ECOWAS calls for the dismantling of roadblocks

Lusaka- Zambia (PANA) -- The Economic Community of West African states will intensify efforts regarding the lifting of all roadblocks that seriously impede the free movement of persons and goods in the subregion, ECOWAS Executive Secretary Lansana Kouyate said in Lusaka Thursday.
He told PANA in an exclusive interview that the heads of security of the 15-member States would shortly meet to discuss the issue of roadblocks, often set up at random, by security forces on most international roads linking ECOWAS member states.
Kouyate, who denounced "the extortion of money" practised by some elements of security forces in certain countries, said the free movement of persons "is among the priorities of ECOWAS".
Kouyate said that Benin and Nigeria finally decided to put their various border control services together in an office that was built for that purpose, several years ago, and was only waiting to be occupied.
The issue of roadblocks, often set up by police forces on international roads in flagrant violation of measures adopted by the authorities, is currently practised in Cote d'Ivoire, though denounced by traders, the media and nationals of other ECOWAS member States resident in Cote d'Ivoire.
Those nationals are usually subjected to extortion at such illegal checkpoints.
Ivorian authorities have expressed grave concern over the situation, which has forced most businesspeople, particularly Malians, Burkinabe and Niger nationals to abandon the Abidjan Port Authority in favour of the ports of Dakar, Lome and Tema (Ghana).
During a recent sub-regional tour to Mali and Burkina Faso, Ivorian Prime Minister Pascal Affi N'Guessan, assured businessmen of those countries that measures were being implemented by his government to ensure free movement between Abidjan and its neighbours.
The agreement on the free movement of persons and goods is among the essential pillars of ECOWAS, which was set up in 1975.
Despite the lifting of entry visas, which Kouyate considers as "a strong symbol" of regional integration, the movement of populations from one country to another is still subjected to "informal restrictions".

05 july 2001 23:37:00

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