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ECOWAS to Extend Peace Keeping Mission In Gambia

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – ECOWAS is planning to extend the duration of its mission in The Gambia by one year.

The Director, Peacekeeping and Regional Security, ECOWAS Commission, Dr Cyriaque Agnekethom said that the extension was necessary to assist the country in reforming its security sector.

Agnekethom recalled that the ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia (ECOMIG) was initially deployed to intervene in the political crisis in that country following the refusal of former president Yayah Jammeh to step down from power.

The intervention began in January 2017 and the term of ECOMIG was extended in June 2017 by one year.

The ECOWAS director said that the mission was expected to end on May 20 but a proposal would be presented to the ECOWAS Chiefs of Defence Staff at its meeting in Lome in May.

“We will be having a meeting of Chiefs of Defence Staff in Lome from May 14 to 16 during which the situation in The Gambia will be discussed; the force commandant will present a report on the situation and the Chiefs of Defence Staff will review and make recommendations to the Mediation and Security Council in view of the next Heads of State Summit.

“The next summit will decide the next step but from the analysis we have on the security situation in the country, the force will be extended.

“There will be about one month vacuum between the end of the current mission and the decision of the Heads of State on July 23 the mission ends on May 20.

“So we will find a legal arrangement for the troops to stay till the summit.”

He said that the proposal would also consider the expansion of the current 500 troops on ground: 250 from Senegal, 200 from Nigeria and 50 from Ghana.

The official explained that the Heads of States, in their extraordinary summit on Guinea Bissau decided that all the forces on ground would be absorbed into ECOMIG.

“Senegal has a bilateral arrangement with The Gambia and about 500 troops are deployed there on bilateral basis.

“If we are to integrate them, we have to submit to the Chiefs of Defence Staff and look at all the parameters of this type of integration into ECOMIG.”

He further said that the mandate of the mission would remain the same but there would be an extension in the duration of the force in line with the request of the Gambian Government.

He, however, added that that the mission was yet to achieve certain aspects of its mandate and withdrawing the force could lead to a breakdown in the security of the country.

“Having the request from The Gambia for the troops to stay gave us legitimacy but it is not the reason we are extending the mandate.

“One of the mandates given to ECOMIG is to contribute to the training of the Armed and Security Forces which is the broad issue of the security sector reform and this reform has not really started, there is still some work.

“The reform has not taken place yet because if we are to withdraw we have to make sure that the capacity of the armed and security forces are built enough for them to take over and in that manner, our withdrawal will not constitute a threat to the security of the country.”

The ECOWAS official also added that financial constraint was one of the challenges faced in the maintenance of the troops.

He said that troops deployed were maintained by contributing member countries, adding that the ECOWAS Commission was mobilising resources to refund member states.

He said that the European Union had supported the mission with nine million euro and called for further support from the international community. (NAN)



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