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ECOWAS Ends Summit, Elects New Chairman

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara (file photo)

Over the course of its two-day summit in Abuja, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, discussed the region's many crises, as well as its successes. On Friday, the confederation also elected Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara as its new chairman.

On the final day of discussions, there was no lack of praise for the 15 states that comprise ECOWAS. African Union Commission President Jean Ping said that the group was a model for the rest of the continent.

"Through your efforts over the years, the people of West Africa have come to acquire a strong identity which offers a distinguished framework for nurturing unity and solidarity, nourished by shared common culture and history," said Ping.

However, the litany of crises facing the region could not be overlooked. Said Djinnit is the head of the United Nations Office for West Africa. He urged ECOWAS states to exercise the same vigilance and cooperation they have shown so far.

"Despite the complexity of the region's immediate problems - namely, food crisis in the Sahel, new flow of refugees, increased numbers of smuggled arms in the fallout of the Libyan crisis, piracy, and terrorist activities - the leadership of the region spared no effort to address them, with the support of the international community," said Djinnit.

Abuja was an apt setting for the summit, given that Nigeria is plagued by many of the items on its agenda. Though he acknowledged the challenges of his country, especially those requiring cross-border and maritime cooperation, President Goodluck Jonathan urged the delegation not to lose sight of the original mission of ECOWAS.

"We must not forget that, beyond politics, the economic integration of our subregion remains the fundamental objective of our organization," said Jonathan. "We must, therefore, accelerate our efforts toward monetary union by meeting the convergence criteria."

Jonathan completed his term as ECOWAS chairman Friday and the group voted to replace him with Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara. Ivory Coast is one of the eight Francophone member states that already share a common currency.