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By Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS)
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ABUJA, Nigeria, May 15, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The 12,800-strong UN stabilization force which is to replace the African-led Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) should be commanded by a West African, in recognition of the region's track record, a sub-committee of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CCDS) has proposed.

The estimated 6,000 AFISMA force is scheduled to transform into the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) by July 2013 under the UN Security Council Resolution 2100 of 25th April 2013.

After a two-day meeting in Abidjan on the modalities for the transformation, the seven-member CCDS sub-committee noted that the region's armed forces have discharged themselves creditably in various crises in the region and will repeat the same success with AFISMA/MINUSMA.

It therefore urged the ECOWAS Commission to continue ongoing discussions with the African Union and the UN on the selection of the command of the force for which the UN is believed to have approached 11 countries to nominate candidates to head the force, including from outside the region.

The sub-committee also agreed to send a delegation on behalf of the CCDS to commiserate with the President and the armed forces of Niger over the death of the country's deputy force commander of AFISMA, Brigadier General Yaye Garba who passed on Saturday.

The dispatch of the delegation is important in the "spirit of regional solidarity and because we have become the same family now," said General Soumaila Bakayoko, chair of the CCDS.

He said the death should not dampen the resolve of the regional forced forces and region, but “strengthen us in our determination to ensure that AFISMA achieved its mandate.”

The sub-committee also proposed that the next ordinary session of the CCDS be held in Accra, Ghana for two days from 28th June 2013, a day after the Command Post-Exercise of the ECOWAS Standby Force to be hosted at the Kofi Annan Centre for Peacekeeping, also the Ghanaian capital.

In closing the meeting, General Bakayoko praised his colleagues for the quality of their deliberations which he said had contributed to concrete recommendations on the transformation of AFISMA and the deployment of regional troops in Guinea Bissau.

He expressed optimism that the outcome of the meeting would contribute to the effective transformation of AFISMA, the restoration of normality to Mali and the restoration of peace and stability to Guinea Bissau where some 670 regional troops were deployed last year, to assist with defence and security sector reform.

Members of the CCDS sub-committee are drawn from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire which chairs the committee.