posted on Mon 21 May 2012 5:41 PM
Council Visiting Mission: High-Level ECOWAS Meeting

ABIDJAN: This afternoon (21 May) Council members on the West Africa visiting mission had a high-level meeting with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. This was the first such meeting between Council members and ECOWAS. Participants included the Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, the ECOWAS Commission Chair, Kadre Désiré Ouédraogo, as well the Foreign Ministers of Côte d’Ivoire (current chair of ECOWAS), Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal. Benin also attended as the current chair of the AU. (This meeting was held under the framework of the AU Peace and Security-UN partnership.)

On the agenda were two situations that ECOWAS has been actively involved in resolving: Guinea-Bissau and Mali. The third agenda item was transnational issues in West Africa, which have been a concern for the Council in the last few years.

Given the attention the Council has been paying to Guinea-Bissau in recent weeks, it seemed the situation in the country would dominate the discussion. However, just hours before the meeting, the Presidential Palace in Bamako, Mali was stormed by hundreds of protestors and interim President Dioncounda Traoré was wounded and needed to be hospitalised. The protestors were apparently reacting to an agreement reached yesterday with ECOWAS that would allow Traoré to stay on in the role until 2013. The deal also recognised coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo as a former head of state with a salary and a mansion.

It appears that Council members were keen to get a better understanding of what had happened in Mali earlier that day. The bulk of the meeting was apparently an explanation from ECOWAS of the recent developments, with Council members asking questions related to the situation. Given the seriousness of today’s developments, it seems that other issues such as the Tuareg rebellion and increased terrorist threat in northern Mali and the humanitarian situation took a back-seat. Guinea-Bissau was discussed only briefly. (Council members were scheduled to attend a dinner hosted by President Alassane Ouattara shortly after the meeting.)

The third item on cross-border issues was not discussed. Following the high-level meeting Ambassadors Kodjo Menan (Togo) and Gérard Araud (France), as co-leads for the Côte d’Ivoire leg, and the Foreign Minister of Côte d’Ivoire gave a press conference.

It seems that Council members considered it urgent to discuss the recent developments in Mali. However, there seemed to be a general sense that although the situation in Mali is more serious now, it was not the right time to take a decision. There seemed to be agreement that ECOWAS needed to be supported in its efforts to find a solution. ECOWAS acknowledged that with the developments in Mali today, the deal reached over the weekend is now off and that some other way may need to be found to bring stability to the country. The Council will most probably continue to interact with ECOWAS in the near future as it continues to tackle the situation in Mali.

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