Thursday, July 7, 2011

ECOWAS Council of the Wise express concerns on attempts by Heads of States to change Constitutions

More news
  •  Bad leadership affecting the ECOWAS sub-region 
  • Promotion, maintenance of peace and security is paramount - says minister Kolley 
  • ECOWAS Council of the Wise express concerns on attempts by Heads of States to change Constitutions 
  • Democracy is a continually evolving process - Ambassador White 
  • VP calls for genuine public-private partnership 
  • NDEA Denounce Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking

ECOWAS Council of the Wise express concerns on attempts by Heads of States to change Constitutions
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of the Wise has express serious concerns on the attempts by Heads of States of the Member States to change their Constitution in order to remain in office beyond constitutionally permitted time. 
The panel made this statement in their Final Communiqué at the end of a three-day retreat in Banjul under the theme "Towards Consolidating ECOWAS’s Preventive Diplomacy Efforts in the Region” which ended on July 2, 2011.
The Council also express concerns on manipulation of electoral processes and post-electoral crises; upsurge of illicit drug trafficking and terrorism and the situation of refugees and internally-displaced persons in the region.
Only nine of 15 Members of the Council attended the meeting in Banjul. They exchange experience and best practices in recent mediation, conciliation and facilitation work by the Council.  
Also in attendance were the special representatives of the president of the Commission in Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and heads of the zonal Bureaus (Benin, The Gambia and Liberia), as well as the senior officials of the ECOWAS Commission.
They reviewed the political and security situation in the region by way of presentations by the special representatives of the president of the ECOWAS Commission and the Zonal Bureau Chiefs in their respective zones of Jurisdiction.
The different reports underscored the major stakes and challenges as well as the regional responses to the socio-political, governance and security threats in West Africa.
According to the communiqué, the retreat discussed the different forms of cooperation between civil society Organizations and the council of the wise.
In addition, the Retreat shared experiences from some of its members on mediation initiatives in the region and the consolidation of democracy in relation to electoral issues. 
The communiqué pointed out that members of the Council of the Wise particularly expressed grave concerns about the socio-political situation in Senegal which threatens social cohesion in the country.
They urged all the stakeholders to take the path of dialogue and permanent consultation and encouraged the different actors to place the national interest above all other considerations.
In this regard, the panel reiterated the need for the ECOWAS Commission to strengthen the capacity of the council by providing the necessary support to enable it carry out its missions.
To this end, they finalized the Draft Statutes of the Council of the Wise with amendments. This statute clarifies the role and mandate of the council in accordance with Article 20 of the Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security.
They also formulated specific recommendations and requested the ECOWAS commission to take the necessary steps with a view to expediting their implementation in accordance with current priorities.
The communiqué further noted that members of the council commended efforts deployed in consolidating democracy and good governance through the holding of free and fair elections particularly in Guinea, Niger and Nigeria.
In addition, they encourage Member States where elections are due to be held to create the conductive environment for the smooth organization of the electoral process.
The communiqué finally noted that the retreat commended the President of Sierra Leone for steps taken to institutionalise a national dialogue among the various stakeholders on the way forward for the political and socio-economic development of Sierra Leone.

