Benin hosts Council of Entente summit By ESTHER TOLA in Cotonou | Saturday, December 10   2011 at  15:45

Benin's President Boni Yayi. Photo | AFP 

Leaders of French-speaking Benin, Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Niger are keen to give life to their countries’ 52-year-old Council of the Entente.

Presidents Boni Yayi of Benin, Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire, Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso and Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger gathered this week in Benin’s economic capital Cotonou to discuss the future of the Entente.

The organisation has been going through a crisis since 2003 due to financial and organisational problems.

The leaders first agreed on adopting a charter to restructure the Council of the Entente. The charter aims at better economic and political syncronisation with other regional organizations, principally ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU).

The presidents noted the return to normality in Côte d’Ivoire as well as the efforts made by the Council’s member governments to maintain stability in their countries.

One of the key projects they proposed is an extension of rail networks between member states. The proposed network could cut across Cotonou and Parakou in Benin, Niamey in Niger, Kaya and Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire.

However, the Heads of State expressed worries over the outbreak of maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea and the insecurity threatened in the region as a consequence of the Libyan crisis and the likelihood of spill over into terror groups.

The meeting renewed the mandate of President Yayi was chairman of the Council.

The Council’s next conference will be held in 2012 in Niger.