ECOWAS Council Of Wise Urged To Intensify Peace Efforts

Members of the ECOWAS Council of the Wise at the Lagos Meeting

Members of the reconstituted ECOWAS Council of the Wise (CoW) have been urged to “play a more active role in mediation and consultations to prevent or resolve conflicts” in the region.

“We should endeavour to leverage the support from the ECOWAS Commission and the Authority (of ECOWAS Heads of State) and be able to devise creative ways of mediating or undertaking peace missions,” Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Nigeria’s former President and Chair of the Council told members at a two-day retreat and planning workshop, which opened in Lagos, Nigeria on Monday, 21st February, 2022.

He said “the Council should also be in a position to catalyze engagement processes that would deepen the roots of democracy in the sub-region by promoting credible and peaceful elections.”

Dr. Jonathan, who is also the ECOWAS Chief Mediator on the Mali crisis, noted that within the last two years, the region had witnessed three military coups in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso (which have all been suspended by ECOWAS), as well as coup attempts in Niger and Guinea- Bissau.

“As members of the Council of the Wise, one of the key mediation organs of the ECOWAS Peace and Security architecture, we have been handed the task of leading in peace efforts, preventive diplomacy and initiatives that will promote democracy and good governance in our sub-region,” the Nigerian leader said

“This development,” he noted: “poses serious threat to democracy in ECOWAS, especially at a time that unabating onslaught of militants and terrorists across the Sahel and frontline countries has worsened the security situation in the sub-region.”

He recalled that ECOWAS had served as a reference point in the league of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) “because West Africa, for a long time, held the ace in its adherence to democratic principles and the peace that ruled in member nations,” expressing the hope that the region would return to its glory days.

The Council Chair urged the two-day meeting to “holistically assess the political and security situation in our region, in the light of recent developments in some Member States and develop Plans of Action.”

“We would be seen to have done justice to this assignment if we succeed in catalyzing processes towards institutionalizing systems that would deepen democracy, people-oriented governance and sustainable growth in our sub-region,” he added.

In his opening remarks on behalf of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Jean Claude Kassi-Brou, Gen. Francis Behanzin, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, recalled that the Council was reconstituted in Accra, Ghana last May as “an important Preventive Diplomacy and Mediation structure of ECOWAS.”

He also noted that West African region was “presently undergoing very disturbing moments as we have seen the resurgence of coups d’état in some of our member states… daunting socio-political and economic challenges, the narrowing of civic space for dialogue, inter-communal and farmer-herder conflicts, violent extremism, kidnapping, banditry, and the scourge of terrorism.”

“At the Commission, we are working hard to support member States to initiate and implement important institutional reforms, especially around governance architecture as well as strengthening early warning and response mechanisms to ensure that threats to peace, security and stability of our region are nipped in the bud before escalation,” the Commissioner added.

He urged the Council “to guide and support the Commission’s efforts in implementing durable solutions to the peace, security and governance challenges in the region. “

The Commissioner thanked ECOWAS partners including the Swedish Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA) and Germany’s GIZ, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, for their support in ensuring the successful organization of the workshop.

In a goodwill message by GIZ, Yvonne Akpasom, Deputy Head of Programme for the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture and Operations (EPSAO), explained that the EPSAO Project, co-funded by the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), was being implemented by GIZ  to support the ECOWAS Commission in its mandate to prevent and manage conflict and security threats in West Africa.

“Now more than ever, there is a critical need to re-examine and reinvigorate our work and efforts around the African Peace and Security Architecture and its various pillars including the CoW,” she said, while commending the ECOWAS Commission for the operationalization of its Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF), of which CoW plays a cardinal role.

Mr Per Bjalkander of the FBA, explained that “dialogue and mediation is one of our areas of specialization,” adding that the Academy had been working with the ECOWAS Commission for about five years.

“Our cooperation on dialogue, facilitation and mediation, has been done through a joint programme on the prevention of electoral violence,” adding: “To date, FBA and ECOWAS have technically cooperated on this programme in Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Nigeria and Togo.

Established under the 1999 ECOWAS Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, the ECOWAS Council of the Wise, builds on the African traditional mechanism for conflict resolution through dialogue, mediation, confidence-building and preventive diplomacy.

The reconstituted Council has 30 members – two each from the 15 ECOWAS member States on the basis of gender balance, with Guinea’s Madam Hadja Saran Daraba, former Executive Secretary of the Mano River Union as Vice-Chair.

The meeting is organized by the Directorate of Political Affairs, ECOWAS Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security.

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