CSO Forum on Civil Society and Crisis Prevention conference on course

Monday, December 22, 2008
The second regional civil society forum on Civil Society and Crisis Prevention in West Africa ended in Freetown, Sierra Leone, last Thursday, December 18th.

The two-day conference was held at the Bintumani Hotel in Freetown. It was attended by over 100 delegates from all 15 ECOWAS states and partners, including OXFAM GB, International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), UNDP, ECOSAP, the ECOWAS Commission, Natcom, UNREC, among others.

The conference was officially opened by the Sierra Leonean minister of defence, Major (rtd) Paulo Conteh, who delivered the keynote address on behalf of the president of Sierra Leone, Earnest Bai Koroma.

In statement read on his behalf, His Excellency President Koroma highlighted the need to tackle the proliferation of small arms and light weapons head on, ‘because of the devastating effects they have on security and development in West African sub-region.’ President Koroma stated that the experience of Sierra Leone in the recent past has deepened the resolve of the government and the people of Sierra Leone to work in partnership with local, regional and international agencies to create the conditions for peace and stability to foster.

The chairman of the occasion, Almamy Koroma, minister for Trade and Industry of Sierra Leone, expressed delight for chairing the conference since he was instrumental in the setting up of the Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms (SLANSA). He said that the fact that the conference was being held in Freetown was itself instructive in view of the recent history of civil war.

He welcomed the formation of national chapters of WAANSA, which he said was a strategy in the right direction, and he impressed upon civil society organisations to keep governments on their toes to ensure that they deliver on their commitment to the ECOWAS convention. He challenged participants to consider alternative ways of livelihood programmes to small arms and light weapons.

In a statement read on his behalf by the director for peace keeping, General Charles Okae, the president of the ECOWAS Commission, His Excellency Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, thanked the government of Sierra Leone for hosting the conference. He expressed hope that the forum would provide opportunity to share experiences and best practice.

Dr Ibn Chambas lamented the sad experiences the West Africa sub-region had gone through because of the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. He stressed the importance of promoting existing partnership arrangements, good governance and democratic principles in West Africa.

"Partnership gave solidarity messages and expressed their desire to work with WAANSA as a strategic partner incorporating national chapters. Each of the partners identified their strategic priorities for the year 2009 and the extent to which they intend to assist and support national chapters to meet the strategic priorities", said Dr Chambas.

The forum reviewed progress made by the organisation since the first Forum in Abidjan in June 2007. The forum received the progress report on WAANSA's activities, which included advocacy, co-ordination and capacity building. A panel of WAANSA's development partners commended them for the positive relationship they have with WAANSA.

A plan of action of the Network of Journalists was presented and discussed. It was resolved that Journalists interested in security and development be integrated in the national networks and coalitions. The forum also received information on the financial status of WAANSA. And the forum further expressed its appreciation to OXFAM GB, OXFAM America, UNDP, UNREC, and ECOWAS-ECOSAP for the financial and technical support.

Author: By Musa Ndow in Freetown, Sierra Leone