Her Excellency Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, in her capacity as Chairperson for the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, delivered the opening remarks at the 50th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Summit which held in Abuja, Saturday, December 17, 2016. President Sirleaf was on June 4, 2016 unanimously elected by her colleagues at the 49th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government in the Senegalese capital Dakar.
Below are her full remarks, as delivered:
H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
President of the Republic of Liberia and Chairperson of Authority Of Heads of State & Government, ECOWAS
Distinguished Colleagues of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government;
Your Excellencies Mr. Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament and President of the Community Court;
Your Excellency Mr. President of the ECOWAS Commission;
Your Excellency the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel;
Your Excellencies Ambassadors of Member States accredited to ECOWAS;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Members of the Fourth Estate;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very pleased to welcome you to the 50th Ordinary Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government in Abuja, capital of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and seat of the Headquarters of our regional organization, ECOWAS.
Let me express my gratitude to His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, for the warm hospitality and facilities put at our disposal in support of our visits and our work as current Chair of the Authority. In the same vein, I thank you, Excellencies for your strong support since I took over as Chair of the Authority.
My appreciation also goes to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Marcel Alain de Souza, the Vice President, Mr. Edward Singhartey, for their dedication and commitment, to the Commissioners, and staff of the Commission for the steadfastness in ensuring that ECOWAS continues to enjoy the respect of the international community consistent with our determined efforts to transform our organization from ECOWAS of states to ECOWAS of people.
Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
During a visit December 4-5, 2016, I met with the President, the Vice President and staff of the Commission, the Community Court of Justice, and the ECOWAS Parliament at their respective places of work here in Abuja. This provided me an opportunity to better understand the internal workings of the Commission and other principal community institutions. I left pleased and encouraged, with deeper insight into the operations of the Commission.
As you may recall at the Dakar Summit, I indicated that institutional reform would be one of the major areas of priority during my tenure as Chair. I can confirm that the President of the Commission is taking firm action to rationalize the structure of the Commission and to contain cost through more efficient financial management and effective use of resources consistent with the current economic situation.
The reform process is driven by the Maxwell Stamp Consultants, who have proposed concrete reform processes to decentralize functions and introduce business like services. This is consistent with our vision of providing services that impact the lives of community citizens.
We commend the decision of the Commission President to embark on Phase 2 of the deliverables of the Maxwell Stamp Report dealing with job classifications and staffing needs.
On security events, we remain very concerns about the Boko Haram recurring attacks in Nigeria and other countries of the Lake Chad Basin. There is equal concern regarding terrorist attacks on civilians and military targets in Mali. The negative impact of these attacks does not take away from the significant progress of President Kieta and his Government in the implementation of the Malian Peace and Reconciliation Agreements.
Moreover, the Chiefs of Defense Staff at recent regional meetings, have formulated strategic security interventions to address these terrorist activities.
Another challenge in the region is the Transhumance security, which has resulted in the loss of lives and negative impact on regional food security.
I am pleased that the Commission has taken the necessary actions to address this challenge from a human security perspective.
In this regard, the Authority expects an integrated approach which will support the Commission’s efforts at deepening Regional Livestock Movement Management Control System, noting that the Nigerian approach to managing its Transhumance challenges is a model that can be shared at bilateral levels with other Member States encountering the same problems.
Excellences, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
We congratulate the sisterly member states of Benin, Niger, Cape Verde and Ghana for their successful conduct of elections and management of the transition processes. We note also the successful referendum held in Cote d’Ivoire and the spirit of national renewal which has been integrated into its body politic.
We applaud the innovation by H.E. President Alpha Conde and the people in the political class of Guinea for embracing the Guinean Political Dialogue Platform, which has deepened inclusiveness and
opened opportunities for the ordinary citizens to be a part of the Guinean governance process.
We are also pleased to note the recent Burkina Faso Donor Conference held in Paris to support the country’s economic recovery program for sustainable growth and development that will benefit the people of Burkina Faso.
Since our last Summit in Dakar, regional progress on peace and security has been undermined by unfolding situations in The Gambia and Guinea Bissau.
With respect to the Gambia, on December 1, the people of the Republic of The Gambia voted decisively for a change in the political leadership of the country by electing the candidate of a seven-party Opposition Coalition. On the same date, the incumbent President conceded to the result of the election and congratulated the elected President. On December 10, the incumbent President rescinded his concession and called for a fresh vote.
In response, on December 13, an ECOWAS Mission which I headed and comprising Presidents John Mahama, Muhammadu Buhari and Ernest Bai Koroma, accompanied by Dr. Mohamed Chambas, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to West Africa and the Sahel, proceeded to Banjul to mediate with the concerned parties toward a resolution that would respect the will of the people.
The Mission was successful in its consultative effort by holding meetings with the President, the President Elect and all the other relevant stakeholders. It is now important that the Authority, at this Summit, considers recommended measures to bring this matter to successful conclusion before January 19, the constituted date when the mandate of the incumbent President expires.
I would like thank President Buhari, President Mahama, President Koroma and Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas for their strong support and commitment and for joining me on the Mission aimed at finding a solution to the political impasse in the Gambia.
With respect to Guinea Bissau, an ECOWAS Ministerial Delegation visited the country on September 5, 2016 and held dialogue with the concerned stakeholders which resulted in a six-point consensus agenda aimed at restoring the democratic process. This was followed by a visit by the ECOWAS Mediator, President Alpha Conde and the President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone who endorsed the agenda.
The Mediator organized a follow up dialogue among all the stakeholders in Conakry October 11-14, which resulted in the signing of the Conakry Agreement by all of the stakeholders.
We commend President Alpha Conde for his extraordinary leadership in guiding the process that concluded with a detailed roadmap for ending the long standing stalemate in Guinea Bissau. However, the expectations for moving ahead for implementing of the Roadmap was not fulfilled. As will be discussed later, decisive action at this Summit is required to bring the situation under control to prevent serious crisis that could lead to violence.
Her Excellency, Marjon Kamara, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Liberia
The recent growth performance of the Community re-enforces the call for urgent structural transformation of our economies and that the quest for industrialization in ECOWAS surely depends on our ability to develop more intra-regional trade. Trade within the Community is very low which currently stands around 12 percent. We need to do more. The success of regional integration rests largely on our collective resolve to fully implement the protocol on free movement of people and goods, particularly the Common External Tariff (CET) and the ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS).
Also, to ensure the smooth and effective implementation of our community development programs, we urge all Member States to timely meet their obligations to the community levy, which is key in financing the work of the Commission and other ECOWAS institutions and specialized agencies.
Our Community has demonstrated the political will and solidarity to respond effectively to emerging regional and global challenges. Our democracies continue to thrive and we remain strong in our quest for economic transformation and regional integration.
I wish all of us a very productive deliberations and I thank you very much for the attention.