This is a speech delivered by the Gambia’s President Adama Barrow on the Fifty-Seventh (57th) Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States. The Statement was delivered at Niamey, the Republic of Niger on 7th September 2020.
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I extend sincere appreciation to the Chairman, His Excellency, Mr. Mahammadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of Niger for hosting this significant Summit.
By the same token, I thank His Excellency, President Issoufou for the leadership he has demonstrated and the vigour with which he tirelessly coordinated the mediation efforts in the Republic of Mali during these past weeks.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our sub-region still faces political and security threats, including electoral issues and their negative impact on efforts to sustain an enabling environment for development. This calls for urgent attention and engagement with our partners to find durable solutions to such persistent challenges.
Having said this, I appreciate the efforts undertaken by the ECOWAS Commission and its partners in curbing terrorism in West Africa, especially in the Sahel Saharan Region and the Lake Chad Basin.
We should all endeavour to ensure that the concrete steps proposed during our last assembly in Abuja are implemented to the fullest through collaboration and, of course, the support of our development partners.
On the situation in Mali, I join everyone in applauding the ECOWAS Mediation team headed by His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for the position taken to broker dialogue and foster a lasting solution to the impasse in the Republic of Mali.
Having reviewed and taken decisions on the situation in Mali, in line with ECOWAS protocols relevant to Democracy and Good Governance, the Community needs to ensure that the transition programme is followed as stipulated and that, at the end of the process, the country successfully returns to normal constitutional order.
Our presence here in Niamey for this Fifty-seventh (57th) Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government provides us with a platform to discuss matters relevant to the development of our sub-region and the safety and wellbeing of our peoples.
In The Gambia, in pursuance of establishing peace and security for development, my Government, with the assistance of ECOWAS and other partners, has embarked upon a robust security sector reform, aimed at bringing the security services fully under civilian democratic control. We are ensuring that our human resource and structures are appropriate for the country’s national security needs, and that the men and women in the armed and uniformed services play a meaningful and positive role in national development. The African Union and other partners have provided expertise to help us restructure the security architecture.
On the other hand, this august body has mandated ECOMIG to execute a stabilisation mission in The Gambia. Their mandate has been extended periodically, thus guaranteeing the stability needed for the Government to undertake meaningful inclusive socio-economic development for all Gambians.
I seize this opportunity, therefore, to express my Government’s satisfaction with the ECOWAS Peace Support Operations in the sub-region, which focuses on operations within agreed terms of engagement.
With profound appreciation, I thank all Member States and the Commission for the smooth operations of ECOMIG in our country. However, the current mandate of this contingent has reached its expiration period.
Given the reforms underway and the need to protect the fragile democracy in The Gambia, I avail myself this privilege to request for the extension of the mandate of ECOMIG in The Gambia. It should be noted that our Security Sector Reform is at an advanced stage and, for the first time, an audit exercise has been conducted in the army and a policy developed.
The reform process remains sensitive, noting that the previous government had molded the security apparatus of the country to serve as a repressive mechanism.
As such, a range of uncertainties, including right sizing and profiling the Armed Forces, matters of disarmament and demobilisation of troops remain complicated matters to address. As the reform process is ongoing, Government and its partners need to work with caution in order to complete the process successfully.
For these reasons, the presence of ECOMIG in the country will be a stabilising factor, while providing, at the same time, the required capacity building support for the viable implementation of the sector reforms.
I will conclude by encouraging all of us to collaborate more closely for the advancement of our sub-region and for the wellbeing and development of our peoples.
I thank you for your attention.