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April 20, 2024
You are currently viewing W/Africa under clear, present danger of terrorism – ECOWAS
The President of ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Toure

W/Africa under clear, present danger of terrorism – ECOWAS

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By Mark Longyen

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says member countries are currently facing a clear and present danger in the form of transnational terrorism.

Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, said this at a news conference in Abuja on Friday.

“Initially confined to certain countries in the Sahel (Mali and Niger) and the Lake Chad Basin (Nigeria), terrorist attacks have multiplied and spread to other countries (Burkina Faso and Mali) and are now a real threat to coastal countries (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo).

“The number of fatalities, those maimed, displaced, and those who have lost livelihoods and educational opportunities has been the subject of conflicting figures.

“Yet all the figures are indicative of the pain and suffering that insecurity continues to inflict on the people, particularly in the Sahelian member states,’ he said.

Reeling out statistics to that effect, Musah said in 2023, for instance, more than 3,500 incidents of terror attacks were recorded in the ECOWAS region, including close to 2,000 in Burkina Faso; more than 1,044 in Mali; and 500 in Niger Republic.

According to the commissioner, these incidents have resulted in close to 9,000 fatalities, including 7,000 in the three Sahelian countries – Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger Republic.

Musah observed that terrorist attacks in the coastal region included 177 in Benin Republic and Togo which recorded 203 deaths.

He said the attacks left in their trails debilitating effects on human lives with dire humanitarian crises.

“In just the three ECOWAS Sahelian Countries a total of 4.8 million people faced food insecurity, 2.4 million people were internally displaced and close to 9000 schools remained closed.

“A disaggregation of the data shows that Burkina Faso had the highest number of food-insecure people – close to 2.2 million; followed by Niger with 1.9 million and Mali about 800, 000.

“Burkina Faso also accounts for the largest number of internally displaced people – about 2 million, while Mali and Niger each have close to half a million displaced persons.

“The number of schools closed stood at 6,000 in Burkina Faso, 1,700 in Mali and 1000 in Niger,” he said.

The commissioner, however, said that the sub-regional bloc had taken measures to curb acts of terror and stem the tide of humanitarian hardship which they had wreaked on the people.

He added that due to the transnational nature of terrorism threats, the bloc has initiated multilateral efforts within the framework of existing regional and continental mechanisms or through the creation of ad-hoc arrangements.

In addition, he said, partner states and institutions have also launched some initiatives aimed at contributing to the fight against terrorism.

“In addition to ECOWAS own Counter-terrorism initiatives, there have been multiple other initiatives in the region, including the Multinational Joint Task Force of the Lake Chad basin Commission (MNJTF), Nouakchott Process (AU) and the Accra Initiative.

“These are anchored on intelligence and information sharing, European Union Capacity Building Mission in Niger (EUCAP Sahel Niger), MINUSMA and the G5 Sahel until recently.

“This is why as ECOWAS our proposal is to integrate the various initiatives into the regional Plan of Action and use them as specialised operational tools of the regional mechanism.

“This will facilitate coordination, promote ownership, and enhance inclusion,” he explained.

The commissioner noted that proposals have been made by the Committee of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defense Staff with regard to the deployment of the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) to combat terrorism in a kinetic mode to be funded by the bloc.

“In the coming weeks, the Ministers of Finance and Defence will meet in Abuja to determine the modalities to mobilise resources including for the activation and operations of the Force.

“This Force will operate across the region, in close collaboration with local forces and existing anti-terrorist mechanisms,” he said.

Musah said ECOWAS had already involved third parties to resolve its differences with Mali, Burkina-Faso, and Niger, who had earlier announced their threat to withdraw from the bloc.

According to him, all financial and economic sanctions had been lifted on the three countries, while other measures were being deployed to make them see reasons to remain in ECOWAS.

“There are various engagements also going on, not only by ECOWAS but by third parties and all that in order for all of us to find common ground with these countries.

“We are just waiting for the three member states, who I must repeat, are all important members of ECOWAS.

“And without them, it is going to be more difficult to deal with many of the challenges facing the region.

“You know, terrorism, the whole issue of the Sahel what is happening there, and our collective goal in terms of free movement of people and all that.

“With the sanctions that were imposed, we saw the indirect impact of them on ordinary people who trade across borders,” he said.

Musah maintained that ECOWAS is a listening institution, whose heads of state have given attention to the population and have taken the appropriate measures.

“The ball is now in the court of our member states, that is, the three countries,” he added. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Emmanuel Yashim

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