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ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Meet in Sierra Leone

ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Meet in Sierra Leone

The government of the Republic of Sierra Leone, and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Sierra Leone, His Excellency the President, Ernest Bai Koroma, has made a clarion call on all ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence staff on the 26th Committee of ECOWAS on a consultative conference, held at the Miatta conference hall on the 9th – 11th of December, 2009.  Speaking at the ceremony the Chief of Defence Staff Major General Alfred Claude Nelson-Williams indicated that he is very much enthusiastic of the spirit of cooperation which has promoted peace and stability in the region, and that this is the first time that Sierra Leone has hosted 26th meeting of CDS’ since its formation some five years ago.

In addition he made mention of the civil conflicts in many African regions years back and Sierra Leone was no exception. And that Africa is like a village in which whatever affects one home will have a direct and corresponding effect on the other, therefore the security issues affecting one nation should not be seen as the issues for that nation alone but an issue for the entire sub-region.

He added that, over the years, the committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS member states has proved to be the best forum where most of the political and security issues are resolved.  We shall continue with this resolve to amend political, economic, and social differences within this sub-region, the Chief of Defence Staff intimated, this is a golden opportunity to forge a formidable alliance to defend democratic ideals of good governance, not only in this sub-region but in other parts of Africa and beyond.  He said, this is the time for us to foster strong international cooperation and collaboration to fight and prevent the West African coast from being continuously used as a drug transit point, the proliferation of small arms, human trafficking, and especially piracy at sea, as a prerequisite for development.

He reaffirmed that piracy at sea is not so apparent in West Africa but if we take steps to fight it and put modalities in place to nip it in the bud it will enhance the safety of ships in high seas in the region.  The chairman of the occasion , the Chief of Defence Staff Air Chief Marshal, Paul Dike of Nigeria; in his statement gave a clear cut message about the threats to national and regional stability in West Africa remain deeply rooted in the political, social, and economic factors.  He said the complexity of the threats demands proffer solutions and that we are faced with so many challenges in the sustenance of peace and security in the sub-region. Chief Dike said through the instrumentation of the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF), we have managed to put in place a regional security outfit which would hopefully, be employed in the role of stabilizing conflict-prone areas within the region, and that the ESF must however be adequately staffed, trained and equipped to be capable of actualizing the vision we hope to achieve. He indicated that democracy is the only acceptable form of governance.

The Honourable Vice President, Alhaji chief Sam Sumana said the government hard worked tenaciously to improve internal security and good governance practices and that there are challenges which need to be addressed. The political unrest in some member states need an urgent address like Guinea and our efforts to consolidate sustainable peace, give credence to the convening of this forum.  In his key note address he said sacrifices have been made to bring our sub-region to where we are today in accountability as a basic principle of good governance and civil military relationship, and that the intrinsic roles of the armed forces in any democracy need to be appreciated by all sectors of society.  He added, that the civilian population and those who bear arms in the defence of state, must be in relationship of trust and responsibility’ and such sector performing its own roles to the best of its ability for the good of all and the progress the nation.

The vice president said the government places more emphasis on human rights, democracy and good governance, and that the basic tenets for the law, justice, and sustainable peace. can only be sustained where the citizens exercise their inalienable rights to decide who should govern at any given time and to hold them accountable for their stewardship.  Moreover, when we talk about peace, we are doing so from our recent experience of instability manifested by the eleven years of rebel war. Adding that experience is the best teacher, as we have been bitterly taught that no matter what circumstances that may confront us, it is bitter to abide by the rule of law than to the officers and men of ECOMOG and the UN peace keepers from Africa and other parts of the world who have sacrificed to ensure that Sierra Leone is peaceful  

As we grapple against external aggression and internal unrest we are now confronted with a new challenge as is the cartels dealing in the international drug trade have resorted to using our sub regions as a transit for the worldwide illegal trade.  This situation encourages crime rates, human trafficking, gun-running and lawlessness across our region, and more importantly we are obliged to combat these vices through a robust ECOWAS standby force with a rapid response capability.  To sum up, the vice president said, it would be in my duty here today, if I do not specifically draw the attention of this forum to the unfolding situation in the republic of Guinea, a member of the Mano River Union within the ECOWAS community.  We are concerned about development in Guinea Sierra Leone and Guinea share many things in common and that our borders are very porous, and that our relationship is like the eye and the nose; what affects the eyes must cause the nose to run, we therefore entrust this forum to take this situation into consideration so that expert devices will be proffered for attention of the ECOWAS defence and security commission and the ECOWAS summit.

Mr. Mohamed  Ibn Chambers, president of the ECOWAS commission, and the representative of ECOWAS Political Affairs, Peace and Security said they are committed to the erection of the Lungi, ECOWAS logistic forum administration of the head quarter agreement, whose signature will pave the way for laying of the foundation stone.  ECOWAS has indicated a budget of $2,500,000 for the project in 2010.  He said they are committed to see that these things are to be in Sierra Leone because of their peaceful nature.

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