Amb Kadré Ouedraogo, President of the ECOWAS Commission, said the Commission has budgeted 15 million dollars to finance humanitarian aid for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Ouedraogo disclosed this in an interview with journalists on Wednesday in Abuja.
He said the ECOWAS member states and donor partners were involved in offering humanitarian aid to refugees and internally displaced persons created by the crises in Mali and Guinea Bissau.
The ECOWAS president said that the budget had been presented to the Authority of Heads of State and Government.
``For the humanitarian purpose we have an estimate of 15 million dollars for the situation both in Mali and in the neighbouring countries and we have already started looking for ways of financing the budget; the member states and all our partners have been informed.
``We are now in the process of gathering this amount in order to bring this assistance to the refugees.’’
He said that the challenges of providing such humanitarian assistance included the humanitarian demand exceeding the planned budget and security challenges faced by humanitarian agents in the north of Mali.
Ouedraogo said that the part of the mandate of the ECOWAS standby force would be to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian services in the affected areas.
``It is difficult for the humanitarian actors to get access to the north of the country.
``That is one of the reasons for the deployment of ECOWAS troops in Mali, that is, to secure humanitarian corridors so that the humanitarian organisations can safely deliver the assistance to the refugees. ’’
He said that the mandate of the troops also included facilitating the return to civilian rule in Mali and to “deal” with the situation in the north of the country.
``The primary objective is to deal with the situation in the north but you cannot deal with the situation in the north when you do not have a legitimate government in Bamako.
``So, the first instance is to secure the institutions, the Interim President, the Interim Government and to restore law and order in Mali.
``At a second stage, to face rebellion in the north, but the ECOWAS deployment is to secure the transition and also to face the rebellion in the north.’’
He said that all ECOWAS member states were involved in the troops’ deployment to Guinea Bissau, adding that the exercise would take some time due to the movement of heavy equipment to the country.
Ouedraogo said the troops had a period of one year to carry the mandate of facilitating the transition period in Guinea Bissau.
He said: ``We believe that in this period of 12 months, the transition would have been completed; the electoral process would have been completed and then the reform of the security and defence sector would have been achieved.
``That is the purpose of the deployment and we believe that this can be done within the period of one year.’’
The ECOWAS president reiterated the commission’s zero-tolerance to the resurgence of coups in the sub region and attributed the acts to ``non-transparent electoral processes and lack of a democratic culture.”
He advocated effective sensitisation of citizens to facilitate easy democratic processes and enhance regional development in the sub region.
``We believe that the electoral processes are sometimes not transparent and sometimes also we lack a democratic culture.
``We have to sensitise our citizens, so that they all abide by the democratic rules because there is no way we can develop our region if we do not have a peaceful and stable society.’’
Ouedraogo said the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance served as a tool to monitor the democratic processes of member states.
On the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the sub region, he said the sub regional body was trying its best to eliminate the act through the ECOWAS Small Arms Control Programme (ECOSAP).
He said that the event of the Arab spring and other crises posed a threat to the sub region.
Ouedraogo called on the development partners to assist in tackling the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the sub region.
``ECOWAS is like the entire Europe and it is difficult to control what is going on.
``ECOWAS is trying its best, but it is obvious that we do need the assistance of all our partners to assist us on that.”