Annan urges continued international support to solidify West African stability

Annan urges continued international support to solidify West African stability

While there have been some positive developments in four West African countries that have recently been torn by conflict, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged a group of interested States working to bring peace and development to the troubled region to continue their active support at this crucial juncture.

“I commend the role you are playing in promoting peace and reconciliation in the Mano River Basin, and for your support of United Nations peace operations in West Africa,” he said in a message delivered to the so-called International Contact Group meeting in Vienna by his Special Representative for Liberia, Alan Doss.

The group, which was set up in 2002 to deal originally with the Liberian conflict and is co-chaired by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Sweden, includes the European Union (EU), France, Germany, Ghana, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Mano River basin States are Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

“The Contact Group’s resolve has contributed greatly to the progress made in establishing and consolidating peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and in helping to keep the peace process in Côte d'Ivoire on track,” Mr. Annan said, voicing gratitude to the donor community for assistance provided to these countries.

He noted that Liberia now has an opportunity to rebuild and pursue national reconciliation since the election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf but that it still needed the continued support of the international community in addressing a number of critical tasks such as the re-settlement of ex-combatants, internally displaced persons and refugees, and the reformation of the army and police. “I call on the Contact Group to continue its active support in these crucial areas,” he said.

In Sierra Leone, the Government is making steady progress in consolidating peace. But to ensure lasting stability and development, the country will need to continue its efforts to promote good governance, implement long-term economic policies, tackle youth unemployment, strengthen the judicial system and protect human rights. He urged the Group to provide “encouragement and support” in overcoming these challenges.

In Côte d'Ivoire, the international community must now support the Government’s efforts to kick-start the simultaneous processes of identification and disarmament after the country was split in half between the Government and rebels. “I encourage the Contact Group to press the Ivorian parties to honour their obligations,” he said, adding that he hoped that the Security Council will provide additional resources as the country moved towards elections.

Finally in Guinea the political climate remains polarized, the socio-economic situation continues to deteriorate, and any potential spill-over could threaten gains towards peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone. “I ask the Contact Group to continue to support the dialogue among the various segments of Guinean society as they strive to reach consensus on their country’s transitional arrangements,” Mr. Annan said.