Accra, Jan. 19, GNA - Outgoing Chairman of ECOWAS, President John Agyekum Kufuor on Wednesday urged the Government and factional leaders in the Ivorian crisis to bury their suspicion for one another and sincerely commit themselves to efforts to restore lasting peace to their country.
Similarly, he asked those in Liberia, Guinea Bissau and others in conflict zones in the Sub-Region to do likewise, when he delivered his last address as Chairman of the Sub-Regional Body.
President Kufuor told the 28th Ordinary Summit of Heads of States and Governments that though some successes had been chalked towards peacekeeping in his two-year term, incessant conflicts characterised by unyielding positions some of the warring parties took had largely overshadowed the remarkable achievements of ECOWAS.
He said: "Efforts by ECOWAS, supported by the International Community, to restore normal political life and economic activities in theses conflict zones are making headway. We all do admit, however, that there is still room for improvement.
"Also it needs to be stated clearly that the major missing factor in the search for peace and stability is the political will on the part of various leaders of the factions in the conflict zones to work sincerely towards peace."
President Kufuor particularly mentioned Cote d'Ivoire, which he devoted a great deal of his time to, and made a passionate appeal to its government, factional leaders and citizenry "to overcome their mutual suspicion to enable them to arrest the security situation, which seriously threaten to divide and destroy the nation."
Eleven Heads of State and Government of the Authority attended the Summit.
They were, President Yahaya A.J. Jammeh of The Gambia; President Henrique Pereira Rosa of Guinea-Bissau; the African Union (AU) Chairman, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and President Toumane Toure of Mali.
The others were President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin; President Mamadou Tandja of Niger, President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d'Ivoire; President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso; Mr Charles Gyude Bryant, Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL) and the host, President Kufuor. Other representatives were Mr Solomon Berewa, Vice President of Sierra Leone and Mr Kofi Sama, Prime Minister of Togo.
President Kufuor mentioned some of the significant achievements chalked by ECOWAS and programmes in the pipeline in the areas of trade; education; agriculture; governance; economics; energy; infrastructure development; adoption of a common ICT backbone and mainstreaming gender and youth issues.
These include the adoption of Africa Union's New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, which, he said, were immensely shaping policies towards poverty alleviation and socio-economic growth in member countries.
"Now, people-oriented policies are a common feature in many member countries," he noted. "These policies are aimed at good governance; the eradication of poverty and hunger; the pursuit of universal primary education; gender mainstreaming and environmental sustainability and healthcare delivery...."
On education, President Kufuor said member states were working towards the adoption of a convention that would lead to the standardisation of certificates and diplomas to increase job opportunities for the citizenry.
Additionally, he said, a plan of action on youth development and empowerment had been designed, while an ECOWAS Centre for Youth and Sports Development had been approved.
Furthermore, the Sub-Regional Body was working towards the development of a regional data bank on businesses to help investors, he said.
"One crucial area which is witnessing steady improvement is the infrastructure sector of roads, energy and ICT.
"A regional road programme consisting of the construction of a trans-national highway from Lagos to Nouakchott (Mauritania) is well underway. Segments of the Ghana portion of the project are on-going with support from the African Development Bank, World Bank, Japan and European Union."
President Kufuor commended his compatriots, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the international community for supporting the cause of ECOWAS.
Before he ended his address, he asked for a minute's silence for the victims of the tsunami disaster that claimed the lives of about 175,000 people in Asia and East Africa.