ECOWAS, ECCAS meet in April to discuss Boko Haram insurgency

Graphic1A JOINT summit is to be held between April 7 and 8 between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), to define a common strategy in the fight against the Boko Haram terrorist group.

The high-level summit, which will take place at a yet-to-be decided Central African nation, will be preceded by a meeting of experts on March 21 and a Ministerial meeting on March 23.

It will also deliberate on a framework for economic cooperation between the two sub-regional blocs.

These came to light yesterday, following talks between President John Mahama, who chairs the ECOWAS and the Chadian President, General Idriss Deby Itno, who heads the ECCAS, at the Peduase Lodge.

The meeting between the two sub-regional leaders was a follow-up to last month’s meeting in Accra between President Mahama, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago of Equatorial Guinea and President Dennis Sassou-N’Guesso of Congo concerning the AU-sanctioned Multi-National Joint Task Force on Boko Haram.

It comes against the backdrop of a consensus reached between the two economic communities to the effect that no nation can single-handedly neutralize the Boko Haram insurrection, whose marauding activities threaten not only the economic survival of Nigeria, Cameroun and Chad, where they are currently active, but Africa as a whole.

Addressing the media after their closed-door meeting, President Mahama described their engagement as an “historic meeting” between two sub-regional blocs, who were bent on tackling their common security threats and forging a potent economic alliance.

He commended the Chadian government for committing troops to help in bringing stability to Northern Mali when the Tuareg rebels struck that country, and also for its current support in quelling the Boko Haram insurgency.

President Mahama said the ECOWAS-ECCAS summit would take place in a Central African country between April 7 and 8 this year.

He said their discussions also highlighted the need to forge closer bilateral ties between Ghana and Chad.

Consequently, President Mahama said the foreign ministers of the two countries had agreed to explore the establishment of a Joint Permanent Commission for Cooperation.

Mr. Mahama noted that there were more than 3,000 Chadian students studying at various tertiary institutions in the country.

He announced that the government had agreed to offer that country a parcel of land to build an accommodation facility for the students.

On his part, President Deby welcomed efforts being made by ECOWAS and ECCAS to address common security challenges and to deepen economic cooperation.

He called for the total support and understanding of the international community towards the activities of the Multi-National Joint Task Force.

President Deby also stressed the need for member states of ECOWAS and ECCAS to reinforce surveillance In their respective territories, sensitise their nationals, reduce risks of infiltration of Boko Haram members inside their national borders, and work to eradicate supplies network of the insurgents.

He agreed that no nation could single-handedly and effectively confront the threat posed by Boko Haram, and underscored the necessity for the pooling of resources to deal with the threat, which could spill-over to other African countries if not dealt with swiftly.

“At the summit, we will also look at a framework for cooperation in the economic sphere between the two sub-regions,” he stated.

On the allocation of a land to construct a hostel for students from Chad, he said work would commence “within the next few months.”

At their last meeting in Yaounde, Cameroun in February, ECCAS Heads of State and Government mandated the two Presidents, Mbasogo and Sassou-N’Guesso to discuss further strategies and common issues with the Chair of the ECOWAS Authority and with President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria.

At that meeting, the attendees pledged to “actively support” member states combating the Boko Haram threat, notably by offering military assistance, financial, logistical and humanitarian aid.

Member nations Cameroon and Chad have already been directly affected by the bloody jihadist insurgency, which is estimated to have claimed 13,000 lives since the Boko Haram sect launched its uprising in 2009.

Nigeria, where elections have been postponed by six weeks until late March because of Boko Haram activity in swathes of the northeast, was absent from the talks since it is not an ECCAS member.

Ahead of the planned deployment of a Multi-National Joint Force to deal with the Boko Haram threat, Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria have formed a military alliance to combat the notoriously brutal militants, who are fighting to create a hardline Islamic state.

Boko Haram, which literally means Western education is a curse, is bent on establishing a caliphate in Northern Nigeria and has recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), another terrorist group causing mayhem in the Middle East.

Their ruthless activities are a cause for concern among AU member countries, which recognizes that it is through joint efforts and the pooling of resources that can annihilate the terrorists.

From: Samuel Nuamah, Peduase Lodge.

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