The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey has said the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic has undermined the prevalent security challenges confronting the ECOWAS member states.
Speaking at the first meeting of the international coalition of the Sahel on Friday 12 June 2020, the minister expressed displeasure over indications that "the security and economic challenges in the Sahel have undermined the socio-economic development of the ECOWAS region. These challenges have been worsened by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic which has taken over the attention and resources of both international and domestic actors, and as a result violent extremists are exploiting the situation," she said.
The Minister also added that "terrorism and acts perpetrated by violent extremists in the Sahel-Saharan region have become trans-border threats, with the potential to spread to coastal states in West Africa. The acts of terrorism have, unfortunately, assumed worrisome proportions over the past several months. ECOWAS, therefore, launched the 2020 - 2024 Action Plan to end terrorism in the ECOWAS region, with a general framework, a strategy, a funding mechanism and priority areas to maintain the momentum in the fight against terrorism," Shirley Botchwey indicated.
However in response to the stated security threats issues, which boarder on human rights the Minister called for integrated and multi-sectoral solutions while expressing displeasure over the "uncoordinated and unstructured operations of multiple actors with different interests within the region" which have not promoted efforts to achieve set goals.
The minister was hopeful that an upcoming Summit in Pau, France, will go down in history as ground-breaking and therefore urged all members of this coalition to commit themselves to the rules and collaborate with the Sahel countries, ECOWAS and the African Union.
She added that, "Ghana’s conviction that the rules of engagement and operations that we have finalized today, will help us to effectively and holistically deal with the security, economic, development and environmental challenges that confront the Sahel and nearby countries."