The Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, says the security of West African states, particularly in the Sahel, remains an ECOWAS priority, hence the continuous focus on the implementation of the ECOWAS Action Plan against Terrorism.
She has therefore encouraged governments to redouble their collective efforts in honouring the financial obligations made towards the implementation of the 2020-2024 Priority Action Plan to combat terrorism in West Africa.
Ms Botchwey made the call in her opening address during the virtual meeting of the 45th Ordinary Session of the Mediation and Security Council of ECOWAS.
Terrorist attacks and democracy
The Minister, who is Chairperson of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers, recounted attacks by terrorist groups in Western Niger and Nigeria earlier this year.
According to her, on the heels of a twin attack recorded in Western Niger, on January 2, 2021, at least 100 people were killed while 25 others were injured and the situation forced hundreds to flee. Similar attack took place in the Lake Chad Basin by suspected members of the Islamist group Boko Haram.
“These acts of terror and their humanitarian implications prompt the urgency to strengthen our collective actions in the fight against terrorism and organised crime,” she said.
On democracy, she noted the efforts of governments to build their democratic credentials, citing the peaceful elections that were held in six countries last year (Togo, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Niger) as well as the progress made in Mali to return the country to constitutional order.
“While we continue to build on our growing democratic credentials, we must also strengthen democratic institutions and deliver good governance to our citizens,” Ms Botchwey advised.
Touching on the new surge of COVID-19, she pointed out that it should be of concern to everyone and that governments should not let their guards down.
“We must protect the gains made in the fight against the pandemic in our region by working towards the strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocols in our respective countries. We need solidarity, a common resolve, and a coordinated regional effort if we are to succeed in eradicating this scourge,” Ms Botchwey charged.
In a speech read for him, the Caretaker Minister of National Security, Albert Kan-Dapaah, called for deep collaboration among the various ECOWAS initiatives in the fight against terrorism.
He noted the increasing attacks by jihadists and violent extremist groups on the defence and security forces and the civilian population in the Sahelian region and the Eastern and Western parts of Nigeria and in the North of Cote d’Ivoire.
He expressed dissatisfaction with the ever increasing incidents of cybercrime, trafficking of counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs and money laundering in the sub-region, condemning such activities perpetrated by unscrupulous individuals seeking their self-interest to make money through dubious means.
“It is therefore imperative that we enforce our laws against such crimes in order to safeguard our citizens against such crimes,” he said.
“We wish to express concern about the high rate of piracy and related maritime security issues within the Gulf of Guinea and therefore call for closer collaboration within our Maritime Authorities and Navies to quell the threats. We are committed to operationalising the Multinational Maritime Coordination Centre (MMCC), Zone F, based in Accra.
“It is our prayer that the requisite staff will be deployed at the Centre within the first quarter. On the situation in The Gambia, we wish to reiterate our commitment to contribute and deploy a Contingent of the Formed Police Unit following the decision to withdraw the Military deployment (ECOMIG),” Mr Kan-Dapaah said.
On the implementation of the ECOWAS Early Warning Mechanism and establishment of the National Early Warning Centre, he noted that “Ghana has achieved almost all the targets for the establishment of the Centre with the President giving Executive Approval for the establishment of the Centre.”
“We are in the process of recruiting the Director and other key staff of the Centre. Furthermore, Ghana is willing to host the Regional Centre for Early Warning,” he added.