Accra, Jan. 19, GNA - Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Authority of Heads of State and Government attending the 28th Ordinary Summit in Accra have commended the out-going Chairman President John Agyekum Kufuor for his sterling leadership qualities.
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, addressing the opening session on behalf of his colleagues, said: "I wish to express the appreciation of all the members of ECOWAS to you for a successful two-year tenure of committed, dedicated and purposeful leadership as Chairman of the Authority.
"During the period of your Chairmanship, some of the intractable conflicts in our region were addressed. The Liberian conflict was resolved here in Accra under your guidance and we are now witnessing great progress in the implementation of the Accra Comprehensive peace Agreement on C=F4te d'Ivoire".
"We are also witnessing the return of Constitutional Order in Guinea-Bissau. If C=F4te d'Ivoire still continues to give us great concern, it has not been due to a lack of engagement on your part as ECOWAS Chairman.
"Our Sub-Region has benefited immensely from your dedication and effective leadership these past two years of your Chairmanship". President Obasanjo, who is also the Chairman of the African Union (AU), said the return and restoration of relative peace to most parts of the Sub-Region following the successful management and resolution of some of the conflicts that disturbed the area, had started to give them respite and opportunities to the Regional Body.
He said this had led to the Regional Body paying more attention to issues of economic development, poverty reduction, cooperation and integration programmes, which constituted the primary vision of the Founding Fathers of ECOWAS.
President Obasanjo said with this new window of opportunity of relative peace, ECOWAS had taken advantage to initiate several programmes as part of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) infrastructure projects aimed at cementing the destiny of their people for sustainable development in a hostile global environment.
These programmes are the West African Power Pool Initiative and the West African Gas Pipeline Project, both of which are designed to provide affordable, qualitative and sustainable energy supply to every part of the Sub-Region to drive the engine of industrialisation, reduction of poverty, creation of jobs and to make the Sub-Region globally competitive.
President Obasanjo said other programmes in air, land and sea transport facilitation and linkages, telecommunication connectivity among ECOWAS states were also becoming realities while the promotion of intra-trade and movement of people and goods and services were recording appreciable successes despite isolated bottlenecks in their implementation stages.
"Relevant authorities in our respective countries are addressing such noted bottlenecks," he said.
The AU Chairman said the world was witnessing the repositioning of the ECOWAS Sub-Region to meet the challenges of rural poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, natural resources and environmental degradation through a new initiative of an Integrated ECOWAS Regional Agricultural Policy.
He explained that the new initiative was designed to improve the living conditions of the people especially the rural populations, sustenance of the industrialisation process through availability of quality raw materials and the resuscitation of peasant farm family alongside mechanised farms.
President Obasanjo said the issue of youth empowerment and repositioning of women for more effective participation in rural wealth generation constituted component of the new initiative and urged his colleagues to intensify their efforts to address youth unemployment, child trafficking, violent crimes and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
On democracy, the AU Chairman commended the people of Ghana and Niger for the success of their various elections last year and said; "the peaceful conduct of the elections in these two ECOWAS states and the smooth transitions depict positive signs of entrenchment of democratic ideals in our Sub-Region.
"I wish to implore you my brothers to continue to cherish and uphold these ideals in support and sustenance of democracy, good governance, peace and social justice in our Sub-Region."