ECOWAS @ 49, Wesseh Highlights Liberia’s Gratitude -Calls for Harmonized, Affordable Resident Permit Fees

MONROVIA:  As Africa’s oldest republic, Liberia campaigned for and helped to midwife almost all of the world’s iconic peace-unity-and-justice organizations, even including the lately formed Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), which this week celebrates its 49th founding anniversary. Like a human who gives birth to the young, turns older and becomes a child again to be incubated by his own children, Liberia for nearly 15 years turned out to be a frail and helpless troubled child and those the country gave birth to rallied to save a dying father. As ECOWAS, one of the progenies, aged 49, the nearly 177-year-old Liberia is looking back, feeling obliged to celebrate along with that regional body for how it sacrificed bigly to salvage a dying grandfather from self-destruction. Former Senator Conmany B. Wesseh thinks Liberia needs to make its appreciation for ECOWAS even more indelible and monumental, as The Analyst reports.

Former River Gee County Senator Conmany B. Wesseh is proposing that a number of appreciation-and-adoration moves by Liberia for the Economic Community of West African States for its redemptive, lives-costing adventure in Liberia when the country was at war with itself.

ECOWAS, which is celebrating its 49th founding anniversary this week, having birthed May 28, 1975, was endlessly engaged with international partners, including donation of lives and enormous resources throughout Liberia’s 14-year civil conflict.

As a way of expressing gratitude to the regional body for its hugely costly role during Liberia’s civil war, Senator Wesseh called on the Government of Liberia to take the lead by naming or dedicating public places like parks, streets or boulevards, buildings, schools or other institutions and communities in honor of ECOWAS and her heroes and heroines of peace for their roles in Liberia.

“In this connection,” Wesseh said while delivering the keynote address at the formal ECOWAS anniversary ceremonies held at the PHP Park in Monrovia on May 28, “I can think immediately of the following who I believe are deserving of our honors.”

He proposed that ECOWAS, as a whole, be appreciated by naming after it the new circle under construction at the ELWA Junction in Paynesville City, to be called “the ECOWAS Circle of Peace and Unity” and with the appropriate monument.

The Senator continued: “ECOMOG as a whole – we must continue to remember the most popular slogan during the war: ‘Thank God for ECOMOG!’ with the appropriate monument at the Bong Mines Bridge, Bushrod Island, Monrovia: President Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings of Ghana; President Dauda Jawara of The Gambia; President Gen. Sani Abacha of Nigeria; President Gen. Lasana Conte of Guinea; General Joshua Dogonyaro (first ECOMOG Field Commander); General Adetunji Olurin (the Destroyer of  Octopus, the most vicious of the battles for Monrovia); Ambassador Joshua Iroba (the great Nigerian Diplomat, ECOWAS Representative and Nigerian Ambassador at  critical junctures of the war).”

He also recommended that August 18 — the day of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2003 which has been faithfully kept for the last 21 years, and which has restored the image of Liberia as a respecter of Agreements — should be declared National Day of Peace in Liberia.

“President General Abdulsalami Abubakar (ECOWAS Mediator who steered affairs for the three months of the peace talks in Accra, Ghana),” he noted, should also be immortalized with an appreciation monument.

Wesseh also paid tribute to each of ECOWAS Member states – Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo and of course, our country Liberia.

“Each of the 15 countries, excluding Liberia, could be assigned a county, alphabetically arranged, where a major street would be so named in the county’s capital city,” he said, adding: “I must also thank the African Union, the United Nations and its agencies, the European Union, the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China and International humanitarian organizations, all of whom assisted ECOWAS to serve Liberia so well during our difficulties.”

Mr. Wesseh who was closely involved with various peacemaking conferences and efforts also called Liberians not to forget fellow countrymen “who gave their lives in a variety of ways to support the ECOWAS and promote peace in Liberia; they are no longer with us, but have joined our ancestors.”

“These great men and women deserve to be remembered at this time,” he said, naming Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer, former President of the Interim Government of National Unity; Catholic Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis; Sheikh Kafumba Konneh, the leader of the Muslim community; Mother Mary Brownell, an exceptional woman leader; Mother Ruth Sando Perry, the first female head of state of Liberia; and many more.

Reflecting on ECOWAS Evolution

Tracing the history of the regional body briefly, Mr. Wesseh reminded his audience: “ECOWAS was established on the 28th of May 1975 with the signing of the Treaty of Lagos.  Its stated mission is to promote economic integration across the West African sub-region. This Treaty was revised and signed on 24th July, 1993 in Cotonou, Benin.

