By Victoria Ojeme
Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has said its parliament was committed to resolving the recurring crisis between herdsmen and farmers within the region.
It also described the problem of youth unemployment in the sub-region as a disease, which must be stamped out.
Secretary-General of ECOWAS Parliament, John Azumah, who stated this, yesterday, in an interview with journalists at the end of the Extra-Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament, in Dakar, Senegal, said the parliament, as representatives of the people, was burdened by the issue of herdsmen and farmers’ clashes and other reports of communal violence within the community.
He said: “The parliament has a very big role to play, especially the members who have the opportunity to meet with the concerned communities and to be able to explain the other side of the story.
“So if the members of parliament up their game and constantly provide information, constantly meet these communities that are involved in these activities, we believe strongly that we will be able to sort or mitigate the tendencies.’’
He observed that parliament had built overtime experiences in conflict resolution, having been involved in resolving conflicts areas such as the Mano River Union in 2012, the resolution of the Liberian civil war, and the issue of Al-Qaeda in Mali.
According to him, the parliament was the only community’s institution that moved to the grassroots to talk to the people.
He said: “We were involved again in resolving the issue in the Sierra Leonean parliament last year after the elections when there were some problems.
Earlier, Azumah had stated that the major high point of the seminar was parliament’s confirmation of support for the decision of the Authority of Heads State and Government in the implementation of the Single Currency in 2020.
He said: “We are asking them to be very firm and resolute on the date, that the date should not be changed, as you may know, it has been changed severally and we think that they should be firm; there should be political will that it should be done in 2020 and then for that matter, implemented.’’
He, however, observed that the lawmakers were constrained in what they could do because of the limited resources available to them, adding that same problem affects all other ECOWAS institutions.
“The issue of resources is an issue that affects all ECOWAS institutions. To tell the truth, it is not only the parliament; we have a problem and the problem is that the ECOWAS institutions generally rely on the community levy subventions, so we have had some challenges in the collection of the levy, we have had some challenges in the transmission of even the amount collected by member states, so that reduces the number of resources available to us when we do budgeting,” Azuma said.
On youth unemployment in the region, speaker of the parliament, Moustapha Cisse Lo, described the problem of youth unemployment in the sub-region as a cankerworm that must be resolved.
He called on governments in the region to face the challenge of youth unemployment to curb the dangerous adventure of undocumented migration from the region.
“Our parliament expects to hold a forum on this subject in the second semester so as to define the outline and recommend avenues for putting an end to this disease,” he said.
Cisse Lo also called for the mobilisation of financial resources to tackle the menace, arguing that it was necessary for governments to promote good economic policies, healthy management of public assets and the fierce combat of corruption.
He emphasized that as far as the next delocalised meetings of the parliament were concerned, “The subject that will be dealt with is “Employment of Youths Within West Africa through Entrepreneurship.”
He said further: “Let me convey once again our concern for the most important sector of our population indeed not only that the youth represents the majority of the population in West Africa, but also they continue to be a very fragile sector.
“Should we sleep in times of violence and proliferation of violent extremism? I will like to talk about terrorism, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, these plaques which breed ignorance and extreme poverty hit the youths very hard.
“Indeed, the concerted efforts of our leaders, both at the national and regional levels, in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, have led to significant reduction of terrorist attacks that sow desolation and cause our populations to mourn on a daily basis.”