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General News Mon, 30 Sep 2002

Journalists swarm Emergency ECOWAS Summit

A swarm of Journalists from across Africa and Europe on Sunday swarmed Parliament House in Accra to suck the nectar of the on-going ECOWAS Emergency Summit on the crisis in La Cote d'Ivoire.

They came from far away Nairobi, Johannesburg, Niamey and Dakar and nearby Abidjan and Lome with their cameras, recorders, laptops and notebooks to keep their countries and peoples informed about deliberations at the summit.

Accra was for a very long time hosting as many as 12 Heads of States and Governments, the assemblage of the highest number since the days of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah in the First Republic.

A mass band of the Ghana Armed Forces and Police gave a rendition of the African Union and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) anthems to herald the emergency summit.

Many were they who were hearing the anthems for the first time and were quick to suggest that school children across the continent should be made to learn them.

After the anthems, a minute silence was observed for the victims of the Ferry disaster in Senegal, which claimed the lives of about 700 people last Thursday.

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The tone for the search of peace and stability was set when President John Agyekum of Ghana in welcoming the delegates, recalled a Ghanaian proverb that it was a fool who would sit unconcerned when his neighbour's house was on fire.

President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria went a step further and said: "It is our own house that is on fire" and thus revitalising the African passion for good neighbourliness - the driving force for holding the emergency summit on the political crisis in Cote d'Ivoire.

Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of ECOWAS said all the Heads of State attached great importance to the situation in Cote d'Ivoire and that was why within 48 hours of summoning, as many as 12 of them had assembled.

President Obasanjo had to cut short a foreign visit; President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Chairman of Africa Union, had to put aside serious domestic and continental issues to dash to Accra.

President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal and Current Chairman of ECOWAS, left home when rescue teams were still searching for about 700 Senegalese who got drowned a ferry accident off the coast of The Gambia.

The summit, which was earlier moved from October 5 to September 29, was shifted from Abidjan to Accra because of "security concerns" for ECOWAS Leaders.

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It reviewed the security situation in Cote d'Ivoire, which since 10 days ago has been under siege from 750 mutinous soldiers resisting plans to demobilise them.

About 270 people including former Junta Leader General Robert Guei and the Ivorian Interior Minister, Emile Bongo Doudou have been killed and 300 others injured in the crisis.

An extraordinary meeting of the ECOWAS Defence and Security Commission, comprising Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff of ECOWAS member states would also hold in Accra after the summit, to discuss the implementation of decisions taken.

Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo had formally asked the 15-member Sub-Regional bloc for "support and assistance."

Nigeria, acting on the request of ECOWAS, had already deployed three Alpha jets and about 30 support personnel in Cote d'Ivoire.

Source: .