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ECOWAS 51st Summit focuses on reforms

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On Sunday, 4 June, West African leaders met in Monrovia for the 51st Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). On this occasion, they commended the peace efforts of the organisation’s member states whose armed forces have intervened in The Gambia (ECOMIG) and Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB), while warning against the multiple threats to the region’s stability. During the summit, at which Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf handed over the reins to her Togolese counterpart Faure Gnassingbé, the heads of state made several decisions. They decided to reduce the number of commissioners from 15 to 9 and to reduce the number of statutory posts in ECOWAS institutions to 17, while asking Commission President Marcel de Souza to extend these reforms to the organisation’s other institutions. In the security field, the ECOMIB and ECOMIG mandates were extended by 3 and 12 months, respectively. The most anticipated decisions, however, related to requests from Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. The ECOWAS leaders rejected Mauritania’s request for a special association agreement and asked Mauritania to “submit a request for readmission.” Mauritania was an ECOWAS member until 2000. Tunisia received a favourable response to its request for observer status. As regards Morocco, an ECOWAS observer since 2005, the leaders agreed in principle on that country’s application for full membership.  The decision was announced in the absence of Mohammed VI who did not come because Benyamin Netanyahu was present as an invited, special guest. This success of Moroccan diplomacy is only the first step towards membership. The next step consists of examining the legal implications of Morocco’s membership, in accordance with the provisions of the revised ECOWAS Treaty. The technical process might also be lengthy. In any case, five months after Morocco’s integration with the African Union, the 51st summit is opening up a new chapter for the Kingdom, and for the West African regional organisation, while at the same time further demonstrating the failure of the Arab Maghreb Union, which has seen three of its members formally make the decision to move closer to ECOWAS.