By Victoria Ojeme
The Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has agreed on proposals on the need for joint and coordinated efforts in the reopening of international borders.
ECOWAS at its Fifty-seventh Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government held on 7 September 2020 in Niamey, Republic of Niger, under the chairmanship of H.E. lssoufou Mahamadou, President of the Republic of Niger and Chair of the Authority said this to ensure an effective regional response to the fight against COVID-19 and revive the economies.
In this regard, the Heads of State and Government endorse immediate application of the ECOWAS Harmonised Guidelines on Cross-Border Transport, Trade and Health Protocols in the COVID-19 Pandemic and Post Recovery within the ECOWAS Region recommended by the Ministerial Coordination Committees on Health and Transport & Trade.
The Authority urged the Member States, the Commission, WAHO to propose urgently a strategy for the availability of anti COVID-19 vaccines in the ECOWAS Region and support for the creation of pharmaceutical industries. In this regard, the Heads of State and Government direct the President of the Commission to constitute a team of experts to conduct a feasibility study on production of vaccines within the region.
The Authority also asked the military junta in Mali to appoint a civilian transition head by 15 September.
Mali’s military ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar on 18 August following weeks of protests in the country.
The 75-year-old and his Prime Minister Boubou Cisse were arrested alongside other government officials after the move by the military.
Keita was held in detention for 10 days, with the military justifying the move saying it was necessary for his own security.
He was flown abroad for medical treatment upon his release.
ECOWAS late last month asked the military to appoint a civilian head to lead the transitional government, but did not announce any deadline for doing so.
Monday’s announcement now leaves the military junta with only eight days to transfer power to a civilian, who ECOWAS said would not participate in the country’s next presidential election.
“The Authority urged Member States to continue to pursue strong economic reforms and to mobilise the financial resources necessary for the implementation of their economic recovery plan in order to minimise the social impact of COVID-19, in particular on vulnerable groups. The Authority urges member states and the Commission to prepare a post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan to support activities in the region.
“The Authority takes note of the Report of the Mediation and Security Council meeting at the ministerial level, on the political and security situation in the region and the recommendations contained therein.
“The Authority reaffirms its commitment to the promotion of peace, security and stability in the region, the prerequisite for the economic integration and development of the region.
“Regarding the situation in Mali, the Authority reaffirmed its determination to ensure that constitutional order is quickly restored in Mali, with a political transition led by a civilian President and Prime Minister for twelve months.
The Authority maintains all the decisions taken at its extraordinary Summit of 28 August 2020 and notes the ongoing consultations between the Malian stakeholders initiated by the National Council for the People’s Salvation (CNSP).
“Authority directs that the Head of Transition and Prime Minister, both civilians, be appointed no later than 15 September. Authority welcomes the departure of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita for medical treatment abroad and wishes him a speedy recovery,” the statement from the meeting said.
Regarding Guinea Bissau, the Authority expressed satisfaction at the progress made in the functioning of institutions, particularly the National Assembly and the Government. As a result, the Authority decides to withdraw the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau and expresses its gratitude to troop and police-contributing countries for their efforts in the stabilisation of Guinea Bissau.
It also thanked the European Union for the various forms of support to ECOMIB since it was deployed in April 2012. Authority reaffirmed its commitment to accompany the government of Guinea Bissau on the ongoing constitutional reform as well as security sector reform in the country.
With respect to The Gambia, the Authority said it welcomed the political reforms undertaken to stabilise the country. It decides to extend for 6 months renewable, the mandate of the ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia (ECOMIG), to enable the Mission to provide support particularly for the ongoing security sector reform in the country. It also decides that ECOMIG will be gradually changed into a police mission.
With respect to the upcoming presidential elections in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Niger, the Authority noted with satisfaction that most of the Member States with elections in 2020, would be in their fifth or sixth electoral cycle. This would constitute an important test of our region’s commitment to democratic consolidation.
“The Authority calls on Member States to create an enabling environment for peaceful, inclusive and transparent elections. Authority calls on all political actors to respect the institutions and laws governing the electoral processes in their respective countries,” it said.
The Authority directed the ECOWAS Commission, in line with tradition, to accompany the countries in their electoral processes. Particularly, the Authority instructs the Commission to continue to provide technical assistance that will contribute to enhancing the integrity and the thrust of the electoral process in the region.