The 5th meeting of the ECOWAS Defence and Security Commission opened in Accra on Tuesday, 4th March 2003 with an appeal for the timely resolution of the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire and neighbouring Liberia where the government is battling rebels of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD).
The ECOWAS Deputy Executive Secretary for Political Affairs, Defence and Security, Gen. Cheick Diarra told the two-day meeting that the LURD rebellion has exacerbated the tension in the region and that measures needed to be taken to forestall the deterioration of the situation prior to elections due later this year.
He told the Commission, comprising Chiefs of Defence Staff of Member States that some 90% of the ECOWAS force for Côte d'Ivoire has been deployed.
In his speech, the incoming Chairman of the Defence Commission, Ghana's Chief of Defence Staff General Seth Obeng called for "commitment" by Member States in the effort to ensure the resolution of the crisis in Cote d'Ivoire because of the potential consequences for the region.
"We cannot lose sight of the fact that the problem is not only an Ivorian one, but has the potential danger of spreading to other parts of the sub-region, with all its unpalatable repercussions, if not handled well," he told the meeting
Gen. Obeng, who took over at the meeting as Chairman of the Commission, told his colleagues that the meeting would review the situation in that country and discuss how to strengthen the relationship among the forces tasked to maintain peace and security in Côte d'Ivoire.
An ECOWAS force, complemented by French troops, are monitoring the 17th October 2002 agreement for the cessation of hostilities as well as protecting observers and humanitarian agencies.
Describing the crisis as the major problem confronting ECOWAS and the Commission, Gen. Obeng therefore stressed the need to provide "every support to the Force Commander, his allied Force and all allied forces operating with him" to enable them implement their mandate.
The outgoing chairman, Gen. Babacar Gaye, the Chief of Defence Staff of the Senegalese armed forces said that the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire has enabled the region to make progress on the implementation of its programme for the creation of standby units within the armed forces of Member States.
Under the ECOWAS Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, the composite units, comprising civilian and military components, should be ready for immediate deployment in response to crisis situations.
Gen. Gaye also said the situation in Côte d'Ivoire has reinforced the need for better planning and for a peacekeeping fund that would facilitate timely deployment of ECOWAS troops.
The Commission, one of the organs of the Mediation and Security Council, has the responsibility to formulate the mandate of the regional peacekeeping force, determine its terms of reference, nominate the force commander and determine the size of the contingents.
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