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West African Leaders Meet Tuesday in Ghana’s Capital

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 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meet Tuesday in Ghana’s capital, Accra, where they will be hosted by President John Dramani Mahama.

Foreign Minister Hannah Tetteh told VOA the meeting will consider an array of issues affecting the sub-region, including the threat posed by Boko Haram and the crisis in Mali.

The meeting also comes at a time when the Ebola epidemic appears to be on the decline in West Africa.

Tetteh said ECOWAS is optimistic the sub-region will soon be able to celebrate a break in transmission of the deadly virus in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

“The situation is as follows: in Liberia, there has been a break in transmission of the Ebola virus because they have gone for 42 days without a new infection. In Sierra Leone, they had begun the countdown. They had eight days without any new infection. Unfortunately, on the ninth day, they recorded another illness,” she said.

But Tetteh said Sierra Leone is looking to contain the situation, as all those who had been in touch with infected persons have been quarantined. Thereafter, she said, the country will resume its countdown to zero infections.

“The same is also happening within Guinea. So, even though in the two member states, the Ebola virus has not yet been completely eliminated and we haven’t been able to record a break in transmission, there has been a break causing significant reductions in the number of new infections. We are optimistic that by the time we have our next ECOWAS meeting, indeed we will be able to celebrate a break in transmission in Sierra Leone and also in Guinea,” she said.

Tetteh said the West African leaders will also discuss the security challenges posed by Boko Haram. She said the joint military campaign of Chad, Niger, Cameroon, and Nigeria has degraded the terrorist group.

“With regards to Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, Boko Haram has been degraded. It’s not as if it has gone into hiding. They actually have been degraded because of the continuous engagement with the forces of Boko Haram with the armed forces of Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad,” she said.

She added that he sub-region will continue to focus on the terrorist group because it’s important to have peace and stability in West Africa.

Tetteh said the ECOWAS leaders will also discuss the crisis in Mali, where a Tuareg-led rebel alliance killed three Malian soldiers on Monday. She said the sub-region is still hopeful stability and peace will soon return to Mali, particularly with the recent signing of a peace accord between the government and several armed groups.

“Over the last couple of months, the various parties and stakeholders, in what is referred to as the Malian Dialogue, had been going through a process of negotiation which was facilitated by Algeria. As a result of that process of negotiation and discussion on what should be the future of Mali, last Friday there was the signing of the Malian Dialogue Accord,” Tetteh said.

Tetteh said with that process of engagement ECOWAS is confident that there will be a better effort toward consolidating the peace in Mali.

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