Accra, Jan. 18, GNA - Nana Addo-Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, on Tuesday called on countries in the West Africa to pursue a strong culture of democratic engagement to ensure peace and security in the Sub-Region.
He said free, fair and transparent elections would serve to consolidate democracy as well as strengthen the foundations of peace and stability.
Nana Akuffo-Addo, who is also the Chairman of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council, was speaking at the opening of meeting of the Council in Accra.
The meeting, which is reviewing the security situation in the Sub-Region, precedes the 28th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) in Accra on Wednesday.
High on the agenda are the situations in C=F4te d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau.
Nana Akuffo-Addo said peace and stability could only be attained when the Sub-Region was able to mobilise its creative and financial resources to create the conditions for harmonious development and progress in all the states.
"We should count first and foremost on our own forces and resources, which is not to say that we do not appreciate the importance of international solidarity. Far from it! But there can never be a substitute for self-reliance," he said.
"Self-reliance must be our goal in all aspects of our national and regional endeavours. Its attainment is the surest guarantee of our freedom and dignity."
On security situations in C=F4te d'Ivoire, Nana Akuffo-Addo emphasized that dialogue was the only way out of the crisis. He urged all parties to the conflict to show restraint and commitment to finding a peaceful and political resolution through permanent dialogue and consultation.
"This alone can return the country to peace, reconciliation, disarmament, demobilization and resettlement of combatants and also guarantee the holding of free and fair elections in October 2005," he said.
The Chairman asked ECOWAS and the International Community to remain committed in assisting the Ivorians to achieve their aspirations for democracy, peace and reconciliation.
He also touched on progress in Liberia in the implementation of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord of 18 August 2003.
He noted, however, that resettlement of displaced persons and refugees and the disbursement of the pledged 520 million dollars by donors as well as funding for rehabilitation and reintegration remained major challenges ahead of elections in 2005.
Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, said there was the need to re-launch the peace process in C=F4te d'Ivoire so as to complete the legislative reforms to create the right atmosphere for free and fair elections in October 2005.
"ECOWAS still believes that the Lina-Marcoussis Accord and the Accra III Agreement remain the framework for the resolution of the crisis in C=F4te d'Ivoire."
He called on the parties to fully implement these agreements and refrain from the use of violence to settle their differences. Dr Chambas said the fragile security situation of the Sub-Region required the strengthening of capacity in conflict prevention, resolution and peace building.
He said the ECOWAS Secretariat was making efforts to operationalise the protocol on Mechanisms for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Good Governance.