Ghana: ECOWAS Summit opens

Accra, Ghana (PANA) - Heads of state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Thursday began a two-day summit in Ghana's capital, Accra, with issues of free movement of people, biometric identity cards, security, single currency and the Ebola virus high on the agenda, PANA reported.

Ghana's President and current chairman of ECOWAS John Dramani Mahama, in his opening speech, said the introduction of the ECOWAS common biometric ID cards should enhance the free movement of people and goods across West Africa.

“As registered ECOWAS community citizens, our people should be able to move freely in West Africa and enjoy the opportunities opening up in our member states,” he said.

"Great opportunities lie ahead of us for creating a prosperous life for our people. But we can only reap these dividends if we have peace and security,” President Mahama added.

On the Ebola virus, he expressed worry about the outbreak and the fact that it has not been contained and called for the contribution of urgently needed resources to speed up the containment effort.

“We must scale up our efforts and power to defeat this deadly disease. We must exercise vigilance and caution and avoid any panic or misinformation,” the ECOWAS Chairman said.

He urged both national and regional medical research institutions to intensify efforts in finding a cure for the virus.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week brought together health ministers, technical people, NGOs and donor agencies in Accra to tackle the growing Ebola virus menace that has claimed hundreds of lives in West Africa.

WHO called on health authorities of the affected countries to implement preventive and containment measures.

It has described the scale of the ongoing outbreak as unprecedented, with reports of over 750 cases and 445 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since March 2014.

ECOWAS has said the proposal by the ministers of internal affairs on free movement seeks to resolve one of the impediments to the seamless implementation of the 1978 regional Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Establishment which, even as is, makes ECOWAS the only Regional Economic Community in Africa with a visa-free regime.

The card with biometric features, and which will be easier to access than national passports, is expected to facilitate intra-community movement of citizens without compromising security.

The 45th ordinary summit will also consider the proposal by the ministers for the abolition of the residence permit requirements for community citizens as part of the reform to the Protocol.

In addition, the mid-year summit will consider a report on the Community’s main activities and projects over the first half of this year, to be presented by ECOWAS Commission President Desire Kadré Ouédraogo.

The regional leaders will also be briefed on the situation in Mali, especially the status of the mediation efforts being undertaken by President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso and Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, as well as the situation in Guinea-Bissau, where successful legislative and presidential elections were recently concluded.
-0- PANA MA/SEG 10July2014

10 july 2014 13:27:20

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