What They Want

The ECOWAS generals meet
The ECOWAS generals meet

ECOWAS leaders prefer that the commander of the United Nations Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali should come to the region

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Jun. 3, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

ALTHOUGH leaders in the West African region are basking in the progress made in checking terrorists’ activities in Mali, they are more interested in who commands the coalition forces which routed the terrorists. The African-led International Support Force in Mali, AFISMA, is to be transformed into a UN Mission on July 1, 2013. The transformation is in line with the UN Security Council Resolution 2100 on April 25.

Cross-section of ECOWAS generals at the meeting
Cross-section of ECOWAS generals at the meeting

The leaders of the Economic Community of West African States want a West African to command the 12,800-strong UN stabilisation force, which is to replace  AFISMA, in recognition of the region’s track record.  The sub-committee of the ECOWAS committee of chiefs of defence staff, CCDS, made this known recently at a two-day meeting in Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire. The estimated 6,000 AFISMA force is scheduled to transform into a UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali, MINUSMA.

After the meeting on the modalities for the transformation, the seven-member CCDS sub-committee noted that the region’s armed forces have discharged themselves creditably in various crises in the region and will repeat the same success with AFISMA/MINUSMA. It urged the ECOWAS Commission to continue the ongoing discussions with the African Union and the UN on the selection of the commander of the force for which the UN is believed to have approached 11 countries within and outside the region to nominate candidates to head the force.

Ouédraogo
Ouédraogo

The sub-committee also proposed that the next ordinary session of the CCDS be held in Accra, Ghana for two days from June 28. The meeting will hold a day after the command’s post-exercise to be hosted at the Kofi Annan Centre for Peacekeeping. General Bakayoko, in his closing remarks, also praised his colleagues for their quality deliberations which, he said, had contributed to concrete recommendations on the transformation of AFISMA and the deployment of regional troops in Guinea Bissau.

He expressed optimism that the outcome of the meeting would contribute to the effective transformation of AFISMA, the restoration of normality to Mali and the restoration of peace and stability to Guinea Bissau where some 670 regional troops were deployed last year, to assist with defence and security sector reform.

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

The sub-committee also agreed to send a delegation on behalf of the CCDS to commiserate with the President and the armed forces of Niger over the death of Brigadier General Yaye Garba, the country’s deputy force commander of AFISMA, who died recently. The dispatch of the delegation is important in the “spirit of regional solidarity and because we have become the same family now,” said General Soumaila Bakayoko, chair of the CCDS. He said the death should not dampen the resolve of the regional forces and the region, but “strengthen us in our determination to ensure that AFISMA achieves its mandate.”

Members of the CCDS sub-committee are drawn from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire which chairs it.

Prior to the meeting, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo,  president of the ECOWAS Commission, said ECOWAS and the international community have made irreversible progress in Mali by freeing the north of the country from the grip of terrorists and securing its territorial integrity. According to him, “things are moving well,” with the terrorists now overrun to the point that they will no longer be able to regroup, thanks to the intervention by France and the international community.

He also lauded ECOWAS’ troops contributing member states as well as Chad, the African Union, UN and other partners for supporting the regional initiative by raising the African-led International Support Mission in Mali.

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