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Gambia’s Dr Omar Alieu Touray was unveiled as the new president of the Ecowas Commission yesterday at the end of the 61st Ordinary Session of the regional body in Accra, Ghana.

He replaced Cote d’Ivoire’s Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, who has served a four-year mandate. Brou will assume office as governor of the Central Bank of West African States, BCEAO, today.

Dr Touray heads a seven-member commission in the region dogged by insecurity and political instability with three out of 15 Ecowas member states under army rule.

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In a related development, Umaro Sissoco Mbalo, president of Guinea Bissau, was also elected the new chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of Ecowas. He succeeded Nana Akufo-Addo, president of Ghana who held the position for almost two years.

Mbalo survived a coup d’etat in February this year. This led to the establishment ofa standby force made up of 609 troops, selected from different member states of the regional body to ensure stability in Guinea Bissau.

‘Towards shared prosperity’

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In his manifesto for the Ecowas job, entitled “Towards Shared Prosperity,” Dr Touray stated: “It is my strong conviction that delivering shared prosperity must constitute the raison d’etre of Ecowas. To this end, I undertake to focus on streamlined initiatives that will, deepen integration; build and strengthen peace and security; promote sustainable productivity and inclusive development; entrench good governance; (and) foster equitable partnerships.”

Dr Touray promised to “give priority to early warning mechanisms and preventive diplomacy that will address risk factors before conflicts break out. Equally, Ecowas rapid response capability must be strengthened through the operationalisation of the regional standby force.”

He has also assured that “the peace and security architecture of the community should equally integrate effective measures to combat terrorism and other crimes including money laundering, cybercrimes, trafficking in small arms and light weapons.”

“If any single factor accounts for peace and security,” Dr Touray said, “it is good governance in the political, economic and corporate spheres. In the political sphere, Ecowas must entrench good governance, rule of law and respect for human rights in the region. Constitutionalism and constitutional order must be promoted and consolidated. Peoples’ will, as reflected in the national constitutions must be respected. And the integrity of elections and electoral process must not be violated,” he affirmed.

Good pedigree

Dr Touray is a seasoned diplomat and academic. He served as The Gambia’s permanent representative and ambassador to the African Union and Ethiopia with concurrent accreditation as High Commissioner to South Africa and Kenya. He was the The Gambia’s Permanent Representative-designate to the United Nations in New York before being appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs.

He also worked as regional policy advisor at the Regional Bureau for East and Central Africa of the UN Food Programme; consultant to the UN Economic Commission for Africa; UNDP, Gambia Country Office, and the Commission of the African Union. Until his latest appointment, Dr Touray worked at the Islamic Development Bank in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, since 2012.

He holds a PhD in International Relations from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, University of Geneva. He also studied Finance and speaks English, French and Arabic. His publications include The African Union: The First Ten Years (2016).

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