Quattara to become new ECOWAS boss
BESIDES the glaring need for urgent reforms of the institutions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the chairman of the sub-regional group’s heads of state and governments President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday called for cohesiveness among member states so that collective decisions are not subverted by parochial interests which may in turn haunt the community in the long run.
At the opening of the 40th ordinary session of the summit of the ECOWAS heads of state yesterday in Abuja, the Nigerian leader said while the reforms were necessary in order to “enhance capacity and improve transparency”, cohesiveness by member states would ensure that leverage to swing votes is retained in West Africa being the Regional Economic Community (REC) on the continent with the highest number of countries.
But President Jonathan was only amplifying a position made on Wednesday by the Chairman of the ECOWAS Council of Ministers and Nigeria’s Foreign Minister Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru at the 29th ministerial meeting of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council which preceded yesterday’s meeting of the heads of states.
“It had long been coming. But no one knew exactly when Nigeria would start in earnest to invoke the principle of reciprocity in its dealings with the rest of the international community, particularly within the last couple of years where it all seemed that the country’s benevolence and big brother posturing in leadership was being rewarded by big pebbles and institutional subversion,” he said.
Nigeria took advantage of the ministerial meeting to send what was hailed yesterday by diplomatic watchers as “appropriate signal” of Nigeria’s new line of thinking with regard to reciprocity.
Ashiru had said: “Disunity and breaking of ranks in the last minute will wreck havoc and affect collective efforts at regional integration, negatively. Those who do not adhere to the principle of collective responsibility and working together should not be surprised when we deny them solidarity when they need it most.”
In his valedictory address to heads of state and governments of the sub-region, the diplomatic community as well as representatives of regional and global bodies, President Jonathan made references to the just concluded African Union (AU) summit where West Africa’s collective resolve on who becomes the chairperson of the (AU) commission was broken in the end by some countries who took positions that were diametrically opposed to Nigeria’s, despite an earlier West African consensus and while he (Jonathan), until yesterday, was the chairman of ECOWAS.
Acknowledging the success stories in the integration efforts, the president listed what he called serious challenges in the Sahel Region, Gulf of Guinea and Guinea Bissau.
“Equally important to mention is the rising scourge of terrorism which now threatens the peace and security of our sub-region. In the Sahel Region, we have witnessed a proliferation of small arms and light weapons, now even more accentuated in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. As a result, countries in the region are threatened by insurgents and terrorists with dire consequences for the peace, stability and prosperity of the sub-region,” he added.
President of the ECOWAS Commission Ambassador Victor Gbeho urged the leaders not to allow modest achievements in the area of security to lure the community into compliance.
The Guardian learnt yesterday that president Alhassane Ouattara of Cote D’Ivoire has been endorsed by a majority of countries including Nigeria as the new ECOWAS chairman.