Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye and Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
Sequel to rising insecurity in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sub-region, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, called on ECOWAS leaders to adopt a common approach in curbing the menace.
President Buhari spoke during the 55th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Abuja.
Buhari said the sub-region must remain focused on its collective endeavour to make West Africa an area of peace and security.
The president further said that making the sub-region an area of peace and security was an essential prerequisite if the sub-region was to attain the primary objective of ECOWAS.
“This is an essential prerequisite if we are to attain the primary objective of our organization, which 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 its people and contribute to the progress and development of the African Continent,’” Buhari said. The president added that despite the overall appreciable progress made on the sub-region, particularly in the field of political governance, the ECOWAS countries have continued to face considerable security challenges.
“We are all witnesses to the recurring incidents of inter-communal clashes, herders-farmers conflicts, banditry and terrorist attacks in all our countries.
“These threats, you will agree with me, have consequences on the peaceful co-existence between our communities and peoples, as well as their livelihoods.
“This unrest also undermines all our efforts in achieving full regional integration. It is, therefore, necessary that we act collectively to end this menace in the interest of regional stability and wellbeing of our people,” he said. While expressing condolences to the families of the victims of terrorist attacks, banditry and inter-communal clashes, which he said, were perpetrated mostly by some misguided elements in the society, the president said that the sub-region shall not relent in its efforts to protect the peace loving people and their property while vigorously sustaining the war against terrorism and criminality.
“Taking into account the transnational nature of the threats confronting us, the need for the adoption of a common strategy at the national and regional level to combat them has become imperative. By so doing, we will reinforce our actions and resources for a more effective response to protect our citizens and secure our common space.
“While I acknowledge that several initiatives and measures have been taken in our respective countries, recent developments have shown that we must cooperate more effectively to achieve our goals.
“We should send a strong and unified message to the perpetrators of violence that we are resolute in our collective determination to confront and defeat them,” President Buhari said.
Also speaking, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, pointed out that apart from military approaches, more efforts should be made in addressing violent extremism, terrorism, and other conflicts in the sub-region. Guterres who was represented by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed Ibn Chambas, added that in this regard, the establishment of the Lake Chad Governors Forum, regional cooperation and stabilization, peace building and sustainable development interventions in a region affected by terrorists Boko Haram, are good and welcome initiatives.
“In the Sahel, UNOWAS will continue to enhance coordination with the G5 Sahel, ECOWAS and other partners, including within the framework of the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS) to advance long-term stabilization growth in the region,” Guterres said.
In his remarks, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, said that the sub-region was witnessing an upsurge in inter-communal clashes of which one of the causes is the use of the relevant people by terrorist groups.
He disclosed that the terrorists are targeting religious groups with the clear purpose of undermining social cohesion in the sub-region.
Also speaking, the President of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Chile Eboe-Osuji, said that the central reason to ICC’s relationship with ECOWAS was that there cannot be sustainable socio-economic development where conflicts, atrocities and fear reign supreme.