Chiefs of Defence Staff (Chefs d’Etat) of Fourteen West African countries have met in an Extraordinary Meeting in Accra, Ghana, to dialogue on effective means of making the Sub-Region safe, with a call by the Defence Minister of Ghana – Mr Dominic Bingab Aduna Nitiwul, for the military heads, as professionals, to resolve to bury differences imposed by nationality, culture, ethnicity, language, religion, and forge ahead with greater collaboration.
The two-day conference of the military top brass officially commenced on Thursday, May 5, 2022, at Burma Camp, Accra, Ghana, with participation from Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Togo.
Speaking as the Guest-of-Honour at the opening ceremony, Mr Nitiwul, who was quite forthright, passionately urged ECOWAS states to allow the people to choose their leaders, stating that the maintenance of peace and security remains a critical challenge and as Chiefs of Defence Staff (CDS), they play pivotal roles in shaping the defence and security policies needed to achieve regional peace and public safety.
Ghana’s Defence Minister painted a sordid image of insecurity in the West African Sub Region with statistics over the past three years, which indicate that, there have been about 5,306 terror related attacks within the Sub-Region claiming over 16,726 lives, with several thousands of injuries and millions displaced, and by end of March 2022 alone, 840 attacks have already resulted in 2,482 casualties.
He imperatively called for the bridging of gaps that exist in information and intelligence analysis to pave way for better integration for effective political, social and military direction, opining that one of the main pillars for a successful strategy in dealing with democratic instability, maritime insecurity, counter-terrorism and the activities of extremist groups, is accurate and predictive intelligence.
The Member of Ghana’s Parliament reminded participants of the collective resolve of West African Heads of States and governments and Ministers responsible for defence and national security, to maintain high levels of peace and security, after the eighth meeting of ministers in charge of security and defence held in Cotonou on 13 April 2022, which validated an Operational Plan drawing on the ECOWAS Eight Point Action Plan to deal with terrorism and violent extremism.
“In the land domain, countries are confronted with environmental degradation caused by illegal mining and illegal lumbering, development and expansion of slums, illegal migration, kidnappings and abductions, money laundering, proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the trafficking of narcotics, compounded by threats to democratic stability, land and chieftaincy disputes, banditry and armed robberies, high youth unemployment, the menace of nomadic herdsmen and vigilantism”, he said.
“Although, the natural resource endowment of our region presents huge investment opportunities, which could serve as a leveraging platform for poverty reduction through increased access to education and employment for our youth, without the collaboration of our National Defence and Intelligence Agencies, these huge economic potentials cannot materialize.”
“In the maritime domain, littoral states are also faced with incidents of piracy, illegal bunkering, illegal unregulated and unreported fishing, drug trafficking and the smuggling of exotic plants and animals, The threats in the land and maritime domains continue to transcend borders and are occurring at a time when Africa has assumed greater importance in global socio-economic development.”
“The maritime domains of the Gulf of Guinea, North Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea as well as the Red Sea remain key strategic objectives of the main Violent Extremist Armed Groups operating in Burkina Faso, Mali and other areas of the Sahel and North Africa.”
In his welcome address, the Chairperson for the Extraordinary Meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff in Accra – Vice Admiral (V/Adm) Seth Amoama of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), expressed the necessity for the Chefs d’Etat to convene from time to time to fraternize and be updated and take stock of issues that have been discussed and to be implemented, and put in measures to safeguard collective security of the region.
Admiral Amoama expressed regrets at the coup d’état in Burkina Faso and the failed attempt in Guinea Bissau, stating that “… just as we thought we had made some significant progress in dealing with the situations in Mali and Guinea, a similar unfortunate situation happened in Burkina Faso and same nearly recorded in Guinea Bissau all in January and February 2022”.
Ghana’s CDS, who led a delegation of CDS of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at the behest of the ECOWAS Commission, to engage the military junta of Burkina Faso, as first responders, commended joint efforts of other CDS, the ECOWAS Commission and others, for supporting the initiatives of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States in addressing the issues.
Present at the conference were the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political and Security Affairs – Brigadier General (Brig Gen) Francis Benhazin (Rtd), Ghana’s National Security Advisor – Brig Gen Emmanuel Okyere (Rtd), Service Chiefs and Senior Officers of GAF and other militaries.