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African Leaders to Meet on Burkina Faso, Ebola Outbreak

FILE - Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara (L), Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan (2nd L), Benin's President Thomas Yayi Boni and Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (R) are pictured at the 43rd (ECOWAS) Summit.

Heads of state and government officials from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) plan to meet Thursday at an extraordinary summit in Ghana’s capital, Accra.

High on the agenda is discussing measures to ensure a peaceful transition and restoration of democratic rule in Burkina Faso, as well as reassessing efforts to contain the outbreak of Ebola in parts of West Africa, according to Haruna Warkani, a spokesman for ECOWAS.

“The two important things on the agenda are combating the outbreak of the Ebola, the containment, the efforts so far made, the successes and the challenges that are still outstanding, and then of course the unfortunate development in Burkina Faso,” said Warkani.

His comments came after an ECOWAS delegation comprising Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, Senegalese President Macky Sall and Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama, who also heads ECOWAS, met Wednesday with Burkina Faso’s designated military leader, Lieutenant Colonel Isaac Zida, and other stakeholders about the need to expedite a transition process.

Warkani said the regional bloc will continue its push to ensure a restoration of constitutional order in Burkina Faso.

“It is because of the importance attached to this development that’s why the heads of state could afford to carve out time within their very busy schedules to do that,” said Warkani. “So, surely, the regional body is doing everything possible to ensure that this crisis does not escalate, and that the constitutional authority is restored and that will pave way for developments in the country.”

Some analysts say there appears to be a divide between ECOWAS and the African Union about how best to ensure a smooth civilian transition in Burkina Faso after protesters forced longtime leader Blaise Compaore to step down and flee into exile.

They contend that while the African Union demanded in an ultimatum that the military leader Zida hand over power within two weeks to a civilian authority, a team of West African leaders that met with leaders in Burkina Faso said it could take up to a year before elections could be organized.

But Warkani said the two institutions are working together to resolve the political crisis in the West African country.

“It’s a matter of perception sometimes and of course the two bodies are working towards achieving success of the situation,” he said. “Don’t forget when things like this crop up, there are bound to be several dimensions to it, but the bottom line is that there should be restoration of peace, tranquility and constitutional transfer of power to an appropriate authority in that country. So, it’s not really a matter of contradiction.”

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