Ghana supports Chambas for ECOWAS top post

Accra- Ghana (PANA) -- In a rare bi-partisan move, the Ghanaian government has nominated an opposition politician as candidate for the post of Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Political observers say President John Agyekum Kufuor must have surprised many Ghanaians when he announced that the government was putting up former Deputy Foreign Minister, Mohamed Ibn Chambas for the top ECOWAS job contest.
But the President may have gone in for Chambas, 50, because of his wide experience that would make him easy to market against three Gambians who are contesting against him.
Alban Bagbin, Minority Leader in the Ghanaian parliament says the choice of Chambas is in the "supreme interest of the country.
"It is time for Anglophone West Africa to take the top job and it is prudent that all Ghanaians support him," he said.
And Chambas, a calm and astute diplomat, is bubbling with confidence that he would win the nod from ECOWAS Heads of State when they meet later in the year in the Malian capital, Bamako, to choose a successor to Lansana Kouyate of Guinea.
Indeed, it is believed that the Ghanaian has already received the support of West African giant, Nigeria.
He told the Ghana News Agency that leaders in the sub-region have recognised his diplomatic experience and negotiation skills in tackling the problems of the region when he was Ghana's Deputy Foreign Minister.
"I was centrally involved in ECOWAS' mediation efforts in Liberia and directly participated in the negotiations leading to the agreements ending the Liberian civil war," Chambas revealed.
"I was also a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), which worked to facilitate a transition to constitutional democratic governance in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and the Gambia," added Chambas, who is optimistic that ECOWAS leaders would support him for the job.
He says he has clear visions for the 15-nation Community, which has been saddled with a string of bloody civil wars and political problems, that have diverted the attention of leaders from its main goal of economic integration.
Chambas talks about a strong currency for ECOWAS, through a fast track approach to the integration of currencies in the sub-region, which now has a basket of eight currencies, out of which only one - the CFA franc used by Francophone West Africa - is strong.
He said a common currency is important for the sub- region to realise its economic goals in the shortest possible time.
"My emphasis will be on the fast track approach designed to let the non-UEMOA (the Monetary Union for Francophone West Africa) countries to catch up with their counterparts who belong to the CFA franc currency zone.
"The UEMOA countries with their common currency, the CFA franc, have demonstrated great discipline in the management of their fiscal and monetary policies," Chambas added.
Under a mechanism worked out by ECOWAS, five countries, Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, are to work towards harmonising their currencies as the first step towards a common currency.
Chambas said another area that needs tightening and broadening is the scope of interaction among the peoples of the sub-region.
These include market women, students, farming organisations and industrialists, to accept the concept of the Community and work towards its realisation.
"Although we have made some achievements in the Free Movement Protocol, there are many obstacles that traders and ordinary travellers face, and it is a real shame," he lamented.
He noted that before the creation of artificial boundaries, West Africans were travelling freely, stressing that the big challenge was for the people to work to tear down the barriers.
Chambas also referred to the Cotonou Accord on European Union's dealing with regional projects and integration, and said if there was one African market it would be easier and more expedient for the Union to deal with the region with a common market and one currency.
"I think that if we work towards the realisation of the West African Common Market and common currency we will maximise the benefits from the European Union," he added.
A ranking Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Foreign Affairs and the opposition NDC's Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chambas boasts an impressive profile.
He has had prior parliamentary experience as an MP of the First Parliament of the Fourth Republic (1993-96) and was the first Deputy Speaker of the Ghanaian Parliament from January 1993 to March 1994.
During the same period, he chaired the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, with oversight responsibility for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Chambas first entered government in 1987 as Deputy Foreign Secretary and was a member of Presidential delegations to a number of countries including the US, China, UK, France, Malaysia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.
He also led Ghana's delegation to several conferences including those of the OAU and the ECOWAS.
Between 1997 and 2000, Chambas was the Deputy Minister of Education in charge of Tertiary Education, which included Ghana's five Universities and 10 polytechnics.
He holds degrees in Political Science from the University of Ghana, Legon, a Masters and a Ph.
from Cornell University, Itacha, New York.
Chambas also holds a law degree from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, taught at the Oberlin College, Ohio and practised law with the Cleveland, Ohio, Law Office of Forbes, Forbes and Teamor.

26 july 2001 22:34:00

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