By Al-Hassan Conteh, Ph.D
Ambassador of Liberia to Nigeria & Permanent Representative to the ECOWAS Commission
On behalf of the President of the Republic of Liberia, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, the people of Liberia, and in my own name, I would like to express our heartfelt condolences for the passing of His Excellency Marcel Alain de Souza, former President of the ECOWAS Commission, to the President and the fraternal people of Benin Republic, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, the ECOWAS Family, and Mrs. De Souza and her family.
Mr. de Souza passed on July 17, 2019 in Paris after a brief illness. A national of Benin, the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government appointed him President of the ECOWAS Commission on December 17, 2015. He served in that post until March 2018.
I worked closely with President de Souza in my capacity as the Chair of the ECOWAS Permanent Representative Committee (PRC) during Liberia’s Chairmanship of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in 2016-17. This gave me an opportunity to witness, firsthand, his devoted administrative and coordination work in the service of ECOWAS.
His tenure saw Liberia resuming its historic role as a founding member of ECOWAS, with the election of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Dakar, Senegal, on June 4, 2016, as the Chairperson of ECOWAS. President de Souza worked closely with the former Liberian leader to implement ECOWAS programs under the Authority of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government. Liberia’s chairmanship also saw him coordinating ECOWAS matters with the relevant Liberian Ministries which chaired all statutory meetings of ECOWAS, including those of the Council of Ministers, the Mediation and Security Council, Administration and Finance Committee and other ECOWAS Technical Committees.
At the Dakar Summit, President Sirleaf prioritized a four-point agenda, which tackled key peace and security issues in the sub-region. The agenda also addressed the completion of ongoing infrastructure projects, accelerating the institutional reform process of the Community, and collaboration with key partners, including the African Union (AU), the United Nations, the European Union, international finance institutions, and the private sector.
Liberia’s assumption of these responsibilities came in the aftermath of fluid global developments. Commodity prices, including petroleum products, had dropped precipitously all over the world. And discussions about the exit of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (BREXIT) presented unforeseen consequences for West African economies, including possible impacts on the region’s largest and liquid markets: Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire, and other possible macroeconomic effects on long term employment and terms of trade cycles. Transitional peace issues in the Gambia and civil crises in Northern Mali and terrorism in West Africa were at their zeniths.
With the collaboration of President de Souza, Chairperson Sirleaf was able to mobilize all ECOWAS institutions to address the four-point agenda while navigating these global challenges and successfully addressing the crises in the Gambia and Mali. For the first time in the history of the EOCWAS Commission, the Chairperson visited Abuja in December 2016, to listen to presentations by all Commissioners and the Heads of the Community Court of Justice and the ECOWAS Parliament on their challenges, accomplishments and recommendations for the ECOWAS reform agenda.
President de Souza’s administration was an era of remarkable accomplishments in the reform of ECOWAS institutions, which saw the forward march in removing the roadblocks to peace and security in our sub-region. He served excellently with all his heart and with great competence and sincere passion in working with Liberia and all stakeholders on Community matters to realize the noble mission of ECOWAS of Peoples. May his soul rest in perfect peace.