BY KINGSLEY OMONOBI
ABUJA—Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Oluseyi Petinrin, disclosed, Thursday that the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections in Liberia will be a litmus test for the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff of West Africa countries’ collective resolve to institutionalize democracy in the sub-region.
Petinrin, who is Chairman of the Chiefs of Defence staff, made the disclosure against the backdrop of recent attempts by former leaders as President Laurent Gbagbo of Cote ‘D’ Ivoire, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara of Guinea and President Mamaduo Tandja of Mali, to truncate democracy by changing their country’s constitution and election rules.
It will be recalled that these leaders were eventually given the boot by popular uprisings of citizens of their countries and today, the rest is history.
Meanwhile, following increased piracy, new threats of ship highjacking and illegal oil bunkering in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Guinea and its devastating effects on world trade, the Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS countries have co-opted more countries into the maritime security committee of the Gulf of Guinea.
Consequently membership of the sub-committee on maritime security has been increased from five countries to ten, with new members Republic of Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Sierra-Leone and Togo joining Cape Verde, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria in the committee, to make proposals on how to tackle the security challenges within two months to the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS.
It will be recalled that the Chiefs of Naval Staff of countries having immediate boundaries with the oil rich Gulf of Guinea including that of Nigeria, Ghana, Benin republic, were invited to participate in the meeting of the CDS of ECOWAS countries because of the crisis arising from ships being hijacked by pirates and illegal bunkering activities along the coast of the gulf.
Making the disclosure known in a Communiqué at the end of a two-day meeting of the committee in Abuja, the Chiefs of Defence Staff noted that it was aimed at “consolidating regional response to security threats especially in the wake of escalating piracy, drug and human trafficking and other transnational organized crime in West Africa”.
On Liberia, the Committee of CDS urged member states that pledged to contribute police personnel to reinenforce Liberia‘s national police for the forthcoming presidential and legislative elections to put these units on standby for possible deployment.
Chief of Defence Staff of four member states had on September 13, 2011, at a one day extra-ordinary meeting held on Monrovia, pledged to contribute 540 policemen and 280 Gendarmerie to support the police force on ground. These countries are Burkina Faso, Cote d’ Ivorie’, Ghana and Nigeria.
Furthermore, “the defence chiefs urged the continuation of joint security patrol along the common borders of Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia and the retraining of former Ivorian rebels now being re-integrated into the country’s armed forces.
The Defence Chiefs called on ECOWAS Commission to pursue efforts towards lifting of the United Nations arms embargo on Cote d’ Ivoire and also proposed the extension of the ECOWAS Small Arms Programme (ECOSAP) based in Bamako, Mali for another five years and this recommendation is expected to be presented to the next meeting of ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council.
Endorsing more Command Posts and Field Training exercises for the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) to prepare them for immediate deployment when necessary, the Defence Chiefs agreed to attend an ‘ESF’ Main Brigade Validation Command Post Exercise in Accra , Ghana on November 25, 2011 code-named ‘JIGUI 3’.