Nigeria - Ivory Coast's president Alassane Ouattara was widely expected to
be named the next head of West Africa's regional body before a summit
of the 15-nation bloc closes on Friday, diplomats said.
two-day meeting of the Economic Community of West African States
(Ecowas) has been dominated by concerns over deteriorating security in
the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara.
said Ouattara would likely be elected to succeed Nigerian leader
Goodluck Jonathan as Ecowas chairperson, a post with a one-year term.
election would mark the return onto the regional stage of Ivory Coast,
recently shaken by deadly violence sparked by a disputed election.
year ago, Ouattara was largely confined to an Abidjan hotel by his
political foe, ex-president Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to accept
defeat after a November 2010 vote.
Gbagbo's refusal to quit
triggered conflict which left about 3 000 people dead before Ouattara
took power. Gbagbo is now awaiting trial by the International Criminal
Court, accused of crimes against humanity.
Sources said Ouattara had widespread backing for the key regional post.
of the region feel they have invested a lot for Ivory Coast and see it
as the culmination of their efforts," said a West African diplomat.
are some countries that are not in agreement, according to one Ecowas
official. Nonetheless, Ivory Coast "has a good chance of winning. It's a
way to encourage reconciliation in his country", the source said.
in the Sahel, worsened by the influx of weapons from the Libyan
conflict, was a major concern at the opening of the summit.
member Mali, one of the Sahel states repeatedly targeted by al-Qaeda's
north Africa branch, has also been forced to combat a fresh offensive
launched last month by Tuareg rebels.
The rebels have attacked
several northern Mali towns since January 17, part of a long-running
battle to demand autonomy for their nomadic tribes.
They may have also forged a link with the al-Qaeda's regional affiliate, France said this week.