Accra, Feb 10, GNA - Ghana on Thursday called for the immediate cessation of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons as well as the circulation of mercenaries and combatants in West Africa. "The proliferation of arms in the sub-region is a major challenge facing conflict prevention and management efforts of regional leaders," Nana Addo Dankaw Akufo-Addo, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said at a two-day Security Experts and Military Intelligential in Peace Keeping Operations workshop in Accra.
The workshop under the theme, "Lessons from ECOWAS Peacekeeping Operations: 1990-2004" would document key lessons from the sub-region's peace operations, examine practical proposals, develop strategic plan to improve the effectiveness of peacekeeping operations and map-up strategies in preventing and responding to crises and conflicts in West Africa.
Nana Akufo-Addo said the proliferation of arms had compounded the nature of recent conflicts, mainly intra-state, involving several non-state actors.
"We need to stop, as a matter of urgency, the proliferation of arms - small arms and light weapons and the circulation of mercenaries and combatants in the region," he said.
Highlighting challenges facing the sub-region's peacekeeping efforts, Nana Akufo-Addo said the inability of West African states to find or provide logistics support for regional security structures, both permanently and ad-hoc was a contributing factor. This often compels ECOWAS to seek external assistance, which is not only difficult to secure, but which can also undermine the independence and initiatives of the community.
Nana Akufo-Addo suggested the classification of security agenda as a developmental programme since the two were inextricable linked. "We need to pursue policies in the sub-region, which will bring peace and stability, since we recognize that these are pre-conditions for development.
"Peace and stability can only come about if good governance and democracy are entrenched in the region's body politic."
He said in spite of the enormous difficulties facing the sub-region, West Africans continued to demonstrate their determination to build new and open societies founded on the values of democratic accountability, respect for human rights and rule of law. "West Africans see democratic development as the best way to overcome the pervasive poverty in which we are mired and guarantee our dignity as free peoples," he said.
He pledged the willingness of West Africans to learn the appropriate lessons from and work closely with the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, including the newly established African Union Peace, UN Security Council as well as other interested states in conflict prevention, resolution and management efforts.
General Cheikh Oumar Diarra, ECOWAS Deputy Executive Secretary, said that in spite of the achievements of the regional body in peacekeeping operations, there were considerable challenges, which needed to be tackled holistically.
These he identified as, Development of Concept of Operations, Doctrine and Standard Operating Procedures for a West African Standby Force, Operationalizing the Mission Planning and Management Cell and provision of financial and logistics support.
The other challenges are development of an effective Early Warning System, standardization of equipment, arms and ammunition and language differences.
About 50 senior military officers, security experts and intelligence analysts who have been closely involved in ECOWAS and UN peace operations in West Africa were attending the workshop. 10 Feb. 05