West African leaders said on Sunday they would establish a regional peacekeeping force to intervene in member states to help restore security and constitutional order in a region that has witnessed several coups in the past two years.
West and Central Africa have made strides in the past decade to shed its reputation as a “coup belt”, but the Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS) wants to do more to boost constitutional government in its member states.
“The leaders of ECOWAS have decided to recalibrate our security architecture to ensure that we take care of our own security in the region,” the leaders said in a communique after an annual summit in Nigeria’s capital Abuja.
“The leaders are determined to establish a regional force that will intervene in the event of need, whether this is in the area of security, terrorism (or to) … restore constitutional order in member countries.”
ECOWAS did not give any details of how the force would be constituted but said defence chiefs would meet next month to work out how it would operate.
The ECOWAS leaders also expressed concern over the continued detention of 46 Ivorian soldiers in Mali. They asked Malian authorities to release the soldiers by the end of this month.
If the soldiers were not released, ECOWAS leaders “reserve the right and they have taken the decision to take certain measures but they would appeal and call on the authorities of Mali to release the soldiers.”
In Guinea, the leaders said the military authorities should immediately have an inclusive dialogue with all the parties and politicians, and also expressed serious concern about the security situation in Burkina Faso, which had a coup in October.
Reporting by Felix Onuah; Writing by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by David Holmes