security - The Way Forward." Key issues to be addressed include the issue of an ECOWAS Standby Force for Emergency Situations and the general review of its peacekeeping missions in Cote d'Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Commission is currently under the chairmanship of Lieutenant-General Seth Obeng, Chief of Defence Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF).

Countries taking part in the Accra meeting include Benin; Burkina Faso; Cape Verde; Cote d'Ivoire; The Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea Bissau and Liberia.

Others are Mali; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal; Sierra Leone and Togo. Lt. Gen. Obeng who opened the meeting said the ability to gather as a sub-regional body deserved commendation, especially with the increasing strain on individual economies.

He told the meeting that the Sub-Region would not be able to improve the lot of its impoverished people in an atmosphere of conflict and in circumstances in which some of the people had been tragically reduced to the status of refugees and internally displaced persons.

"The problems that we face today are our own creation. It will take our concerted efforts to solve them, with the assistance of the international community and well-meaning humanitarian organizations and individuals."

However, the Sub-Region would have to take the first step to solving its problems, Lt. Gen. Obeng said.

He noted with satisfaction that while the political leadership embarked upon diplomatic initiatives and other measures to resolve disputes in the Sub-Region, the Commission played its role by timely deployment of peacekeeping forces to some conflict areas in order to reduce the level of violence and loss of life and property. Lt. Gen. Obeng said the deployment of peacekeeping forces in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire were excellent examples of achievements of the Commission, which were significant given the near insurmountable logistics constraints that faced respective countries. He reminded the Commission Members to use the Accra meeting to review the implementation of decisions made jointly during its last session in Abuja earlier in the year and find out where the decisions fell short.

Gen. Cheick Oumar Diarra, Deputy Executive Secretary Political Affairs, Defence and Security of the ECOWAS, told the Commission that it was expected of members to come up with the crucial and firm pledge of forces to back the concept of the Stand-by Force for ECOWAS. He said it was necessary to make conflict prevention, management, resolution, peacekeeping and security complete and effective by the operation of the Stand-by force concept.

Gen. Diarra, therefore, tasked the military chiefs to deliberate fruitfully and candidly on the issue.

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