Security challenges in Sahel undermining ECOWAS Region’s development – Botchwey
The security and economic challenges in the Sahel are impeding the socio-economic development of the ECOWAS Region, Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, has stated.
These challenges, she said, had been exacerbated by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which had taken over the attention and resources of both international and domestic actors, resulting in violent extremists exploiting the situation.
Madam Ayorkor Botchwey said this in her remarks during the maiden meeting of the International Coalition for the Sahel.
France hosted the meeting, which was held virtually.
At the Summit in Pau (France) held on 13th January, a decision was taken to launch an international coalition at the request of Sahel countries.
The main purpose of the meeting was, therefore, to finalise the rules of organisation and operation and to adopt common objectives and commitments.
Madam Ayorkor Botchwey noted that terrorism and acts perpetrated by violent extremists in the Sahel-Saharan region had become trans-border threats, with the potential to spread to the coastal states in West Africa.
“The acts of terrorism had, unfortunately, had assumed worrisome proportions over the past several months,” she said.
ECOWAS, consequently, had launched the 2020 – 2024 Action Plan to end terrorism in the region, with a general framework, a strategy, a funding mechanism and priority areas to maintain the momentum in the fight against terrorism, she said.
Enduring security and development issues, which concerned humanitarian actions and human rights, as well as resilient institutions and good governance, she said, called for integrated and multi-sectoral solutions.
The Minister noted, however, that the uncoordinated and unstructured operations of multiple actors with different interests within the Region, had not promoted their efforts to achieve set goals.
“The Summit in Pau would, therefore, go down in history as ground-breaking only when all members of the Coalition committed themselves to the rules and collaborated with the Sahel countries, ECOWAS and the African Union,” she said.
“At the same time, we should keep in mind that the solution must be a regional one and that the problem needs not be made complex by outside forces”.
“It is Ghana’s conviction that the rules of engagement and operations that we have finalised today, will help us to effectively and holistically deal with the security, economic, development and environmental challenges that confront the Sahel and nearby countries.”
The Sahel, with vast unoccupied land, stretches from Senegal on the Atlantic coast, through parts of Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Sudan to Eritrea on the Red Sea coast.
The region suffers from ethno-religious tensions, political instability, poverty and natural disasters, anti-state rebellions, and arms, drugs and human trafficking.