West African regional leaders plan to open an extraordinary two-day summit on Wednesday in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
Sonny Ugoh, communications director for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), says the leaders will consider the latest political and security situation in Mali in the run-up to that country’s July 28 presidential election.
“They will review the political health of the organization and member states, the economic health of the region, and give directive as to what initiative they think we should take, in order to address whatever challenges they determine that we need to address,” said Ugoh.
He says Burkinabe President Blaise Compaoré will brief other heads of state about the situation in Mali.
Mr. Compaoré mediated talks between Mali’s interim government and the rebels, who controlled parts of the country’s north. The agreement allowed the national army into Kidal, a major rebel-held town, as part of preparations for the election.
“They are going to be briefed on the countries that would be holding elections this month, including Mali, Togo and Guinea, Conakry. They will also be briefed on the issues of Guinea Bissau, and there is going to be a report from the presidents of Burkina Faso and Nigeria,” said Ugoh.
Some Malians have expressed skepticism about the agreement, saying that parts of the country are still not safe enough to carry out a peaceful election. Ugoh disagreed, saying significant security progress had been made following the agreement between the government and the rebels.
“The leaders will be briefed for the preparation for elections in Mali and they will look at the challenges and see what other additional proposals they will need to make from a regional point of view,” said Ugoh.
A team of ECOWAS officials who went on a fact-finding mission in Mali is also expected to present its report to the regional leaders.
Ugoh also said the leaders will ask the ECOWAS commission to help improve economic ties among member states.
“There is a proposal that is going to be presented to the leaders by the president of the ECOWAS commission about how the integration should be designated,” Ugoh said. “The proposal will also spell out how there should be inclusiveness and a greater sense of belonging in the region by all states of the community.”