Promotion, maintenance of peace and security is paramount - says minister Kolley
Gambian Minister for Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, Hon. Abdou Kolley has told the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Council of the Wise, that the promotion, maintenance of peace and security is paramount to the development aspirations of any nation.
“Without peace and security, it will be difficult to make any meaningful progress, let alone sustaining it. It for this reason that The Gambia government has embarked on continuous consultation with relevant stakeholders including council of elders, faith leaders and others towards the sustenance of the peace and security which the country is known for,” he said.
Hon. Kolley made this remarks at the opening of a Retreat organised by the ECOWAS Council of the Wise, under the theme “Towards Consolidating ECOWAS’s Preventive Diplomacy Efforts in the Region”, in Banjul on Thursday, June 30, 2011.
He said Gambia’s preoccupation with peace and security stretches far beyond its borders as the country attaches great importance to sub-regional and international approaches to addressing conflicts in affected countries.
He recalled that the initial idea of an ECOWAS peacekeeping mission (ECOMOG) was born in Banjul under the Chairmanship of the country’s former President Alhaji Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara.
According to him,  ECOMOG  was indeed  instrumental  in bringing to an end  the conflict  that ravaged  the Republic of  Liberia  in the 1980s  and early 1990s. The Gambia, under ECOWAS banner, continues to participate in various sub-regional peacekeeping missions to help bring and maintain peace in the sub-region.
Mr. Babou  Ousman Jobe, a Gambian Member of the ECOWAS Council of the Wise  stated  that the Republic of The Gambia  has always demonstrated its  commitment to the case of  African Unity, and has played  an important role  in the evolution of ECOWAS  particularly within  the shapers of Preventive Diplomacy, Regional Integration and Peace and Security.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Brigadier  General Mahamane Toure, said Article 20 of the ECOWAS Protocol relating to the Mechanism  for Conflict  Prevention, Management, Peacekeeping  and Security of 1999 established  the council of the Wise as part of  an innovative way of tackling conflicts and the promotion of good governance in the region.
However, he said in order to pre-empt the outbreak of conflicts and mitigate them where they occur, the Council of the Wise was initiated as one of the logical responses.
“Since it inauguration, the council has not only successfully justified the need for its existence but also played an important role in conflict management, as stipulated in the mechanism. ECOWSA has taken full advantage of the potential of the Council of the Wise potential,” Toure said.
“The retreat is taking place at a critical period of the development of the region and two of the Member States, Guinea Conakry and Niger emerged from a deep crisis, to elect their leaders through a process which was considered by observers as transparent, free and fair.”
He also noted that Burkina-Faso, Benin and Nigeria followed the same path, though they were subjected to some type of challenges. The leaders of Nigeria, Burkina-Faso and Senegal were instrumental to ECOWAS proactive stance in the post-electoral crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, but are themselves subject to some type of destabilization.
Through the application of a “zero tolerance” policy approach to power obtained and maintained by unconstitutional means, ECOWAS has, with the cooperation of the African Union and the United Nations, succeeded in putting pressure on key actors in Guinea Conakry and Niger.
“This decision by national actors to assume responsibility and take action leading to radical positive changes, ultimately created a condition for the restoration of constitutional order,” he concludes. 

Bad leadership affecting the ECOWAS sub-region
“Bad leadership and its attendance ills have adversely affected the region’s efforts to develop to its full potentials and give to her citizens the quality of life they deserve”, said Mr. Shehu Bodinga, Parliamentary Counsel Ministry of Justice of The Gambia
“Other continents of the world engage with emerging rights issues such as environmental, trade, water, fetal, reproductive, and ICT-related, while the region continues to grapple with basic social, political and economic rights for her citizens.”
Mr. Bodinga, said in West Africa, the importance of networking as a strategy for reversing the human rights deficit cannot be underscored.
Speaking at the opening of a regional workshop organised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for National Human Rights Institutions (NNHRI) on June 29, 2011, he said in many states in the region; torture, extra-judicial killings, the lack of access to healthcare, education, and public infrastructure, decent feeding and related rights have been the defining character of our human rights architecture.
“Trafficking in persons, pre-trial detentions, women disempowerment, slavery, media repression, as well as lack of respect for the rule of law and the dictates of our governance institutions are still major issues that have encumbered the development of a human rights culture in the region,” Mr Bodinga outlined.
According to him, violations and abuses of human rights are the root causes of recent crises in the region and are still considered as threatening. Most of these conflicts have created trans-border human rights-related challenges, notable among which is the proliferation of refugees and displaced persons.
He adds: “It appears that most of the National Human Rights Institutions in Member States are ill-equipped to effectively tackle these challenges, while acting in isolation. Beyond the inadequacy of capacity and financial resources available within these institutions, there is also weak political support for their institutionalization, and the barrier created by sovereignty is also an obstacle.”
He stressed that the ideals contained in the African Charter on Human and peoples’ rights and the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance should be capable of contributing to the development of a human rights culture, through the NNHRI.
Speaking earlier, Brigadier General Mahamane Toure, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, ECOWAS Commission, said the occurrence of human rights abuse in the region with particular reference to last week’s development in Senegal, leading to a clampdown on protesting citizens by Security forces in front of the National Assembly, must be condemned.
“To all community citizens who are being victimized in any way in the jails of our regions, because of voicing contradictory opinion or for politically motivated reasons, we recognize their selfless efforts towards the enshrinement of human rights in the region”, he stated. 
He also said the forum contribute significantly towards strengthening regional mechanism for enhancing the protection and promotion of the ordinary community citizens.
He pointed out that the meeting is in furtherance of ECOWAS “Vision 2020” strategic objective which is to facilitate the transformation of the region from a community of States to a Community of the People.
He urged national human rights commissions in the ECOWAS region to have more voice collectively in identifying the best steps to take ensured the observance of principles
“The Community regrets to note that in spite of the relative progress recorded in few Member States, human rights abuses are still being committed by and on behalf of those who have been duly elected with manipulation of the voices of the voiceless, notably through proxies, to promote their partisan interest.
It has also been noted that the lack of political will has hampered the safeguarding of human security in our Member States,” he said.

