The 46th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, ended in Abuja, Nigeria on Monday evening, with the leaders resolving to tackle the growing instability and the Ebola scourge in the sub-region.
The leaders also committed to deepen democracy and good governance, and to make West Africa an investment destination, to ensure the prosperity of the region and its people.
ECOWAS Chairman, President John Dramani Mahama, who closed the one-day summit, said he and his colleagues had had quality deliberations during the meeting.
He said they (Heads of States) urged the five countries scheduled to hold elections in 2015- Nigeria, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso, to deepen democracy by ensuring free, fair and credible elections.
The Authority decided not to elect a new Chairman, and mandated President Mahama to continue as the ECOWAS Chairman. He will serve in that capacity till the Authority’s next Ordinary Session to be held in Abuja on May 20, next year.
President Mahama, at the opening of the Summit, called for intensified efforts to rid the sub-region of threats to cohesion and stability.
He urged sub-regional institutions and development partners, to scale up support for interventions aimed at strengthening democratic governance, peace and security and economic development in West Africa.
The Summit reviewed the work of the Authority in 2014, and interventions needed to ensure stability in the Economic Bloc. High on the agenda of the Abuja meeting was the issue of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) that has ravaged parts of West Africa.
President Mahama called for concerted efforts to scale down the effects of the EVD, because the backlash from the three most affected countries could have undesirable consequence for the rest of the region.
”We have acknowledged that Ebola is a threat to our regional integration process and to our regional peace, security and economic development.
“So we have resolved to eradicate Ebola in our sub-region at our recent Extraordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government held in Accra on November 6,” he said.
President Mahama acknowledged that even though interventions to curb the spread of the EVD had been relatively progressive in Liberia and Guinea, the situation in Sierra Leone was a source of concern.
“Let me caution that Ebola is still a very serious challenge, and we cannot entertain complacency, or relent in our efforts until the last infected person is cured of Ebola, and the disease is wiped out from our affected nations.
“I wish therefore, to urge all of us to keep our hands firmly on deck, sparing no efforts and staying vigilant until we eradicate Ebola from our communities.
“I am more than confident that Ebola will be defeated….We shall overcome,” he said.
Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, and host of the Summit, urged regional leaders and development partners, to contribute more to the ECOWAS Solidarity Fund, to enable the region combat the EVD effectively.
He said though the region had made considerable achievements in the areas of economic growth and democracy, other challenges like the EVD, had taken the shine off these accomplishments.
“While acknowledging that much achievements may have been recorded in the areas of democracy and economic growth, I must also admit that our sub-region continues to face many serious challenges.
‘Prominent among these challenges before us today is the ravaging Ebola epidemic. The last six months have witnessed the negative impact of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) on the region,” President Jonathan said.
On instability and terrorism in the region, President Jonathan urged sturdier regional, continental and global efforts, to purge West Africa of terrorism, piracy and violent extremism.
He said stability in the region would engender confidence in the economies of ECOWAS that would translate into increased investment and prosperity for the people.
None of the Presidents from the three countries ravaged by the Ebola disease attended the summit. But Michel Kafando, the Interim President of Burkina Faso, attended the Abuja meeting held at the Congress Hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel.
The summit also highlighted the launch of the ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) that would create a common market for West Africa.
ECOWAS Commission President, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, also pressed member states to strengthen democracy and to ensure that polls in their respective countries are credible, pledging the Commission’s support to enhance the electoral processes in the states that will hold elections next year.