ECOWAS Interventions in Mali Reviewed

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[L-R] Suleiman, Ghanaian minister, Tetteh, Ouedraogo, Sawyer and others at the high table

The Economic Community of West African States in collaboration with the government of Ghana held a meeting in Akosombo, Ghana, to review its intervention in the Malian crisis

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Feb. 17, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

EXPERTS on regional political and security matters, social and humanitarian affairs, diplomacy and communication, among others, met in Akosombo, Ghana, to review ECOWAS’ initiatives and responses to the recent security, political, and institutional crises in Mali. The five-day “After-Action Review” exercise, which started Tuesday, February 4, is organised by the ECOWAS Commission in collaboration with the government of Ghana. The review will involve an in-depth examination of ECOWAS’ political, diplomatic and military responses, humanitarian support as well as the cooperation, coordination and communication initiatives in Mali.

Cross section of participants at the meeting
Cross section of participants at the meeting

The main objective of the meeting, which was attended by representatives of civil society organisations, research institutions and centers of excellence, was to dissect ECOWAS’ multifaceted interventions before and during the Malian crises with the purpose of drawing appropriate lessons for the future. It is a follow-up to an internal ECOWAS debriefing held in Lagos, last November, and is expected to improve the anticipatory and response postures of the ECOWAS system to current and emergent crises in the region, both in terms of direct intervention and relations with third party. The meeting in Ghana, will help to improve ECOWAS’ peace and security architecture, including the underpinning protocols, decision-making and response mechanisms in general.

ECOWAS led regional interventions supported by the African Union, the UN and the rest of the International Community for the resolution of the Malian crises. Consequently, Malians territories seized by the terrorist groups following the military coup of March 2012 and rebel insurrection in the north of the country, were successfully recovered by the allied forces, spearheaded by the French and supported by troops from Chad, Mali and the African-Led International Support Mission, AFISMA, contributed mainly by ECOWAS Member States.

AFISMA mandate was transferred to the UN Multidimensional Stabilisation Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, from July 1, 2013, while presidential and legislative elections have since been held successfully as part of the ECOWAS facilitated political transition road map for the full restoration of constitutional order and the country’s territorial integrity. At the meeting,  Kadré Desire Ouédraogo, President of the ECOWAS Commission,urged partners and stakeholders to undertake a “sober reflection, healthy debate, and open self-criticism” of the ECOWAS interventions in Mali with a view to helping the organization and the region “to improve their conflict management and resolution capacity.”

“Within this context, the criticisms leveled against parties are not meant to slight them or to diminish the immense contributions they have made, and continue to make towards the stabilisation of Mali and the preservation of regional peace and security” but intended to “elicit an open and frank debate towards the formulation of workable recommendations,” he told the experts’ review meeting. Ouédraogo said the meeting organised is not intended to “celebrate our achievements in Mali,” but rather to engage partners and stakeholders” with a view to improving the anticipatory and response postures of the ECOWAS system to current and emergent crises in the Region. While noting that the preliminary conclusions of an ECOWAS internal review had “revealed considerable shortcomings in aspects of the Community’s strategic, political, diplomatic, military and institutional approaches and arrangements to the crises in Mali,” he said the after-action review exercise, should come up with recommendations to “strengthen and operationalize the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture in the areas of Early Warning, Preventive Diplomacy, and particularly in the operationalisation of the ECOWAS Standby Force.”

Group photo of the participants
Group photo of the participants

In her keynote address, Hannah Serwah Tetteh, Ghana’s minister for foreign affairs and regional Integration, said that Mali “provided us with a wake-up call with a mixed bag of experiences.As we work through a conflict-free Africa by 2020; as the UN prepares to mainstream peace, rule of law and governance into the post-2015 development agenda, this critical exercise of after crisis review on Mali should be made to generate synergies towards building resilience in our respective local communities, countries and the region as a whole,” Tetteh said.

To this end, she called for the “sharpening of relevant coordination mechanisms,” including a strategic communication strategy, relevant incentive mechanisms for individuals and institutions (champions or partners for peace) in our states and at the ECOWAS level.” The minister charged the experts to consider for instance, the establishment of “an award system in any of our member states or at the ECOWAS level for human and institutional enablers of peace and development,” saying this is as an area where the private sector and civil society or strategic partners “can help deliver to our peoples as an incentive to stay on tract and encourage others to emulate.”

Amos Sawyer, a professor and former president of Liberia’s Interim Government of National Unity, said “Mali is a success, but not without challenges,” using the opportunity to commend ECOWAS for its interventions supported by the international community in resolving the crises. Moving forward, he called for proper interrogation of the regional initiatives and responses with a view to ensuring that the region availed itself of the abiding lessons for the future.

In her welcome address, Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs,Peace and Security, said the Akosombo meeting “comes at a time when it is universally accepted that ECOWAS has achieved measurable successes in consolidating democracy and human rights, and stabilising the peace and security environment in the West African region over the past two decades.”

While acknowledging that “the peace and security situation in the region and Africa as a whole remains fragile,” the commissioner expressed optimism that the experts “will come up with a realistic and sustainable framework for enhancing cooperation and coordination with member states, the African Union, and other critical stakeholders in the service of peace and security in Africa.”

The Akosombo meeting, whose outcome is expected to feed into the meeting of the technical committee of political affairs and ECOWAS Ambassadors in Accra, from February 10 to 11, 2013, received goodwill messages from the African Union, the European Union, the United Nations and the West African Civil Society Forum, among others.

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