Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Becomes New ECOWAS Chairperson
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected as Chairperson of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at the 49th Ordinary Session of the Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government. The white ballot election by her colleagues occurred in the Senegalese capital of Dakar. President Sirleaf immediately established key priorities for ECOWAS aimed at peace consolidation, security architecture, conclusion of negotiations and legal actions, the transformation of Vision 2020 and the improvement in financial stability.
President Sirleaf’s ascension as Chairperson of ECOWAS is marked by challenges ranging from terrorism, global economic meltdown, coupled with the recent Ebola outbreak. During her acceptance speech, President Sirleaf described her election as an indication of the progress and peace Liberia enjoys, which would not have been possible without the tremendous sacrifices and solidarity of the ECOWAS community.
She commended her Senegalese counterpart, President Macky Sall, whose extraordinary leadership guided the work of the organization in the past year, paid tribute to Dr. Kadre Désiré Ouadraogo for the able manner in which he managed the affairs of the Community as President of the ECOWAS Commission, and congratulated his successor, His Excellency Marcel Alain de Souza and team as they assume their responsibilities.
The Liberian Chief Executive reminded the regional leaders that the Community faces both challenges and opportunities including the sharp reduction in commodity prices and the effect of epidemiological outbreaks which have resulted in a decline in investment and growth. Beyond financial difficulties, she indicated that growth is affected by terrorism, drug and human trafficking, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the impact of climate change.
President Sirleaf emphasized that it was important to take pride in the high potential of the ECOWAS Community for a vibrant integrated market which is currently estimated at the equivalent of US $1.3 trillion produced by a wide range of activities in agriculture, commerce, industry and services.
As President Sirleaf embarks on her new position as Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority, she outlined the consolidation of peace and security architecture, the need to work even harder as Member States to stem terrorism, strengthen intelligence capacity and enhance coordination with the African Union, the United Nations and other partner institutions.
President Sirleaf called for the conclusion of negotiations and legal actions to enhance trade integration, but warned that failure to close the negotiations could lead to differentiation among Member States. She also called upon the remaining countries, which have not ratified and commence the enforcement of the Common External Tariff (CET) thereby deepening the potential for trade and productive integration in the Community to do so.
The new Chairperson of the Authority of Heads of State proposed the critical need to achieve transformation of Vision 2020 via agriculture and infrastructure , financing the Community through contributions of the Community levy by Member States to meet the operational costs of the institutions and to respond to security emergencies such as those faced by peacekeeping troops in Mali and Guinea Bissau.