The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission has lamented that no fewer than 14,500 people have been killed by terrorists in the West African region.
According to the outgoing President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, the figure was recorded in just four and a half years.
He also revealed that the number of refugees within the region seeking humanitarian assistance stood at 5.5 million.
Kassi Brou who is to assume the position of the Governor of the West African bank spoke in Abuja during the handover of power to the new management of the Commission led by President Omar Alieu Touray.
He said: “First of all, the deterioration of the security situation has caused havoc not only in the Sahel area, affecting Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and the North East of Nigeria, but it soon expanded to the coastal zone, hitting Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Togo.
“Terrorist attacks and herds of bandits plunged these countries into mourning, with close to 14,500 dead in 4 ½ years, threatening the peace of rural population, and forcing people to seek shelter away from their home areas.
“Thus, the number of refugees and internally displaced people in our Region reached about 5,500,000 persons who are in need of humanitarian assistance.”
He,however, said, the Commission has reached out to provide assistance to many of them, as well as to victims of natural disasters.
He added that a regional action plan to combat terrorism in the region has been followed.Brou however said the plan would require sustained commitment including financial support from member states for it to be successful.
He said: “Regional action plan to combat terrorism in West Africa has been elaborated and is being implemented. It will necessitate sustained commitment including financial support from member States to produce the expected results in the medium to long term.
”Brou, who is leaving the Commission after completing his four year term in office, however lamented the spade of military takeover within the region.
He said, “On the political front, we have noted the deepening of the democratic culture in our Region, with eleven (11) countries having peacefully conducted presidential and legislative elections during our tenure. Unfortunately, three countries, namely Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, have experienced unconstitutional changes of powers.
“The Authority of Heads of State and Government having designated Mediators for these countries, negotiations are ongoing with their respective Transition Authorities to support these member countries for them to return to constitutional order and regain their full place in the Community.”
Speaking, the new president of the Commission, Omar Alieu Touray assured the community that his team would do everything possible to bring the ongoing reform to a logical conclusion.
Touray, also noted that his team is committed to the welfare of the community.
He said: “But allow me to reiterate the importance our leaders attach to the ongoing institutional reforms. These reforms must be expedited to ensure more focused, effective and efficient community institutions. My Colleagues and I understand that reforms entail taking tough decisions. But we are confident that with the full cooperation of staff and support of Member States, we will be able to take the process to its logical conclusion.
“I renew our commitment to work diligently for the welfare of our community. At the same time, I call upon you to continue to support ECOWAS by ensuring the full payment of the Community Levy and the full implementation of ECOWAS protocols. Your role as Permanent Representatives of your various to ECOWAS is important and we look forward to deeper collaboration.”
The new helmsman added that to ECOWAS partners, “Our multilateral and bilateral partners (UN, AU, EU, AfDB and individual countries) will all agree that at no moment has partnership been so important than now. The insecurity we face at various levels would require deeper partnerships and consistent collaboration. Our partnership should therefore be sufficiently equitable and efficient to enable us to lift our people from abject poverty through capacity development, investment and fair trade. Most importantly it should also allow us to achieve lasting peace and security across the region and indeed across the whole African continent.”