A meeting of West Africa defence chiefs has opened in the Guinean capital, Conakry, with the country’s Prime Minister, Mr. Ahmed Tidiane Souare, praising the professionalism and dedication of the region’s armed forces, which contributed to the prevailing atmosphere of peace and security in the region.
According to a statement from the ECOWAS Commission, the Prime Minister also acknowledged the complementary role of the increasing commitment of member states to human rights and dialogue.
He said that the improving security situation had contributed to reducing the proliferation of arms in the region, further helping to consolidate regional peace and security.
Souare urged the meeting, the last statutory meeting of the chiefs for 2008, to focus on strategies for consolidating peace and concord in the region so as to provide an atmosphere conducive for the harmonious development of the region and its peoples.
Earlier, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Col. Mahamane Toure, urged the region’s security agencies to commit themselves to the defence of democracy, peace and security.
While the region is enjoying the return of peace and security in the region, the Commissioner said new security challenges had emerged in the form of narcotics, trafficking in persons and small arms.
He warned of the dangers to the society by the trafficking in drugs and the income from such sources, pointing out that this has been compounded in Guinea Bissau by the outbreak of cholera.
Col. Toure also briefed the chiefs on the efforts by the ECOWAS Commission to secure enough ratifications to ensure the implementation of the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons to check the proliferation of such arms in the region.
He said that six of the required eight ratifications had been secured and urged the chiefs to further assist in the campaign for ratification.
The two-day meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, one of the ECOWAS instruments for promoting regional peace and security, will among others agree on an information and communication strategy for the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) and the restructuring of the logistic depot in Sierra Leone.
The restructuring will involve its re-designation as an ECOWAS Logistic Facility and as a unit under the ECOWAS Department of Peacekeeping and Security.In addition, it will be managed by professional staff who will be headed by a manager. The meeting will also discuss a proposal for a US$3 million logistic field training exercise in 2009 for the ESF to test the logistic capacity of the force for peace support operations.
During the meeting, the Chiefs will participate in some of the activities to mark the 50th anniversary of Guinea and the creation of its armed forces.