Accra, Oct 27, GNA - A preparatory meeting to draft a West African Code of Conduct for Armed and Security Forces (WACOCAS) ended in Accra on Wednesday.
The meeting attended by military officers and security experts from the sub-region focused on panel discussion on various country codes, civil society perspectives, peacekeeping and regional lessons, guiding principles and international humanitarian laws and inter-service relations.
Other issues considered included relating with civilians in peace times, during conflict and peacekeeping period, implementation and dissemination of the code.
Lieutenant-General Joseph Boakye Danquah, Chief of Defence Staff of Ghana, condemned the lack of power to bring to justices abusers of human rights, "sometimes the leaders of some of the most criminal rebel leaders are given juicy ministerial appointments as part of the peace deal".
He therefore acknowledged the urgent need for a unified code in the light of the horrific human right abuse experiences in Liberia, Sierra Leone, La Cote D'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and Dafur in the Sudan.
Lt-Gen. Danquah challenged governments to collectively commit themselves to act to stop war crimes and genocide, wherever they occurred.
"Each of the countries in the sub-region should share the responsibility of not only stopping such war crimes but also ensuring accountability for them as well as implementing preventive strategies to detect, stop and mitigate situations that could potentially get out of control".
The CDS also called for the broadening of the code not only to what the fighters do on the battlefield but should cover areas "like code of conduct for the arms industry, arms trade, individual countries military expenditure, private militaries and so called security companies, who are actually mercenary forces". He also suggested that the code should cover communication and media practitioners whom he identified as important stakeholders, whose activities to a large extent affect the conduct of soldiers and fighters in combat.
Dr Adedeji Ebo of the Geneva Centre for the Democratic control of the Armed Forces (DCAF) outlined the draft code, which has been divided into five chapters with 33 articles.
Chapter one deals with regulatory framework governing civil military relations, chapter two covers relations between the armed forces and the security forces, chapter three relations between the armed and security forces and the civilian population and chapter five armed and security forces, human rights and international humanitarian law.
Dr Ebo said the code would be integrated in the training and educational programmes and taught to the armed and security forces of all Member States of the African Union.
He said periodic meetings would be organised to assess its implementation at the local, national, sub-regional and regional levels. The meeting was organised by ECOWAS and the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of the Armed Forces.
The meeting paid tribute to the late General C. O. Diarra, Deputy Executive Secretary of ECOWAS who was to have given the keynote address, but unfortunately died in a Bellview Airlines plane crash in Nigeria on Saturday, October 22, 2005.
Most of the delegates were with a heavy heart at the opening day of the meeting, as they stood motionless in a minute silence to honour the memory of the late accomplished military officer.
Bellview flight 201, a Boeing 737 carrying 111 passengers and six crew, took off from Lagos at around 7:50 pm (1850 GMT) on Saturday on a scheduled shuttle run to Abuja.
Within three minutes it lost contact with air traffic control and shortly afterwards it hit the outskirts of a village, Lissa, on the northern edge of the greater Lagos area. Everyone on board was killed and the plane completely destroyed. Some witnesses said it exploded in mid-air.