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Standby Force for counterterrorism ready as ECOWAS pledges gradual lifting of sanctions on Niger Republic

*The Economic Community of West African States leaders reiterate their commitment to eradication of terrorism and other threats to peace, security, and stability in the sub-region

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders have resolved to urgently review efforts at activating a standby force for counterterrorism operations in areas infested by terrorist groups.

A communiqué read by Dr. Omar Touray, President of ECOWAS Commission, at the end of the 64th ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, Sunday, December 10, 2023, in Abuja, FCT, said the leaders reiterated their commitment to the eradication of terrorism and other threats to peace, security, and stability in the region.

They also resolved to hold an extraordinary summit on unconstitutional changes of government aimed at promoting peace, security, and democracy in the region.

The ECOWAS leaders directed the commission to embark on deep reflection and explore the possibility of convening the extraordinary summit.

The Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, chaired by President Bola Tinubu, established a committee of Heads of State to engage with CMSP, the military junta in Niger Republic, on the need for a short transition roadmap and the emplacement of monitoring mechanisms.

The Authority promised a gradual easing of sanctions based on outcomes of the engagement, emphasizing the need for the immediate and unconditional release of detained President Mohammed Bazoum.

“The Authority deeply deplores the continued detention of President Mohammed Bazoum, his family and associates by the CMSP regime.

“The Authority further deplores the lack of commitment on the part of the CMSP to restore constitutional order. Consequently, the Authority calls on the CMSP to release President Mohammed Bazoum, his family, and associates immediately and without precondition.

“The Authority decides to set up a committee of Heads of State made up of the President and Head of State of the Republic of Togo, the President and the Head of State of the Republic of Sierra Leone, the President and Head of State of the Republic of Benin, to engage with the CMSP and other stakeholders with a view to agreeing on a short transition roadmap, establishing transition organs as well as facilitating the setting up of a transition monitoring and evaluation mechanism towards this speedy restoration of constitutional order.

“Based on the outcomes of the engagement by the committee of Heads of state with the CMSP, the Authority will progressively ease the sanctions imposed on Niger.

“In the event of failure by the CMSP to comply with the outcomes of the engagement with the committee, ECOWAS shall maintain all sanctions, including the use of force, and shall request the African Union and all other partners to enforce the targeted sanctions on members of the CMSP and their associates,” the communique read.

At the meeting chaired by Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the regional leaders commended the efforts being made by member states and the ECOWAS commission to work on the consolidation of democracy, peace, security, and stability in the region.

The Authority noted, in particular, the peaceful elections that took place during the year in Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, and welcomed the peaceful resolution of the electoral dispute in Nigeria, as well as the peaceful outcome of the dialogue between the opposition and the government in the Republic of Sierra Leone.

On the fight against terrorism and other related security matters, the leaders instructed the commission to expedite the convening of the meeting of ministers of finance and defence to agree on the modalities for the mobilizsation of internal financial, human, and material resources on a mandatory basis to support the deployment of the regional counterterrorism force.

“The Authority takes note of the commencement of assignment by the Special Envoy on Counterterrorism, Ambassador Baba Kamara, and directs the commission to facilitate his mission.

“The Authority directs the commission to intensify collaboration with sub-regional counterterrorism initiatives such as the Accra initiative and MTJN and urges member states to increase funding for joint maritime operations and exercises in the region and to improve coordination and collaboration among various ministries, departments, and agencies responsible for maritime security,” the communique read.

On The Gambia, the Authority implored the government and stakeholders to expedite the adoption of the new constitution ahead of the 2026 general elections, as well as the implementation of the white paper on the recommendations of the Truth, Reparation, and Reconciliation Commission.

They extended the mandate of the ECOWAS mission in The Gambia by one year and instructed the mission to continue to support The Gambia in the implementation of the white paper and needed defence on security sector reforms.

On Guinea Bissau, the leaders strongly condemned the violence that erupted in Bissau on December 1, 2023, and all attempts to disrupt the constitutional order and rule of law in the country.

Commending the action of the loyal members of the security forces of Guinea Bissau, they expressed solidarity with the people and the constitutional authority of the country.

The ECOWAS stabilisation support mission in Guinea Bissau was extended, while the commission was instructed to take steps to review the mandate of the mission.

Condemning the attempted coup in Sierra Leone on November 26, 2023, the leaders expressed sadness over the loss of lives and destruction of property and called for a thorough and transparent investigation to identify and bring perpetrators to justice.

They applauded the signing of the agreement for national unity resulting from mediated dialogue between the government and the opposition party in Sierra Leone, and called on all parties and stakeholders to implement the agreement in good faith within the specified timeframe.

ECOWAS leaders directed the commission to continue supporting Sierra Leone and facilitate the deployment of an ECOWAS standby security mission for stabilisation.

On Senegal, the Authority of Heads of State and government took note of preparations for the February 25, 2024 presidential election in the country, while urging inclusivity and transparency in the electoral process.

The Leaders urged the Senegalese Government and stakeholders to adhere strictly to constitutional norms, ECOWAS protocols, and the rule of law in managing all electoral processes.

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