Abuja, Nigeria – Mr. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou of La Cote d’Ivoire has taken over as the new President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
A release from the Liberian Embassy in Abuja says Mr. Brou took over from Mr. Marcel de Souza of Benin who served one month short of his two years in charge of the ECOWAS Commission.
According to the release, Liberia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, His Excellency Professor Al-Hassan Conteh and other members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to Nigeria and ECOWAS, and staff and heads of various ECOWAS institutions attended the ceremony that held in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday, March 1, 2018.
Mr. Ally Coulibaly, La Cote d’Ivoire’s Minister of African Integration and Ivorians Abroad, and Mrs Khadija Bukar Ibrahim, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, were among other high-profiled dignitaries who also attended the event.
The Commission’s outgoing President, Mr de Souza, in his farewell message outlined the Commission’s significant progress, the release adds.
Mr de Souza named some of them as the ongoing ECOWAS institutional reform, the establishment of a regional television station, renewed commitments of Member States to the creation of the ECOWAS single currency by 2020, as well as plans for the construction of a new Commission headquarters.
The outgoing president also recalled the successful conduct of presidential elections in 2016 and 2017 in six ECOWAS Member States including Liberia, enhanced harmonization of macroeconomic and monetary integration policies, signing of the Association Agreement with Mauritania, repayment of debts and improved solvency, credibility and corporate image of the Commission, adoption and implementation of the ECOWAS Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, as well as cost containment measures, among others
Mr de Souza, however, underscored some major challenges of the Commission, to include in particular, late payment of Community Levy by Member States, non-compliance with decisions of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, the stalemate in the political crisis in Guinea-Bissau, strengthening of regional integration, sustaining the gains made in managing staff welfare and cost control measures, among others.
For his part, the new President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, congratulated and thanked his predecessor for the impressive manner in which he led the regional organization for nearly two years.
Welcoming the progress ECOWAS made at political, institutional, security, economic and social levels, the new President of the Commission pledged to further strengthen them.
According to the Liberian Embassy’s release, Mr Brou named some of the challenges that he must address during his four years presidency as Member States' expectations in the areas of economic, social and human development, synergy of actions for greater efficiency in their implementation, sound business environment to support and finance infrastructure, among others.
A native of Cote d'Ivoire, the new ECOWAS Commission President holds a Ph. D in Economics, an MBA in Finance from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, United States of America and, a Master's degree from the National University of Cote d'Ivoire.
According to his profile, he began his professional career at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1982, first as a Senior Economist and served mainly in Senegal from 1990 to 1991 as IMF Resident Representative.
Until his appointment as President of the Commission, Mr. Brou served as Minister of Industry and Mines in Cote d'Ivoire since November 2012. Prior to that, he was Economic and Financial Adviser to the Prime Minister of Cote d'Ivoire from 1991 to 1995.
Also, he worked for eight years at the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), where he was successively Director of International Relations and Director of Studies until 2005. He thereafter headed the Department of Economic and Currency Studies before being appointed Special Adviser and Comptroller General from 2007 to 2008.
He was also the World Bank's Resident Representative for Chad from 2010 to 2013, and Consultant to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Jean-Claude Brou is married with two children, the release concludes.
ECOWAS Mission Urges Peaceful Resolution ahead of Sierra Leone’s March 7 Polls
Meanwhile, Prof. Amos Sawyer, Head of the ECOWAS’ 55-member Election Observation Mission has appealed to Sierra Leone’s political actors and stakeholders to cooperate and ensure that all outstanding political and legal issues are resolved peaceful so as not to jeopardise the smooth conduct of the country’s crucial March 7 presidential, parliamentary and local council polls.
“These elections should be seen in the wider and broader context of advancing peace and stability in Sierra Leone and the ECOWAS region,” the Head of Mission said in Freetown on Saturday 3rd March after a meeting with the leadership of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), part of his continuing engagement with stakeholders ahead of the elections.
The major pre-election issues, whose outcome could impact the elections, are the dual citizenship case involving two of the 16 presidential candidates pending and the restriction of vehicular movement in the District headquarter Towns on Election Day. There are three cases before the Supreme Court for determination.
Political and legal experts have expressed concern that the success of the March 7 elections could depend on mature handling of the court cases, especially those on the presidential candidature. Under the Sierra Leone constitution, a political party whose candidate is disqualified has seven days to produce a replacement. Given that the elections are in a few days’ time, either going ahead with the polls or a postponement has a cost and credibility implications on the elections.
Consequently, Prof. Sawyer has continued to preach peace and the need for prompt resolution of the issues at meetings with the stakeholders, including the outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma, the Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court Bench, as well as NEC.
“Sierra Leone has come a long way from its civil war and what required is the collective efforts by the citizens, the government, security agencies, the judiciary, civil society and the media to take the country to the next level,” declared the former Interim President of Liberia.
This is against the background of the fact that electoral disputes have triggered many a political conflict in the region and the continent resulting in huge human and financial losses and untold humanitarian catastrophe.
At the meeting with Prof. Sawyer, the NEC Chairman Mohamed N'fah-Alie Conteh assured that “on the whole, given the level of preparations, the Commission is confident that the elections will go well.”
He thanked ECOWAS, the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) and development partners for supporting the electoral process. Before the deployment of observers, in line with its mandate to support member States holding elections, ECOWAS has also provided financial support after undertaking a pre-election fact-finding mission to Sierra Leone, with the purpose of ensuring that all stakeholders are on the same page for credible elections and peaceful transfer of political power in the country.
Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, President of ECONEC governing board and Chair of the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria also led a Needs Assessment Mission to Sierra Leone in 2017, which resulted in the pledge of logistical support towards ensuring successful March 7 elections and the consolidation of peace and democracy in the country.