The ECOWAS says it will deploy 600 military and police contingent to Guinea Bissau to address the political crisis in the country.
Mrs Salamatu Suleiman, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, disclosed this in an interview with journalists at the 30th Ordinary Meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff in Abuja on Monday.
``Currently we are looking at 600 plus as an initial deployment both army and police for Guinea Bissau and as the situation evolves and unfolds we will see what is necessary.
``The United Nations, African Union and all other international players are positively supporting ECOWAS in achieving this.
``The forces would be there to ensure that the defence and security sector reform is implemented; already a road map has been drawn up between ECOWAS, the country and other key stakeholders.
“That defence and security sector reforms will be implemented; ECOWAS forces will assist to oversee that it is done in harmony and peace.”
Suleiman said the mandate of the troops deployed to Guinea Bissau was to assist the country to return fully to constitutional rule and also provide facilities for the safe exit of the Angolan troops.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Angolan troops are in Guinea Bissau to protect its territorial interests and to prevent a spillover effect.
Suleiman said the crisis in Mali was “dual” in nature due to the coup d’état and the rebellion in the Northern parts.
She added that ECOWAS was faced with the task of ensuring a successful return of constitutional order and defending the territorial integrity of Mali.
``In Mali they have dual crises and that causes a threat to not only Mali but to other countries in that region.
`` So, we are facing the problem of ensuring that Mali is restored to constitutional order, and also its territorial integrity is defended.
``We may need military presence, but ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government have told ECOWAS to put ECOWAS standby force in readiness, so that when the Malian government assesses the situation and calls for assistance, we will simply deploy and help them to preserve their territorial integrity and to also preserve the transitional arrangement.”
She said that the ECOWAS could not interfere in the situation without a mandate from the government, adding that the ECOWAS Protocol allowed for interference where the situation was dire.
She said that forces would also see to the eradication of drug trafficking and other vices that plagued the countries.
The commissioner said the moves by ECOWAS to deploy troops to Guinea Bissau and Mali would ensure the protection of citizens and that humanitarian assistance formed part of the mandate of the troops.
She said ECOWAS would leave no stone unturned in addressing the crises in the two countries.
Participants at the one-day meeting included the heads of the Gendarmerie and police forces from Burkina Faso and Nigeria.
Others were the Special Representative of the President of the ECOWAS Commission in Guinea Bissau and the Force Commander of the ECOWAS Mission to Guinea Bissau.