He disclosed that the National Commission of Inquiry setup by the authorities in Guinea Bissau has not been able to conclude, nor render the result of its investigations into the killing of the late President Bernardo Nino Vieira and his Chief of Staff, Tagme Na Wae.
He stressed that elsewhere; other leaders are still playing the losing game of abusing their citizens through arbitrary arrest and unlawful killings. These gross violations are still done with impunity, without proportionate condemnation or actions to counter or deter them.
According to him, the experience of former President Mamadou Tandja of Niger and former President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote d’Ivoire should serve as deterrence to a few that are still around. “They should know better and learn lessons from these contemporary experiences.”  

Democracy is a continually evolving process - Ambassador White
The Ambassador of the United States of America (USA) to The Gambia, HE Pamela A. White has stated that democracy is a continually evolving process.
She cited the events in the Tunisia, Egypt and other places which have shown that it’s a universal right, and if denied for too, the people will demand for it. "It is a journey fraught with unexpected events and detours and just when we take for granted the liberties, rights and privileges so embedded in democracy, is when we are most vulnerable to lose them," she said on the occasion of the 235th Anniversary of the USA’s Independence celebrated at the Cocoa Ocean Hotel in Banjul on July 1, 2011.
“Today is a day to celebrate the very essence of America - the spirit and freedoms that have defined us as a people for more than two centuries and that have countless others around the world…I want all of you to know that strengthening our ties with The Gambia, on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect, will always be a cornerstone of my foreign policy. Because today, we face challenges that no single country can meet alone, we will only realize the security, prosperity and opportunity that our peoples seek if we recognize the humanity we share and work together in common purpose,” she said.
“As the tables scattered around the room indicate the United States is a nation of immigrants. People come to our shores from every nation on earth for a myriad but all with the goals of seeking a better life for themselves and their families. In landing on our soil they find that they have the right to criticize their adopted country and its leadership - a right denied to most by the countries of their birth.”
Ambassador White noted they have worked to build on the strong relationship the United States has with this country and its people. His Excellency, President Jammeh’s effort to advance the status agriculture development, women and education are well known.
“His constant vigilance against terrorism and drug trafficking are admirable and should be emulated in other African countries. We stand with him in solidarity to better the lives of Gambians and increase the mutual trust, respect and interest between our two countries,” she said. “We stand with him expand our support for the Gambia’s security, and opportunity.”
Gambia’s Minister for Fisheries and Water Resources Mr Lamin Kaba Bajo, who is overseeing the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said the whole world has with time come to recognize July 4 as a symbol of freedom, Liberty, autonomy, sovereignty and self-governance.
“This has remained the bedrock of American existence and foreign policy to this day. It has at many a time been the basis of American intervention in countries such as Iraq coupled with assistance in the health and educational sectors. The multilateral engagements between our countries also remain strong especially at the level of the United Nation,” he said.
“The Gambia holds very dearly to the fraternal ties of friendship and cooperation she enjoys with the United States of America. I would also once again express our profound appreciation for the invaluable support of Your Excellency’s Government and wish you a very happy 235th Independence Anniversary.”

