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Sierra Leone News: Planning Ministry takes ECOWAS sensitisation to Southern Region

The Government of Sierra Leone through its Ministry of Planning and Economic Development have embarked on a national sensitisation campaign on Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the Southern Region. The team which comprises staff of the National Revenue Authority, Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) and Ministries of Health, Planning and Social Welfare began the campaign on Wednesday 10 April, 2019 at the Moyamba Junction Market and then proceeded to hold a discussion program at the Njala University College radio in Mokonde. Speaking on the purpose of the sensitisation, Mamie-Miatta Johnny, Head of National ECOWAS Office at the Ministry of Planning, explained that it is aimed at propagating ECOWAS information which aims at promoting economic development and regional integration. The 2020 vision she said seeks to bring ECOWAS to the people by moving away from the state to state bureaucracy to engaging the grassroots as their 2019 development plan draws to an end. The sensitisation she said will also help people understand that there is the free movement of people with the ECOWAS passport being used by the 15 member states. Other opportunities include the ECOWAS Brown Card Insurance and the Community Court of Justice, “if you feel that you are not treated fairly by your state you can go to the court and if they pass their judgment and the country fails to honour it, there will be penalties.” Explaining the background and governance structure of ECOWAS, Yusuf Benga Sama from the Planning Ministry said that several arms are responsible for regulating the affairs of these states.  He cited that the structure includes Authority of Heads of State and Government that takes decision on behalf of the people of ECOWAS, Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs and ministries that are responsible for ECOWAS matters in the region (in the case of Sierra Leone it is the Ministry of Planning) and the ECOWAS Judicial arm based in Abuja, Nigeria. The ECOWAS Parliament in which Sierra Leone has five Members of Parliament represented, the economic wing which is the financing institution called the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development based in Lome, Togo. Also, there is the ECOWAS Commission which is charged with the daily running of the ECOWAS affairs, and it is being led by its President and Vice President (a Sierra Leonean) and 13 Commissioners and several specialised agencies like WAHU which deals with medical issues. The ECOWAS transformation he said took a turn in 2007 from a Secretariat to a Commission and with the vision 2020 moving from state to the people. “ECOWAS says the people need to be involved and now with the free movement, provided you have a valid document you can stay in any of these countries for up to 90 days after which you can apply for a resident permit” he said. West African leaders’ he said came together saying it is time for them to move away from economy to security and peace, on which basis ECOMOG was formed and the resolution led to their intervention in Liberia and Sierra Leone during the war in the 90s. ECOWAS he said also sends in fact finding mission during election period of member states and meet the political class, adding that they also provide support to enhance democracy and good governance. They have their depot at Murray Town (PAE) and those vehicles are used to transport electoral materials within West Africa. Staff Officer Grade II, Department of peacekeeping Operations, Major A. B. Konneh spoke on the key objectives of ECOWAS which he stressed is to foster cooperation and integration that will raise the standard of living within the sub region. “Its vision resonates with having a borderless region in which the population will move from one point to another with no hindrance. In sustaining democracy, ECOWAS has contributed towards forming a wing which is the Peace, Support Operations (PSO) department” he said. With the establishment of the ECOWAS Logistics Depot in Lungi, the ECOWAS Standby Force, National Early Warning Systems and the Project Regional Stabilisation and Development Fund, these will help in sustaining democracy in Sierra Leone. Troops from other countries will be assembled in Lungi as currently there are 165 RSLAF soldiers undergoing training at the peacekeeping center that will in turn contribute to peace support operations.  He disclosed that with the stabilisation development fund several projects will be undertaken at Koidu market with the construction of a hotel with international conference standard, Yenga bridge and road construction to Guinea and Liberia, “if all of these are completed it will help in the growth of the country.” The logistics depot he said will create economic growth in the country as the personnel will be paid in US dollars and the equipment that they will bring will be worth millions as there will be employment opportunities for police officers. “This depot will not only benefit us as troops get deployed on peacekeeping mission the proceeds from that will come in foreign exchange” Major Konneh said. The team will be in Pujehun today and tomorrow in Bo.

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Thursday April 11, 2019.



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