Nigeria: Ebola, terrorism on the agenda as ECOWAS Summit opens in Abuja (By Segun Adeyemi, PANA Correspondent, Abuja)

Abuja, Nigeria (PANA) - Buffeted by the raging Ebola epidemic and terrorism, among other challenges, West African leaders Monday converged on Nigeria's glistening capital city of Abuja for their 46th Ordinary Summit, PANA reported from here.

The one-day summit of the regional bloc ECOWAS, which was declared open by Ghana President and ECOWAS Chairman John Dramani Mahama, will take stock of the outgoing year, consider steps to consolidate peace and security as well as strengthen democracy and good governance.

It will also deliberate on the Ebola epidemic, which has claimed over 6,500 lives mostly in the three worst-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - all ECOWAS member states.

Notably, none of the Presidents of the three countries is attending the Summit, as they apparently chose to stay at home to personally coordinate their nations' anti-Ebola battle.

A notable attendee, however, is Michel Kafando, the Interim President of Burkina Faso, who is attending his first summit since he was inaugurated 21 Nov. 2014, to lead his country's efforts to return to democratic rule, which will culminate in elections in Nov. 2015, following the power vacuum created when people-power forced out long-time President Blaise Compaore.

Highlighting the importance attached to efforts to curtail the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) by the 15-member ECOWAS, almost all speakers at the well-attended opening session touched on the issue of the ravaging disease.

Host President Goodluck Jonathan called for generous contributions to the ECOWAS Solidarity Fund, set up to fight the disease which, he said, has negatively impacted on the region's economy.

''While acknowledging that much achievements may have been recorded in the area of democracy and economic growth, I must also admit that our sub-region continues to face many serious challenges.

''Prominent among these challenges before us today is the ravaging Ebola epidemic. The last six months have witnessed the negative impact of the Ebola virus Disease (EVD) on the region,'' President Jonathan said.

He also called for stronger and more effective regional, continental and global alliance to ''rid our region of terrorism, piracy and violent extremism'', against the background of the Boko Haram insurgency that is ravaging parts of his country.

For his part, President Mahama said the set-backs created by Ebola in the three most affected nations are having consequences for the entire ECOWAS region.

''We have acknowledged that Ebola is a threat to our regional integration process and to our regional peace, security and economic development. So we have resolved to eradicate Ebola in our sub-region at our recent Extraordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government held in Accra on 6th November, 2014,'' he said.

The ECOWAS Chairman said while ''some progress'' has been seen in Liberia and Guinea, ''details from Sierra Leone remain a source of serious concern''.

He warned that Ebola is still a very serious challenge, hence there should be no complacency ''in our efforts until the last infected person is cured of Ebola and the disease is wiped out from our affected nations''.

In his opening comments, ECOWAS Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo hailed the ECOWAS leaders for their mobilisation of the entire Community for the member states affected by the EVD.

''In addition to the constitution of the Regional Solidarity Fund, the successful mobilisation led to the setting up of mechanisms to coordinate the activities to be conducted in the various member states,'' he said.

Also Speaking at the opening, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa, Mohammed ibn Chambas, described EVD as the ''worst-ravaging health scourge that has affected Africa in decades'', saying it directly impacts on regional integration, peace, security and socio-economic activities.

PANA reports that the 46th Ordinary Summit will be the last before the May 2015 celebration of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of ECOWAS, for which preparations have already begun.

The summit is expected to round off later Monday with a communique detailing actions to be taken on the various issues on the agenda.
-0- PANA SEG/VAO 15Dec2014

15 december 2014 12:46:15

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