The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is holding a two-day donors conference here on funding the establishment of a permanent base for regional peacekeeping operations.
The depot will be used to support the ECOWAS Standby Force, election monitoring and civil police support.
The executive secretary of the regional grouping, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, told representatives of the European Union, the United Nations, China and the United States that the conflicts in the sub-region had diverted his organisation’s attention to conflict-resolution and management.
“During such conflict-resolution and peacekeeping deployments…the issue of logistics support for our troops had been a major bottleneck and we had to rely on our partners for huge logistics support requirements,” Chambas said.
He said that ECOWAS needed strong logistics infrastructure support for peace operations. Chambas said the US government is offering to be the lead nation and that talks were underway for material and major end items worth US $40-50 million to be transferred to ECOWAS ownership.
Sierra Leone’s president, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, welcomed the initiative for an ECOWAS logistics depot, which will have its coastal base at Hastings some 16 km outside Freetown. An inland depot would be located in Bamako, Mali.
Kabbah said the idea was designed “to ensure that our sub-region secures the capability to effectively and efficiently support the creation and sustenance of the emerging standby force as it performs its sub-regional missions”.
He said the establishment of a standby force would send a “clear message to any would-be trouble makers” in the region. In 1990, when Sierra Leone provided a base to the regional military force for Liberia, ECOMOG, then-rebel leader Charles Taylor threatened that that the country would “taste the bitterness of war”.
Conflict erupted in Sierra Leone the next year and it lasted for a decade. British troops, West African and UN peacekeepers helped put an end to the fighting.