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Inclusion of persons with disabilities in West Africa: ECOWAS advocates for the signature and ratification of the African Union Protocol on Persons with Disabilities by all its Member States

A Regional Coordination and Training Meeting on the inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in West Africa opened on Monday 10 October 2022, in Accra, Ghana. Organised by the Department of Human Development and Social Affairs of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, experts from Member States of the West African Regional Organisation and the African Union Commission participated in the meeting.

While delivering his speech during the opening of the meeting, Ambassador Baba Gana Wakil, ECOWAS Resident Representative in Ghana deplored the fact that only three (3) out of the fifteen (15) ECOWAS countries have ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights relating to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (known as the AfChHPR-PWDs).  These are namely Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo. “We must all unite to reverse this trend in order to contribute to the realisation of a fully integrated community of people in a peaceful and prosperous region, with strong institutions that respect fundamental freedoms and work towards inclusive and sustainable development,” Ambassador Baba Gana Wakil proffered.


The ECOWAS Resident Representative in Ghana concluded his speech thus: “To reiterate the call for action made by Mr. António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, all countries are urged to fully implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, increase accessibility and dismantle economic and other barriers to the active participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations”.


Taking the floor, Ambassador Cessouma Minata Samaté, African Union (AU) Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, the main purpose of this Meeting of Experts on Regional Coordination and Training on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in West Africa is to (i) popularise the Protocol (Af-ChHPR-PWDs) in all ECOWAS Member States to enable them have a better understanding of this continental legal document and its accompanying policy instruments, (ii) and promote its ratification and subsequent implementation.

In her speech delivered to participants, Ambassador Cessouma Minata Samaté reiterated her Department’s commitment to support ECOWAS in the signing, ratification, implementation and reporting process of the AU Disability Architecture (AUDA).  She also recalled that Ratification is only one significant step towards a good intention. “What matters most is the development and implementation of legal and legislative texts and relevant policies for the benefit of people living with disabilities,” the African Union Commissioner added.


Mrs. Paula Saad, Director General of Social Inclusion of Guinea Bissau, representing His Excellency General Umaro Sissoko Embalo, current Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, opined that the regional meeting of experts would serve as a melting point for all Member States to work as a team in order to put an end to the violations of the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities and reverse the trend towards their full inclusion.


In her keynote address during the opening session, the Executive Secretary of the Ghana National Council on Disability, Barrister Esther Akua Gyamfi informed participants that the Ghanaian authorities have mandated the National Council on Disability to coordinate and work with organisations of persons with disabilities and other relevant stakeholders to sign and ratify the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.


Esther Akua GYAMFI, as well as the representative of the United Nations Regional Office for West Africa in charge of Human Rights, thanked the ECOWAS Commission for this capacity building exercise organized for experts and sensitisation of Member State. She also expressed gratitude to the organization for its efforts in mobilising citizens of the region living with disabilities.


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