ECOWAS Solicits Military Support against Ebola

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Salamatu Suleiman

Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, wants defence forces of member states to be actively involved in the war against Ebola Virus Disease ravaging the West African region

THE ECOWAS Commission has called on the defence forces of its member states to lend their professional support towards defeating the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, which has claimed more than 2,000 lives from almost 4,000 cases reported in the region from March 2014.

In her address to the 34th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, CCDS, which opened in Accra, Ghana, on Tuesday 9th September 2014, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security,  Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, said the disease “if not adequately addressed, would have far reaching and devastating consequences for the development of the region.” She therefore called for “collective efforts in assisting and supporting member states whose populations are facing the menace of this dangerous disease,” and the contribution of the CCDS in battling the heath crisis.

The commissioner listed the various intervention measures taken by ECOWAS to combat the disease to include setting up of a solidarity fund coupled with multi-stakeholder collaborations to beat the health emergency with socio-economic development implications. Suleiman said the region had, in the past two years, witnessed challenging crises in Mali and Guinea Bissau as well as terrorism, piracy and other criminal acts in the Gulf of Guinea.

She paid tribute to the out-going CCDS chairman, General Soumaila Bakayoko of Cote d’Ivoire, “who played a critical role in guiding ECOWAS interventions towards resolving these crises.”

On behalf of the Commission, she expressed gratitude and appreciation to Bakayoko for “his effective leadership and personal involvement in, among others, the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali, AFISMA and the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau, ECOMIB, the processes of developing the ECOWAS Standby Force and establishing the Maritime Zones. The commissioner also welcomed the incoming CCDS chairman, Admiral Mathew Quashie of Ghana.

Opening the meeting, Benjamin Kubuor, Ghana’s minister of defence, described the Ebola menace as “a very worrying situation that requires the collective efforts of all. It is for the this reason,” he said, “that the chair of ECOWAS, H.E John Dramani Mahama, the President of Ghana, has made Accra, Ghana, the distribution point for the supply of Ebola Support in the sub-region,” adding: “it is for you service heads to also use this forum to discuss how you can assist the civilian population to strategise towards stemming the spread of this virus.” The minister expressed profound appreciation to the World Health Organisation, WHO, and other partners for their support in the handling of the Ebola epidemic.

Handing over the mantle of CCDS leadership to Admiral Quashie, Bakayoko thanked the regional Heads of State and Government, the ECOWAS Commission, development partners including the UN, African Union, EU, France, the US, and his peers for their support during his tenure.

Gen. Bakayoko explained that in tackling the region’s security challenges in the last two years, including the crises in Mali and Guinea Bissau, the CCDS held a total of 14 extra-ordinary and two ordinary sessions. The key lessons of his mandate, he said, included leveraging the importance of an active and effective CCDS, respect for the sovereignty of member states and their peoples and the centrality of solidarity among the member states.

He cited Boko Haram and the Ebola epidemic among the threats still facing the region that require the intervention of the CCDS acting in collaboration with other segments of the society to achieve a peaceful and stable environment for regional integration and development.

Characterising the Ebola scourge “as a worrying security threat in the region,” Admiral Quashie said “we will also not lose sight of the Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb ,AQIM,” and the Boko Haram disturbances.” He also said the issue of piracy along the region’s coast lines “requires effective collaboration and management by all stakeholders.”

During the opening ceremony of the three-day meeting, Nigeria’s Gen. Hassan Mamman Lai, the first and outgoing chief of staff of the ECOWAS Standby Force, ESF, was decorated with a Medal of Honour and presented with a plaque for distinguished and meritorious service to the Community for the past seven years. Under the theme “Strengthening ECOWAS Military Cooperation for Peace, Stability and Development,” the meeting reviewed the general security situation in the region with the purpose of determining adequate responses.

Meanwhile, a meeting of Naval Chiefs of Staff of four Member States – Benin, Niger, Nigeria and Togo – was also taking place on the margins of the CCDS session to discuss the operationalisation of the Maritime Model Zone E. An Inter-regional Maritime Coordinating Centre was to be inaugurated in Yaoundé, Cameroon, on September 11,  2014, in line with decisions by ECOWAS and the Economic Community of Central African States, ECCAS, Heads of State, at their Joint Summit last June as part of efforts to combat piracy and other crimes in the region.

— Sep. 22, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT

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