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01.10.2004 General News

ECOWAS Military Chiefs pledge troops for stand-by force

By GNA

Accra, Sept 30, GNA - Member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at the just-ended 10th Defence and Security Commission meeting in Accra have pledged to contribute units to the proposed 6,500 strong ECOWAS stand-by force to enhance its capacity for peace support operations in the sub-region.

A communiqu=E9 said components of the pledges include infantry, artillery, engineering, transport, aviation, naval, medical, signal and police units.

Pledges for headquarter staff of the force would be made during a subsequent meeting of the Commission.

Ghana's pledge to the stand-by force includes an engineering company of 150 men, a Level Two Hospital of 75 men and a Helicopter Squadron. The Force that would comprise a rapid reaction component of 1,500 troops could be deployed within 30 days. The force could then be enhanced until it reaches Brigade strength of 5,000 troops. The remaining 1,500 troops would constitute the reserve force. The communiqu=E9 said ECOWAS will host a donors' conference in Abuja on November 22 and resources raised at the conference will enable ECOWAS to pursue a capacity building programme and training of the force to meet UN standards.

Lieutenant General Seth Obeng, Chief of Defence Staff of the Ghana Armed Forces, and the Chairman of the Commission who closed the Accra meeting, said it was the same areas in the sub-region that continue to pose challenges to the Commission.

He however acknowledged that even though the sub-region had not experienced the desired peace, the level of violence had relatively reduced.

Lt-Gen Obeng urged members of the Commission to resolve, in the interest of its people, to do everything possible to influence positively on the lingering problems that beset Cote d'Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

"Let us, therefore, individually and collectively, resolve to move the peace processes in our sister countries forward. The ordinary people of these countries yearn for peace. Let us do what we can to give them that peace", he said.

The Accra meeting was to deliberate on Sub-Regional security. Its aim was 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 was the 10th meeting of the Commission and was under the theme: "Sub-Regional Peace and Security - The Way Forward." Benin; Burkina Faso; Cape Verde; Cote d'Ivoire; The Gambia; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea Bissau and Liberia attended.

Others were Mali; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal; Sierra Leone and Togo.

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