Africa  

ECOWAS leaders to ban veils won by women

OuedraogoWEST African leaders have expressed their determination to stop women wearing full-face veils in an effort to curb the growing number of female suicide bombers unleashed by Boko Haram insurgents in the region..

The president of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, told reporters at the close of a two-day summit in Abuja that leaders must take “measures that would forbid this kind of dress that will not allow security personnel to be sure of their identities.”

Boko Haram insurgents have used the tactic in Cameroon, Chad and Niger; these are countries that had already enforced bans on veils this year.

The region is reeling from a spike in female suicide bombings as a weakened Boko Haram shifts its strategy from raiding villages to the use of explosives.

“Certain dress codes, which make identification of the persons concerned difficult, may considerably hinder actions geared towards protecting people and properties,” said Ouedraogo, who said countries should enforce a ban “in line with their national realities.”

In May this year, the Republic of Congo became one of the first African countries to issue a ban, followed by Chad and Cameroon after multiple female suicide bombers, wearing full face veils killed and maimed scores of people.
Authorities in Cameroon even went further to say it had banned “the manufacturing, sale and wearing of the burqa”.

But despite facing criticism that the bans infringe upon religious freedom, African leaders increasingly have said national security trumps personal liberties.

In Gabon, police have received orders to increase surveillance of women wearing the garments. And following the arrest of four imams accused of links to Boko Haram, officials in Senegal announced it too is considering a ban.

“We have the right to defend ourselves and, if possible, ban the full veil for women,” said Adamou Ide, a writer in Niger. “Because unfortunately it is through them that the criminals can move around and commit horrible crimes.”

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