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    Press Release No:  UNIS/SG2581
    Release Date:  31 May 2000
    Secretary-General, Celebrating Silver Anniversary of ECOWAS,
    Stresses Need to Establish Peace, Security in Subregion

     NEW YORK, 30 May (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan marking the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), delivered in Abuja, Nigeria, on Mr. Annan's behalf on Saturday, 28 May, by Oluyemi Adeniji, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Sierra Leone:

     It is with real pleasure that I send my greetings and congratulations to the leaders of West Africa assembled in Abuja on the occasion of the silver jubilee of ECOWAS.  We should all pay tribute to the founding fathers of the Organization for the wisdom and foresight that they showed 25 years ago.

     Many experiences during those 25 years have demonstrated the importance of regional integration in different parts of the world.  It is indeed vital that the States and peoples of each region should help each other, as they face the multiple challenges of exercising sovereignty and defending their interests in an age of globalization.  And in a region as large and diverse as Africa it is clear that subregional integration, achieved through such groupings as ECOWAS and the Southern African Development Conference, is a crucial first step.

     Among the challenges that we West Africans face, none is more urgent than that of establishing and maintaining peace and security throughout the subregion.  If we needed reminding of this, recent events in Sierra Leone have come as an all too cruel reminder.  The achievement of ECOWAS in restoring democratic government to that country, through its military arm ECOMOG, is currently threatened by the non-cooperation of one of the parties to the Lomé Agreement and by its wholly unacceptable detention of United Nations peacekeepers.

     Our most urgent task in these circumstances is to obtain the immediate and unconditional release of those detainees, and to prevent further threats to the security of the population and the authority of the Sierra Leone Government.  Thereafter we must resume with all possible energy the quest for a peaceful and lasting solution based on universal principles of democracy and justice.  In that quest, ECOWAS will continue to play an indispensable role.  Both the people of Sierra Leone and the international community at large owe you an immeasurable debt.

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