Liberia’s Ambassador to Nigeria and Permanent Representative to ECOWAS, Prof. Al-Hassan Conteh has outlined the priorities of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as the current Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
According to a dispatch from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja, the Liberian envoy re-echoed the President’s priorities in a four-point agenda, drawn from her acceptance speech the President delivered after being elected on a white ballot as the new chairperson of ECOWAS at the 49th Ordinary Summit of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in Dakar, Senegal on June 4, 2016. As the current Chair of the Permanent Representatives of Member States of ECOWAS, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and ECOWAS invited the Liberian envoy to preside at the ECOWAS-ICRC Annual Review Meeting on the Implementation of International Humanitarian Law Treaties in West Africa. A five-man Liberian delegation is attending the meeting which opened on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 and is ending on Friday, July 1, 2016. They include Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo, Senate Chair on Defense and Security; Gbarpolu County Representative Alfred G. Koiwood, House Chair on Security; Attorney Reuben C. Sirleaf, Legal Counsel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Commissioner Benoni Knuckles of the Liberia National Commission on Small Arms, and Mr. Charles G. Kpan, Deputy Director of ICRC-Liberia. Ambassador Conteh, in his opening remarks on Tuesday, stated that President Sirleaf prioritized the Four-Point Agenda within the context of ECOWAS Vision 2020 and the ongoing implementation of the Strategic Plan of the Community. According to the dispatch, he explained that the priorities focus on progress that could be consolidated during 2016 and 2017 and were done in consultation with the Authority of Heads of State and Government and through cooperation and collaboration with ECOWAS institutions and the support of development partners and other stakeholders. He named them as Consolidating the Region’s Peace And Security Architecture, Concluding Negotiations and Legal Actions To Enhance Trade Integration, Achieving Transformation of ECOWAS Vision 2020 Through Agriculture and Infrastructure and Financial Stability of the Community Institutions. “The outcome of this Annual Meeting will be very central to this Agenda, especially the one concerning the ratification and domestication of ECOWAS Protocols and other treaties for the enhancement of regional peace and security architecture”, Ambassador Conteh stated. He also disclosed that Liberia is on the verge of ratifying the Kampala Convention which is now before the National Legislature. The Liberian Ambassador also chaired the sessions on Internal Displacement and the AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance to IDPs in Africa (Kampala Convention) and Private Military Companies and Security Sector Reform. At the same time, Mr. Karl Anton Mattli, Head of Delegation, ICRC-Nigeria, in his opening statement reminded participants that with two ongoing non-international armed conflicts in the sub-region, it is critically important that the ECOWAS Commission and the ICRC continue to support ECOWAS Member States in taking steps to domesticate and implement IHL treaties. Also, a statement from the ECOWAS Commissioner on Social Affairs and Gender, Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow, revealed that ECOWAS has fruitfully collaborated with the ICRC in the pursuit of its common agenda in instituting respect for the rule of the laws in West Africa. The Annual Review Meeting on the promotion of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Implementation in West Africa is a joint collaboration between the ICRC and the ECOWAS Commission. Based on the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two organizations in 2001 and the adoption by ECOWAS of the Plan of Action for Implementation of International Humanitarian Law in 2012, the objective of the Annual meeting has been the review of implementation by Member States of the ECOWAS Plan of Action on Implementation of IHL (focused on key IHL-related treaties), and provision of technical support for their implementation within ECOWAS Member States. The Annual Meeting has also served as a platform for participants and experts from ECOWAS Member States to network and exchange views and experiences on contemporary IHL issues of concern and humanitarian challenges in the region.