ECOWAS cannot afford to divorce development from peace and stability as they are essential for Community development, given the dynamics of recurrent security challenges in the region, the Vice-President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Togo Gayewea McIntosh, has said.
Speaking on behalf of the President of the Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, on Wednesday at the foundation-laying ceremony for the ECOWAS Peace Support Operations (PSO) Facility at Sierra Leone’s Lungi International Airport, Dr. McIntosh said “Without peace and security, our vision to graduate from ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of people would elude our Peoples.”
He reaffirmed the resolve of ECOWAS and partners to see the full realization of the project in line with the decision of the Authority of Heads of State and Government at its 28th Ordinary Session held in Accra, Ghana, in January 2005.
The Vice-president recalled that the idea behind the establishment of a regional Permanent Logistics Depot originated from the logistical challenges faced by troops contributing countries “in their collective quest for stability, security, peace and development,” as well as the capacity challenges to maintain an adequate supply chain for troops deployed in the field.
The permanent logistic base “will no doubt facilitate peacekeeping and development operations in our region,” he said, noting that the operationalization of the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) “has become critical as we focus more and more on development imperatives.”
The ESF is one of the building blocks of the Continent-wide African Standby Force (ASF), and as the ECOWAS Vice-president observed, apart from the physical development of the Lungi Coastal logistics depot, which would complement the Inland Depot planned for Mali, the next major step would be “equipping the facility with both human and material resources”.
He commended the Government of Sierra Leone for offering to host the Depot and paid tribute to the country’s tract record as a logistics base for UN peacekeeping operations in West Africa.
Dr. McIntosh acknowledged the effective cooperation between all stakeholders associated with the project and urged them to execute their responsibilities to the fullest.
The President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, represented by the Minister of Defence, Alfred Parlour Conteh, pledged the country’s “continued support and commitment to the achievement of this laudable venture,” noting that by July 2010, the Government had secured the land and graciously handed over same to the ECOWAS Commission for the construction of the depot.
The President lauded ECOWAS for accelerating the pace of regional/South-South cooperation as a catalyst for sustainable development of the entire region.
“This reinforces the fact that what binds us together as a people of the ECOWAS Community far surpasses the differences created by our artificial political boundaries,” he affirmed, adding: “these common bonds inspired the founding of ECOWAS by our forebearers, and we must build on it.”
In his remarks at the ceremony, attended by senior government functionaries, ECOWAS officials, members of the diplomatic corps and traditional rulers, the Sierra Leonean Minister of Transport and Aviation, Vandy Chidi Minah, said the event marked another milestone in peace support operations in the region.
He informed the gathering about the Government’s plan to transform Lungi from an International Airport to a Regional aviation hub as Sierra Leone attains maturity and assumes more responsibilities in the region after a bitter civil war.
Speaking in the same vein, the Sierra Leonean Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Alhaji Foday Mansaray, explained that the Lungi Permanent Logistics Depot “is not a military base per se,” but a regional facility for various humanitarian emergencies, including assistance during flood disasters and civil conflicts.
Bai Shebora Agbera, the Paramount Chief of Kaffu Bullom Chiefdom, the host community of the depot, expressed his community’s gratitude and expressed the hope that the project would provide employment opportunities for his people, especially the youths and young adults.
The Paramount chief also enjoined the stakeholders to respect the customs and traditions of the community.
The ECOWAS delegation to the ceremony included Amiro Sangoh, Ag Director Administration, and Col. Momodou Sowe of the Political Affairs, Peace and Security Directorate.