Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has lamented the spate of terrorists activities in the West African sub-region.
This is even as the United Nations (UN) called for efforts to address contentious issues related to conduct of elections in order to prevent and mitigate election-related violence, human rights abuses and promote respect for the Rule of Law.
The president called for collective action to effectively and definitively eliminate terrorists activities and violent extremism in the sub-region.
President Buhari said it was a matter of concern that terrorism and violent extremism have continued to threaten the peace and security of the sub-region.
The president spoke in Abuja during the 54th Ordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Authority of Heads of State and Government under his leadership.
He said despite the successes recorded in the sub-region, ECOWAS is still confronted by several challenges.
President Buhari lamented that the West African sub-region had continued to face difficulties in the economic, governance, peace, security, and humanitarian fields.
“As we all know, the primary objective of ECOWAS as set out in its treaty, is to ‘promote cooperation and integration, leading to the establishment of an Economic and Monetary Union in West Africa, in order to raise the living standards of our people and contribute to the progress and development of the African continent.’
“Indeed as a community, our aspiration is to ‘create a borderless, peaceful, prosperous and cohesive region, based on good governance and where our people have the capacity to access and harness its resources through the creation of opportunities for sustainable development, job creation and environmental preservation.’
“These lofty ideals are however not attainable without peace and security. That is why I have decided to make the issue of peace and security the major focus of my chairmanship. I am happy to inform this august assembly that our efforts have started yielding dividends as we have been able to douse tension and restore confidence in some potentially disruptive political situations, particularly in Guinea Bissau, Togo and Mali.
“It is a matter of concern that terrorism and violent extremism have continued to threaten the peace and security in our sub-region. This threat calls for collective action on our part, if we are to effectively and definitively eliminate it. As we work on new strategies to combat and eradicate this menace, we require the support of our partners to ensure the achievement of our objectives,” Buhari said.
Further speaking on sub-regional peace, the president said Nigeria and Senegal would hold general elections in February 2019.
He said on his part, he had already made a pledge to conduct free, fair and credible elections, disclosing that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), security agencies and other political stakeholders, had expressed their unwavering commitment to the conduct of peaceful elections devoid of violence, rancour and acrimony, in the interest of the nation.
Earlier, President Buhari said the fact that the sub-regional leaders were gathered was a clear testimony of their continued collective resolve and commitment to the effective integration of the West African sub-region.
“We applaud the significant progress made by our community in the recent past, particularly in the areas of political governance, peace and security, as well as economic and social fields. These achievements have positioned ECOWAS as an example of a regional economic community on our continent.
“I am also glad for the significant progress made through our collective efforts towards the resolution of the political and institutional crisis in CWithin the framework of our regional solidarity, we have assisted the governments of Togo and Mali in tackling political and security problems while also addressing food challenges in parts of the sub-region,” the president stated.
He further called for solidarity amongst member countries in order to fight the challenges bedeviling the sub-region.
“In (the) light of the continuing fragility of our economies linked closely to commodity prices, our nascent democracies, the negative effects of climate change on our farming systems, the globalisation of crime and terrorism, we are required on a daily basis, to join forces to eliminate these factors that militate against a secure, conducive and prosperous environment for the benefit of our people. These realities remind us of the need for even stronger intra-ECOWAS solidarity in order to address emerging challenges,” the president remarked.
On his part, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa and Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas, said significant progress had been made in the sub-region.
Chambas added that today, West Africa is frequently cited as a shining example of peace and consolidation and democracy on the African continent.
Chambas, however, said more efforts needed to be made to address contentious issues related to conduct of elections in order to prevent and mitigate election-related violence, human rights abuses and promote respect for the rule of law.
“In this regard, the UN welcomes the announcement of a new date by Bissau Guinean authorities for the legislative elections and supports the continued efforts of ECOWAS for stabilisation of the country,” Chambas said.
He added that upcoming elections in the sub-region would present opportunities for further consolidation of democracy.
Chambas further said that the international community must continue to work collaboratively on the implementation of the regional strategy for stabilisation, recovery, development and resilience of the Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin, which constitute a comprehensive and sustainable response to the challenges facing the region.
Other significant challenges in the sub-region for which concerted efforts are needed, according to Chambas, included security sector reform, maritime piracy, drug trafficking and transnational organised crime, amongst others.
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