Ghana's Head of State, President John Agyekum Kufuor last week handed over the chairmanship of the Economic Community of West African States to the Head of State of Niger, ending successful two terms at the head of ECOWAS.
Evidently his re-election as Head of State of Ghana on December can be a sign of approval for his domestic record. His re-election for a second term as Chairman of ECOWAS was of course yet another vote of confidence by his brother heads of states about his leadership qualities.
As the baton changes at the helm of ECOWAS this could be an appropriate time to assess his Chairmanship of ECOWAS.
In one of his first speeches as President of Ghana he pledged to make peace and security in Ghana and in the sub-region one of his main concerns. He further enunciated a policy of good neighbourliness and successfully established good relations with Burkina Fasso and Togo who under the Rawlings regime had had uneasy relations with Ghana.
Diplomatic sources recognise this initiative and the attendant dividend of co-operation and collaboration at all levels including security issues. Ghana and its most immediate neighbours, Burkina Fasso, Togo as well as La Cote D'Ivoire are today enjoying good relations albeit the crisis in its western neighbour.
President Kufuor showed his commitment to peace and security in the sub-region by his participation in the symbolic burning of arms to herald the end of the war in Sierra Leone on January 18, 2002. In fact he was the only head of state who witnessed the historic event.
Elected Chairman of ECOWAS in December 2002, he devoted his energy and time towards the establishment of peace and security in the sub-region.
As Chairman of ECOWAS he presided over the June 4, December 2003 Peace Conference in Accra attended by several heads of states from West Africa, including President Alhaji Dr. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. It was at this meeting that former Liberian President Charles Taylor announced his decision to resign.
Accra subsequently hosted weeks of painful negotiations among the warring factions of the Liberian Conflict that resulted in the exit of Charles Taylor and the establishment of a Transitional National Government headed by Mr. G. Bryant.
The unfolding crisis in La Cote D'Ivoire was on of the main challenges that confronted President Kufuor during his tenure as Chairman of ECOWAS and here too his sterling leadership qualities and commitment to total peace and security were in full display.
Apart from various visits to Abidjan and Yamousskrom to talk to the Government and the New Forces who hold the northern part of the country, President Kufuor has equally hosted the various factions in Accra all in his bid to achieve lasting peace.
A major international conference with the full backing of the UN and its Secretary-General, the Ghanaian-born Kofi Annan was held in Accra last year.
Whilst peace still remains an illusion it can be said that that the leadership of President Kufuor and the collective efforts of leaders in the sub-region and the French Government have prepared enough grounds for peace to come one of these days.
The troubles in Guinea Bissau as a result of an attempted coup d'etat once again engaged the attention of the Ghanaian President and other leaders including Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo.
As President Kufuor leaves the chairmanship, it can be said that he has paid his dues fully to ECOWAS by spearheading many initiatives to restore peace, stability and rule of law in the sub-region.
As one French publication rightly said on his peace efforts, President Kufuor certainly deserves to be considered for the ultimate prize of men and women who toil for peace-the Nobel Prize itself.
Charity, it is said begins at home and in his own Ghana he has in his first term of four years lived up to his pledge of ensuring peace and security as a basis for the good governance and economic development.