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ECOWAS Meeting to Address Security in Sub-Region

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will meet today, Wednesday, in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. The executive secretary of the organization, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, spoke to Voice of America English to Africa reporter James Butty from Abuja, telling him the meeting is about peace and security in the sub-region and restructuring the ECOWAS Secretariat.

“At the last summit of ECOWAS it was decided that there would be two summits in a year – a medial summit and an end-of-year summit. So this is an ordinary medial summit of ECOWAS, and it will have as its main item agenda the transformation of the ECOWAS Executive Secretariat into a commission, and secondly, the consideration of a proposal before the heads of state to adopt a permanent standing convention against the importation [and] illicit circulation of small arms and light weapons in West Africa.”

He discussed the UN Security Council’s easing of the arms embargo against Liberia, saying there is currently a moratorium on the importation and circulation of small arms and light weapons in West Africa. But he says there is an exception to allow security agencies to import such weapons, provided they apply to the ECOWAS Secretariat to [buy them] for what he called “legitimate national security purpose.”

“So we would be perfectly satisfied with a situation where the new government of Liberia, duly elected by the people there, is allowed to import weapons for the new security forces that are being trained there to ensure the legitimate defense and security purposes in the country.”

Chambas says the presidents of several ECOWAS member countries will attend Wednesday’s meeting, including Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who he said will be attending her first ECOWAS summit.

Chambas says ECOWAS is pleased with the progress being made in the Ivory Coast and encourages the parties to continue pursuing the course of dialogue and negotiations among themselves.

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