Senegal to provide commander for ECOWAS force

Lagos- Nigeria (PANA) -- Senegal has agreed to increase its troops contribution to the ECOWAS peacekeeping force for Cote d'Ivoire, as well as to provide the force commander for the sub-regional force, according to Mohammed Ibn Chambas, the Executive Secretary of ECOWAS.
Chambas told a visiting US delegation led by Acting Assistant Secretary of Defence, Theresa Williams, at the ECOWAS Secretariat in Abuja Monday that Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade made the commitment during a recent meeting he (Chambas) had with him.
Chambas said Senegal would boost its contribution from 250 soldiers to a battalion (at least 650 troops).
Though an advance party of 24 military officials drawn from the five troop-contributing nations has arrived in Cote d'Ivoire to work out the logistics for the deployment of the force, whose lack of a force commander and the insufficiency of the troops have delayed its full deployment.
The total number of troops contributed by the five countries (Benin and Togo with 300 each, Ghana 265, Senegal and Niger 250) is 135 short of the targeted 1,500 troops.
But with the commitment by Senegal, ECOWAS is expected to deploy 1,264 soldiers to Cote d'Ivoire by the end of the month to take over from French forces that have been monitoring the 17 October ceasefire between government forces and the rebels.
The rebels mutinied 19 September to pre-empt plans by the government to demobilise them, and has since occupied half of the country.
Meanwhile, Nigeria, which previously refused to contribute to the force, has agreed to send a contingent of medical and signal team to the mission, the ECOWAS boss said.
Chambas said the US European Command would provide four aircraft to airlift the soldiers to Cote d'Ivoire, and that the US had agreed to increase its assistance for the mission from two million dollars to three million dollars.
France, Britain, Germany, Netherlands and Canada, among others, have also agreed to assist the ECOWAS force.
He also briefed the US delegation on the ongoing talks in Lome, Togo, between the government and the rebels, saying ECOWAS is awaiting a response from the rebels to its (ECOWAS) proposal for resolving the nagging political issues.
At the talks, being presided over by Togolsese President Gnassingbe Eyadema, both sides have agreed on the military issues, with the government agreeing to grant amnesty to the 715 rebel soldiers involved in the mutiny and to reinstate them.
But no agreement has been reached on the rebels' demand for President Laurent Gbagbo to step down to pave the way for early elections, as well as the Gbagbo's demand that the rebels disarm first before a peace accord.

19 november 2002 10:47:00




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