By Martin Igwe, West African Regional 1st Vice President, West African Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA Nigeria)

Economic Community of West Africa State was founded in 1975 with the signing of the treaty in Lagos with the main goal of promoting Economic Co-operation among member states in order to raise living standards and promote Economic development through harmonization of trade policy promoting good co-operate governance, developing infrastructure and above all promotion of peace and security among member states.

ECOWAS played a key political role during the civil war in Liberia and Siera Leone setting up in 1990 a West African force of several thousands of men. ECOWAS intervened in Guinea-Bissau during the armed rebellion in 1998-1999 and after the Coup in 2012.

ECOWAS trade Liberalization scheme has managed to abolish some custom duties levied on imports and the elimination of non-tariff, barriers among member States making way for establishment of a free trade areas. Despite this efforts by ECOWAS. The challenges of cross border terrorism and insurgencies which end up threatening the foundation of peace security and authority of member state. Persist in most of the ECOWAS Region.

Political instability and military coup among states in West Africa have changed the trajectory of governance, trade relation with negative consequences to the countries concerned and their neighbors.

Presently ECOWAS is meting sanctions on military leadership in Niger Republic through closure of land borders hence not allowing trade to flourish, with thousands of migrants stranded. Putting the borders at the risk of arms proliferation and transnational organized criminalities.

In a bold effort to initiate strategy to mitigate conflict in the region and consolidate effort of Civil Societies on small arms and light weapons control in West Africa. ECOWAS Commissioner for Political affairs peace and security led by Abdel-fatau Musa Coordinated a regional Assembly of West Africa Action Network on Small Arms with their international technical partners. The Waansa Regional assembly which was meant to facilitate engagement and collaboration towards implementation of ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons and discuss concrete solutions and strategies that will assist in curbing emerging challenges and threats in the fight against illegal proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons in ECOWAS Region; and effective implementation of other disarmnet instruments was a resounding success story inline with Regional commitment to campaign against gun violence.

This remains a laudable initiative inline with ECOWAS journey towards Regional peace, Civil Societies engagement play critical role in peace building processes involving wide range of strategies. A typical example is the recent Advice by the newly elected Regional Executives of Waansa through their first Declaration to ECOWAS on the need to exhaust all dialogue and diplomatic solutions in Niger Republic political development knowingfully well the negative impact of military action to the escalation of illegal proliferation of small arms and trans-border crimes.

West African Border Insecurity has made the region graple with wide range of cross national security threats from Extremist groups and international conflict entrepreneurs whose target is the mineral resources in some West Africa Countries. With the full support of Economic Political Peace and Security Unit of ECOWAS and their International technical partners, a new window of collaborative engagement opportunity has been opened for the Regional Executive of West Africa Action Network on Small Arms (WAANSA) to extend hands of partnership to world Border Security Congress towards restoring peace in our borders. The quest for peace and end to gun violence presently remains a journey not a destination and with the commitment and understanding demonstrated already by ECOWAS. West Africa States will timely reach their destination.