SENEGAL: Leaders from West Africa to form Regional Force to combat Terrorism

DAKAR, JUNE 7, 2016(CISA) – West African leaders have discussed the possibility of setting up a force to combat extremists in the region.

The decision was announced after heads of state of regional economic body, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met for the 49th session on June 4, 2016 in Dakar, Senegal.

“We must constantly reconcile the free movement of people and goods with security measures,” said the new president of the body, Marcel Alain de Souza of Benin, at the opening of the day-long summit. “The multiplication of the number of zones of terrorism in our space obliges us to share information on all activities and to coordinate and mobilise our resources.”

The threat of extremism in the region has increased following major attacks by al-Qaeda-linked

militants in Mali, Burkina Faso and in Ivory Coast. The Nigeria-based Boko Haram, which has declared its support for the Islamic State group, continues to carry out attacks in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, the outgoing chairperson, said resources must be combined. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was chosen to replace him.

The regional body also agreed to send a technical mission to Gambia ahead of December elections. It called for a free and credible vote and dialogue with the opposition.

“The conference urges the security forces to avoid excessive use of force against citizens,” the leaders also said.

Gambian activists and politicians have called on ECOWAS to take action against Gambia for its recent brutal crackdown on rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Dozens of people, including opposition leaders, have been arrested in Gambia during recent demonstrations, and one leader died from torture while in detention, according to the human rights group Amnesty International.

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