*By Paul Ejime
Among Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs), ECOWAS, the West African bloc, has had more than its fair share of political crises and instability.
But the bloc is also ahead of all others in crisis management and conflict resolution, to the extent that it is better known for its achievements in the peace and security domain, than in regional economic integration, the principal objective for its establishment in 1975.
These achievements, through unilateral, bilateral and multilateral efforts have also come at some heavy costs.
However, with its large market of combined estimated population of 400 million people, plus rich natural resources across its vast territories, the region and the international community stand to gain from a peaceful and politically stable 15-nation ECOWAS region.
Consequently, development partners, particularly the European Union, the United Nations System, World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Governments of the UK, U.S., Sweden and Denmark, to name but a few, have at one time or the other supported and continue to contribute to the realisation of the ECOWAS peace and security mandate.
One of these collaborative mechanisms has been the multimillion-Euro EU Support to ECOWAS Regional Peace, Security, and Stability Mandate (ECOWAS-EU PSS Project).
The project was officially launched in 2017 to strengthen the sub-region’s institutional capacity in conflict prevention and resolution and also to implement major components of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) in member states. It covered wide ranging thematic areas, including peacekeeping and peace building, preventive diplomacy, electoral reforms, support to the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division, through deployment of election Observation Missions to member states holding major elections, gender mainstreaming and the strengthening of financial and procurement management, among others.
Also designed to move ECOWAS from the reactive to the proactive mode of interventions, the PSS Project has brought tremendous expertise to bear on the delivery and implementation of the ECOWAS peace and security programmes and activities.
The Project has now been replaced by the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture and Operations or GIZ-EPSAO, another EU-supported project being managed by GIZ – Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Development Cooperation Agency).
At a send-forth ceremony for four of the EU Technical staff of the PSS Project in Abuja at the weekend, personnel of various ECOWAS Directorates involved in the project implementation paid glowing tributes to their out-going EU collaborators.
Mr Vincent Okele, Team Leader and Institutional Development Specialist and Philippe de Hollain, Finance and Procurement Specialist, were praised for their diligence, painstaking efforts and collegial dispositions, which facilitated cooperation between the EU and ECOWAS staff on the implementation of the PSS Project.
Project Assistants Olutobi Ogunyanwo and John Uloko were also commended for their support and contributions to the success of the project.
The tributes were rendered among others, by Dr Cyriaque Agnekethom, Director of ECOWAS Peacekeeping and Regional Security, Dr Remi Ajibewa, Director of Political Affairs, Dr Sintiki Tafa Ugbe, Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, and Dr Dieudonne Nikiema, Manager of the ECOWAS Peace Fund, and ECOWAS coordinator of the PSS Project.
They wished the departing colleagues success and stressed the need for the sustainability of development partners’ support and contributions to the implementation of the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture programmes.
In her remarks, Mrs Eno Moma, a representative of the EU Delegation to Nigeria, commended the friendship and professionalism exhibited by the EU personnel and their ECOWAS colleagues. She described the PSS and GIZ-EPSAO as win-win Projects contributing to the realisation of the ECOWAS peace and security mandate.
In their responses, Mr de Hollain and Mr Okele, who was accompanied by his wife Dr Marie-Brigitte Ebodiam Okele, thanked the ECOWAS colleagues for their kind words and gesture, noting that they would always cherish their stay at ECOWAS and the hospitality they enjoyed.
The pair were later presented with souvenir Plaques and gifts, to round off the occasion, which was also attended by Mr Francis Oke, Head of the ECOWAS Electoral Assistance Division, Mr Eyeson Okorodudu, Head of Human Rights and Governance Division, Mr John Umoren, of the Procurement Unit and Gloria Ugwunze from the Peace Fund Division.
*Paul Ejime is an independent Consultant to International Organizations on Strategic Communications, Advocacy, Media, Peace & Security, Elections and a Global Affairs Analyst.