The fundamental principles of ECOWAS are based on equity, inter-dependence, solidarity, co-operation, non-aggression, regional peace, promotion of human rights, and economic and social justice.

“Among the most notable protocols of ECOWAS is the protocol on the free movement of persons; residences and establishment. The stated goal is to achieve collective self-sufficiency for its members by creating a single large trade bloc through the building of a fair economic and trading union Additionally, ECOWAS aims to raise the living standards of the people and promote economic development and regional integration.

“It should be noted that 4 member states were suspended and they announced their withdrawal from the organization because their governments have been taken over by their militaries in contravention of the ECOWAS protocol on democracy.”

ECOWAS and Liberia

Liberia was one of the 15 countries that gathered in Lagos, Nigeria to form ECOWAS as a political and economic union on 28 May 1975.

Armed conflict erupted in Liberia on December 24, 1989, with the aim to over-throw the military turned civilian regime of Samuel Kanyon Doe which, made up of 17 non-commissioned officers, had staged a coup d’état on April 12,1980 that ended the more than 100-year rule of the True Whig Party in Liberia.

A bloody reign followed which did not spare real and imaginary enemy/opposition, there by provoking the armed rebellion. Massive death of Liberians and residents ensued. Destruction of millions of dollars of social and economic infrastructure occurred, Hundreds of thousands of Liberians and residents were displaced and large numbers sought refuge in many countries, especially neighboring West African countries.

Making the Peace Plan

It was because of this harsh reality of death and destruction that Liberian Christian and Muslim leaders quickly came together and formed the Interfaith Mediation Committee with the aim to secure peace between forces of the Doe Regime on the one hand and the emergent multiple rebel groups. These patriotic leaders developed a plan by which they hoped the war could be ended.

ECOWAS, in the spirit of African brotherhood, especially the ECOWAS principles of peace and solidarity, began to build on what the Liberian religious leaders, joined by Liberian women leaders, to declare and promote what became the famous ECOWAS Peace Plan.

That plan provided for a cease fire; the creation of an Interim Government which should not be headed by a leader of any warring faction or group; the creation of a peacekeeping military force contributed to by member states of ECOWAS; the disarmament and demobilization of the warring parties; and, the holding of free and fair elections under the supervision of ECOWAS and the international community.

Advent of ECOMOG

Liberia was on the verge of total self-destruction. As a major part of the Peace Plan therefore ECOWAS took the courageous and heroic decision to set up a political and military body to stop the carnage.   It really took the sweat, tears and blood of men and women from Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Senegal and Mali operating as the ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), the first of such force in West Africa created only to save our country from that self-destruction.

The political and military leadership of ECOWAS and their peoples made every unimaginable sacrifice to ensure the implementation of the Peace Plan which ended with elections after seven (7) years of war.

Unfortunately, ECOMOG was forced to leave Liberia prematurely by the newly elected President, the former warlord Charles Taylor with visible actions reversing the gains made in the implementation of the Peace Plan. As the reversals became manifest, new rebel armed groups developed and armed violence erupted again, this time to remove from power, the new regime of Mr. Taylor.


Once again, it took ECOWAS to lead the efforts to end the new round of war by negotiating the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was signed in Accra, Ghana on August 18, 2003, thus finally ended the war in Liberia.  Thanks to the combined military experience, diplomatic prowess and personal skills of the ECOWAS appointed former Head of State of Nigeria, General Abdulsalami Abubakar who championed and steered the mediation successfully.

That Agreement provided for the creation of ECOMIL, the vanguard force to the UN Mission in Liberia, (UNMIL). Once again, it took ECOWAS with Nigeria leadership, for that feat.

All in all, there were 14 years of war in Liberia. All in all ECOWAS and ECOWAS citizens sweated, shed tears and shed blood side by side, with Liberians for this country to survive.

Harmonized Resident Permit Fees

Senator Wesseh used his speech to appeal to all member states of ECOWAS especially the government and people of Liberia to warmly embrace ECOWAS institutions and ECOWAS citizens everywhere as truly our own and our brothers and sisters.

“Because of the very positive role of ECOWAS in our sub-region, we must harmonize and ensure affordable resident permit fees for ECOWAS citizens across the sub-region,” he said.

“What are the advantages or benefits of ensuring the implementation of this appeal, if I may ask? I believe that these will: increase economic activities across the 15 member states; ensure transparent, accountable and legal activities across the sub-region; assure compliance of the payment of such fees to legitimate authorities instead of the many private collectors all over our community; and, aromote more effectively and realistically the concept of ECOWAS of the people, more than ECOWAS of states.”

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