Abuja, Nigeria - ECOWAS Commission President Kadre Ouedraogo has lashed out at the armed Islamist groups that until recently occupied the northern part of Mali, calling them “criminals and drug traffickers hiding under the guise of religion”.
Speaking at the accreditation of eight envoys to ECOWAS, at the Commission's headquarters in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, Monday, he said the armed militants and terrorists, who have now been flushed out in joint operations by French and Malian forces, were “are not true Muslims but only using the religion to deceive the people.”
An ECOWAS Commission statement obtained by PANA here Tuesday quoted the President to have said while the region would continue to encourage dialogue between the Government of Mali and elements in the country with legitimate grievances, it would never condone terrorism.
The ECOWAS Commission President said with the restoration of government control over Malian territory, the next challenge was how to expedite the deployment of the UN Security Council-approved Africa-led International Force in Mali (AFISMA), to assist the country’s security forces in restoring security and engender a conducive environment for the conduct of presidential and National Assembly elections.
He said after a period of relative calm, the West African region was going through a “testing period” caused by the crises in Guinea Bissau and Mali, but expressed optimism that the region would overcome the challenges to enable it concentrate on its core mandate of economic development and regional integration.
The accredited envoys are the Ambassadors to Nigeria from Austria (Joachim Oppinger); Sweden (Svante Kilander); Republic of Korea (Choi Jong-Hyun); Switzerland (Hans-Rudolf Hodel) and Jamaica (L. Ann Scott)
The ECOWAS Commission President also accredited the Ambassadors of Bulgaria, Burundi and Norway.