The president of Guinea-Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, was elected chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at the 61st ECOWAS Summit in Accra on Sunday (3 July 2022).
He takes over the mantle of leadership from Ghana’s president, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, for a period of one year.
Gambia’s Omar Alieu Touray was also introduced as the new president of the ECOWAS Commission replacing Côte d’Ivoire’s Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, who has served a four-year mandate with an extension of three months and ten days ending 10 July.
Brou assumes office as governor of the Central Bank of West African States (the Banque Centrale des États de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, or BCEAO) on Monday.
Touray leads a seven-member Commission in a region dogged by insecurity and political instability, with three of ECOWAS 15 member states under army rule.
Embaló survived a coup attempt early this year.
ECOWAS will ensure democratic rule in all member states
The outgoing ECOWAS chairman, Nana Akufo-Addo, says the regional body will not relent in its efforts to ensure that all member states are governed by democratically elected governments.
In his opening address at the opening ceremony for the meeting of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government on 3 July, President Akufo-Addo noted that in spite of the regional and global challenges that ECOWAS finds itself facing, every effort will be made to ensure the security of all ECOWAS states.
“As you recall, on 4 June 2022 in our extraordinary summit here in Accra, we discussed extensively the political and social situation in our region, with emphasis on the current political transition in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, emanating from the unfortunate coups d’état in those countries.
“We decided to re-examine this matter during this ordinary summit. ECOWAS remains committed to accompanying these sister nations to return to normal constitutional democratic order,” President Akuffo-Addo said.
“We will have the opportunity to hear from our mediators who will advise us on the latest developments in these countries to enable us to take the appropriate decisions,” the president added.
Terrorism and insecurity
In his address, President Akuffo-Addo acknowledged that the West Africa region continues to be a target for terrorist attacks which have resulted in the loss of many innocent victims and a deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the targeted countries.
To this end, President Akufo-Addo called on his colleague heads of state to ensure a co-ordinated effort to deal with the threat of terrorism in West Africa, which, he said, has gone beyond the Sahel and is now being carried out in some coastal states in West Africa.
“Faced with this constant terrorist threat, it is imperative for us to continue to implement our regional action plan against terrorism and to co-ordinate our various security initiatives,” Akufo-Addo said.
“This will reinforce our collective response to this destabilising threat. Our determination in this area must be stronger than ever,” he urged.
End of tenure
President Akufo-Addo expressed his appreciation to his colleague heads of state for the confidence they reposed in him and the members of the outgoing Commission.
He said he will continue to play his part in the work of ECOWAS beyond his chairmanship role, which ends in effect today.
“This is the end of the tenure of the members of the present Commission. On our behalf, let me thank all the statutory appointees for work performed during the last four years in the very difficult environment that I have described,” President Akufo-Addo said.
“I will at this summit conclude my tenure as chairman of the Authority. It has been a great privilege for Ghana and myself to be given the opportunity by you to serve this noble organisation for two consecutive terms, particularly in one of the most trying periods of its history,” President Akufo-Addo said.
“I have benefited tremendously from the solidarity and empathy of Your Excellencies in the discharge of this difficult mandate that you conferred on me, for which I am very grateful.
“Needless to say, I will continue to play my full part to the best of my ability in the work of the Authority,” the president said.
In the past 20 months, there have been four coups in the ECOWAS sub-region alone. On 18 August 2020, the first military takeover occurred in Mali, and a second one on 24 May 2021.
The third unconstitutional takeover of power took place on 5 September 2021 in Guinea and the third unconstitutional seizure of power took place on 24 January 2022 in Burkina Faso.
After each of the coups d’état, ECOWAS heads of state have instituted sanctions against the countrys military leaders, targeting in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso in turn.
They have also demanded that the military juntas in all three countries take immediate steps to restore democratic rule nationally.
The three affected countries have presented separate proposals setting out roadmaps to transition their nations back to constitutional rule.
ECOWAS leaders have rejected all three countries’ transition plans, which span two to five years. They have demanded instead that Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali take immediate steps to return the state to constitutional rule.