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ECOWAS Picks Niger's President as New Chairman

  • Nico Colombant

Niger's President Mamadou Tandja has been chosen as the new chairman of the Economic Community of West African states. The 15-nation regional body helped end the war in Liberia, but has been struggling to bring an end to the crisis in divided Ivory Coast.

Mr. Tandja said he will work diligently to promote political stability after being selected to replace Ghana's president, John Kufuor, at a summit in Accra, Wednesday.

In a farewell speech, Mr. Kufuor called on rival Ivorian parties to drop their mistrust of each other and move forward with their stalled peace process.

He said civil wars were terrible for the image of the West African region and for its development. He said ECOWAS has spent too much time on trying to end insecurity.

During his two one-year terms, the Ghanaian president brokered peace talks to end nearly 15 years of fighting in Liberia, but failed to make any progress on getting northern Ivorian rebels to disarm. The African Union has now taken the lead role on trying to end that conflict.

It is because of this failure, says Accra-based regional security expert Emmanuel Sowatey, that Mr. Kufuor's tenure cannot be considered very successful.

"I think President Kufuor has done his best given the challenges he faces in the sub-region and from rag-tag armies," he said. "But let me quickly add that I think that he has not done too well because of the way the AU had to come in and support him, to deal with the Ivorian crisis. It indicates strongly that he needed outside help to deal with these challenges."

Several heads of state and their representatives also discussed quickly establishing a common currency for English-speaking countries and Guinea. Other French-speaking countries already share the CFA Franc which is pegged to the euro.