The Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President John Dramani Mahama, has made a passionate appeal to his colleague leaders in the West African sub-region to urgently take a serious view of the common challenge of youth unemployment, as the phenomenon pose a security threat.
Opening the 47th Ordinary Session of the sub-regional bloc in Accra yesterday, President Mahama pointed out that the youth bulge in West Africa, offered an opportunity to harness the human resource potential for accelerated growth.
However, he cautioned that if an effective remedy was not found to the challenge of youth unemployment, it had the propensity to unwind the clock of progress being made, as it could breed instability and conflict.
The summit brought together leaders of member countries such as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, Mamadou Youssifo of Niger, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, interim President Michel Kafando of Burkina Faso, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, Senegal’s Macky Sall, Togo’s Faure Gnassingbe, and Allassane Ouattara of La Cote d’Ivoire.
Also in attendance were: the Vice-President of the Gambia, Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy, and the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, Foreign Minister of Guinea, and Minister of Defence of Guinea Bissau.
Among other issues, the summit discussed the 40th anniversary celebration of ECOWAS, the proposed establishment of a Centre for Disease Control vis-à-vis the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease, and a report of the 34th meeting of the Mediation and Security Council.
President Mahama, noted that the issue of youth and jobs was a world-wide phenomenon and underscored the importance of sharing expertise, lessons learned and concerted efforts to tackle unemployment.
He commended Nigeria and Togo for exhibiting democratic maturity and giving meaning to the rule of law following elections in those countries.
Mr. Mahama, particularly, showered praises on out-going President Jonathan for conceding graciously to General Buhari while congratulating Faure Gnassinge for re-securing the mandate of his people.
He was of the belief that the successful polls in the two countries would trigger similar successes in Burkina Faso, Guinea and La Cote d’Ivoire where elections were also scheduled for this year.
Touching on the Ebola disease which had claimed about 11,000 lives, the President noted that huge successes had been recorded with Liberia now Ebola-free but cautioned against complacency until the remaining countries got rid of it.
“With the battle now almost over, we must focus on the post-Ebola challenge,” he said and urged donor partners to write off the debts of the affected countries and to support them to rebuild their economies.
On the Boko Haram menace in parts of Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon, the ECOWAS Chairmen noted some progress being made in confronting the terrorists, following the Nigeria-Niger-Chad-Cameroon joint military campaign.
He, however, noted that the international community could not rest on its oars until the abducted Chibok girls were found and freed.
President Mahama noted that the Boko Haram Islamist insurgents had demonstrated that they could still strike at will and looked forward to the joint ECOWAS-ECCAS (Economic Community of East African States) summit to strategies on means to degrade and neutralize the insurgency.
Focusing on the 40th anniversary of ECOWAS, he observed that since the sub-regional treaty was signed on May 28, 1975, member states had made great strides in democratic governance, movement of people across borders and introduction of trade liberalization schemes.
President Mahama conceded that aside the successes chalked, there were still challenges confronting the sub-region and stressed the need to tackle those challenges head on in the spirit of integration.
Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, president of the ECOWAS Commission, expressed satisfaction that the peace prevailing in Guinea Bissau was being consolidated.
He appealed to countries that made pledges at the donor conference in Brussels on March 25, to redeem those pledges to help in reconstructing Guinea Bissau.
On the Malian crisis, he expressed the hope that all parties would play their part at ensuring that peace and security was entrenched through continuous dialogue.
Mr. Ouedraogo urged all sides to respect the peace accord signed recently between the Malian government and separatists groups in the north of the country.
Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, lauded the concerted efforts by member countries and development partners to stemming the spread of Ebola.
He also lauded Nigeria and Togo for ensuring successful polls and pledged the UN’s support to regional integration.
Dr. Chambas said the UN was ready to support the ECOWAS-ECCAS effort to deal with the threat posed by Boko Haram.
By Samuel Nuamah