By James Butty*
A senior official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said, while Friday’s heads of state summit in Dakar will focus on the region’s economy, it will also take up political and security crises.
This comes as ECOWAS President, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, Wednesday called on the international community to send more troops to Mali in the wake of a recent upsurge of attacks by Islamist insurgents.
Abdel Fatau Musah, ECOWAS director for external relations, said the security situation remains a top concern to the regional body, especially as the country prepares for next month’s legislative elections.
“As you might have gleaned from developments in Mali, the terrorists and extremist groups are regrouping and carrying out sporadic attacks here and there. Meanwhile, MINUSMA (the UN mission in Mali) because of the lack of numbers, lack of sufficient equipment, has not been able to fan out into the north. So, the president was calling on member states of the international community to contribute troops because the bulk of the troops in Mali are all from West Africa,” he said.
Fatau Musah said, by the end of July, MINUSMA had a little over 6,000 troops, but that was reduced after Nigerian and some Chadian troops withdrew.
He said ECOWAS President Ouedraogo’s appeal Wednesday was for West African countries to boost their contingents already in Mali in terms of equipment.
Fatau Musah said ECOWAS leaders are very conscious of Mali being the epicenter of global terrorist activities, especially when the country still has what he called “unfinished business”.
“As far as ECOWAS is concerned, there [is] still unfinished business. Mali is facing legislative election in November and that cannot take place if the north slides back into outright violence,” Musah said.
He said the Dakar meeting will focus mainly on economic issues, including the finalization of the Common External Tariff, the Community Integration Levy and the Economic Partnership Agreement between West Africa and the European Union.
But, Fatau Musah said the regional bloc cannot close its eyes to security and political issues that have emerged since the decision was made to hold the summit.
“It will definitely touch on the worsening situation in the north of Mali; it will talk about the post-electoral dispute in Guinea, and we are also going to talk about the disturbing developments in Guinea-Bissau on the approach of the presidential and legislative elections scheduled for later in November,” he said.