22 December 2003




NEW YORK, 19 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States, delivered by Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Chief of the United Nations Office for West Africa, in Accra, 19 December:


It is my great pleasure to convey warm greetings to you on the occasion of this important summit. I wish to congratulate the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for their efforts to promote peace, stability and development in West Africa, and in particular to salute the tireless efforts of President Kufuor, the current chairman of your organization.


In recent months, the leaders of ECOWAS have undertaken major initiatives to settle the crises in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. These initiatives have made it possible to achieve significant progress, even if many obstacles remain to be overcome in order to restore sustainable peace and stability to these three countries. I urge ECOWAS to maintain pressure on all the parties concerned, to encourage the process leading to elections in Guinea-Bissau in March 2004, and to work with my Special Representatives for Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia in order to facilitate the full implementation of the Linas-Marcoussis Agreement and the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement.


It is encouraging to see how you persevere in seeking concerted solutions to the problems confronting your countries and your peoples. It is essential, however, to build on this political will by enhancing the capacity of the ECOWAS secretariat and its political and peacekeeping components. At the request of the Security Council, my Special Representative for West Africa is preparing a report on the measures to be taken to build the capacity of ECOWAS through increased cooperation with the international community. This report will be issued in mid-2004.


The regional approach is particularly important because the crises to which I was referring are increasingly interconnected. They are all fuelled by arms trafficking and are characterized by the use and recruitment of mercenaries and child soldiers and by cross-border movements of armed groups. Following the recent Security Council mission, the United Nations Office for West Africa was asked to prepare a report on practical ways of addressing these problems. Disarmament and demobilization programmes, for example, would need to be carried out simultaneously in the countries of the region. I also encourage ECOWAS to take specific measures to prevent some of its members from supporting armed groups involved in destabilizing activities in neighbouring countries.


In conclusion, I encourage ECOWAS to formulate preventive measures to deal with conflicts created by governments which, although duly elected, violate constitutional norms and flout basic principles of good governance, thus adding to instability in the subregion. The international community, and particularly the countries in the region, are right to condemn coups d’état which bring immense suffering to so many countries in Africa. At the same time, we should not be silent when faced with poor standards of governance, which are sometimes the principal cause of those coups d’état. This is particularly the case when governments allow no opportunities for peaceful transition, for example, by cancelling or rigging elections. Good governance is essential not just for political stability in the region, but also for development, economic growth and investment.


Rest assured that you can continue to rely on the support of the United Nations, and on my personal support, as you move towards peace, stability and prosperity.


I wish you every success in your deliberations.






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