3rd Economic Summit To Speed Up Growth And Employment
VP calls for genuine public-private partnership
The Vice President and Minister of Women Affairs, Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, has called on the public and private sector to build a genuine partnership that would enable the country to face the daunting challenges of socio-economic development.
The Government would continue to encourage active private sector participation in designing policies and programmes and actively participating in the implementation, monitoring and evaluating, she said during the official opening of “Third (3) Economic Summit”.
The Summit, held at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in The Gambia, is organized by the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment in cooperation with the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP), GIPEP and GCCI on the theme: “Developing the Productive Sectors to Accelerate Growth and Employment in The Gambia”.
The summit came at a time when the Government of The Gambia is busy developing a new planning framework, the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment, the PAGE.
This programme focuses on growth and employment and therefore the outcome of this Summit would be a valuable input into the PAGE, Dr. Njie-Saidy observed.
“This forum provides the opportunity to all parties and stakeholders to review the government’s economic development policies and programmes so as to be able to collectively set better goals and strategies to achieve the national Vision,” she noted.
“The importance of productive capacities for economic is evident in the development experience of developing countries which have managed to achieve sustained and substantial poverty reduction over the last 30 years.”
According to her, the hallmark of their policies is that they have consciously sought to promote economic growth and have done so through deliberate policies which have aimed at developing domestic productive capacities.
This involved efforts to promote investment, innovation and structural transformation and increased agricultural productivity, accelerated industrialization and building up of international competitiveness in tradable sectors, have been the basic objectives focusing on real economy targets, she adds. “It is also essential for attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).”
She noted that various reports that analyzed the nature and dynamics of poverty in the least developed countries (LDCs) have argued that the “underdevelopment of productive capacities” is the missing link between the expanding international trade, which many LDCs have achieved in recent years and the sustained poverty reduction which remain elusive in most of them.
She also said: “The overdependence on a few primary commodities for our export earning is part of the vulnerability and instability of the economies of most LDCs. Our economies remain fragile due to their excessive vulnerability to various shocks, and this could be arguably linked to our weak productive and supply capacities.”
She reiterated the need for a genuine public-private partnership as being the main objective of the Summit; however, she argued that the development of this country cannot be anchored on the benevolence of others.
“The important role of the private sector as key partners in national development and the very engine of growth have long been recognized by my government through the launching of the Gambia Incorporated Vision 2020 in 1996, which emphasizes the pivotal role of private sectors in national development efforts,” she concluded.

NDEA Denounce Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking
Mr. Kalilu Njie, the Deputy Director of National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) has condemned drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking and put across his determination to strengthen action and cooperation to achieve the goal of an international society free of drug abuse.
Mr. Njie was speaking during celebrations marking International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking on June 26, 2011 at the Kanifing Municipal Council under the theme “Health”.
He said health is a very significant measure of national development. It is a foundation on which any meaningful development is built and without a healthy youth population “our national development will be retarded.”
According to him, drug trafficking contribute to the spread of HIV and organized crimes, and as a result its impact in the world is far from minor. He reaffirmed NDEA’s position in the campaign against illicit drugs in the country.
Mr Yusupha Sanyang, the Deputy Mayor of Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) noted that drug problem continues to constitute a serious threat to public health and the safety and well-being of humanity.
“Drugs are a threat to national security and sovereignty of States; hence it undermines socio-economic, political stability and sustainable development, every effort is being made by the government to curb the situation,” he said.
The young people of this country are the future leaders, he said. “We cannot allow these young people to be exposed to lifestyles that are destructive and counter-productive to the extent that they will not be able to take up their future responsibilities.”
When he took his turn, Dr. Abubacar Senghore, the Chairman Board of Governors NDEA said the rise of globalization; drug abuse and illicit trafficking reflect and reinforces an unpleasant social setup and political economy that has affected all cross-sections of society, mostly youths.
“It is common knowledge that our sub-region has been targeted by drug barons as a transit route for trafficking of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The cultivation of cannabis locally and in the sub-region is also increasing at an alarming rate,” he said.

  •  Source - The Voice

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