At a summit meeting in December 1981, the leaders of the Central African Customs and Economic Union (UDEAC) agreed in principle to form a wider economic community of Central African states. ECCAS was established on 18 October 1983 by the UDEAC members and the members of the Economic Community of the Great Lakes States (CEPGL) (Burundi, Rwanda and the then Zaire) as well as Sao Tomé and Principe. Angola remained an observer until 1999, when it became a full member.
ECCAS began functioning in 1985, but was inactive for several years because of financial difficulties (non-payment of membership fees) and the conflict in the Great Lakes area. The war in the DRC was particularly divisive, as Rwanda and Angola fought on opposing sides. ECCAS has been designated a pillar of the African Economic Community (AEC), but formal contact between the AEC and ECCAS was only established in October 1999 due to the inactivity of ECCAS since 1992 (ECCAS signed the Protocol on Relations between the AEC and the Regional Economic Communities in October 1999). The AEC again confirmed the importance of ECCAS as the major economic community in Central Africa at the third preparatory meeting of its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in June 1999.
Presided over by President Pierre Buyoya of Burundi, the 2nd Extra-Ordinary Summit of ECCAS was held in Libreville on 6 February 1998. The Heads of State/Government present at the summit committed themselves to the resurrection of the organisation. The Prime Minister of Angola also indicated that his country would become a fully-fledged member.
The summit approved a budget of 10 million French Francs for 1998 and requested the Secretariat to:
The summit also requested countries in the region to find lasting and peaceful solutions to their political problems. The chairman also appealed to member countries to support the complete lifting of the embargo placed on his country.
During the inauguration of President Bongo of Gabon on 21 January 1999, a mini-summit of ECCAS leaders was held. The leaders discussed problems concerning the functioning of ECCAS and the creation of a third Deputy Secretary-General post, designated for Angola. Angola formally joined the Community during this summit.
The 10th Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government took place in Malabo in June 2002. This Summit decided to adopt a protocol on the establishment of a Network of Parliamentarians of Central Africa (REPAC) and to adopt the standing orders of the Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa (COPAX), including the Defence and Security Commission (CDC), Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC) and the Early Warning Mechanism of Central Africa (MARAC). Rwanda was also officially welcomed upon its return as a full member of ECCAS.
The 11th Ordinary Session of Heads of State and Government in Brazzaville during January 2004 welcomed the fact that the Protocol Relating to the Establishment of a Mutual Security Pact in Central Africa (COPAX) had received the required number of ratifications to enter into force. The Summit also adop ted a declaration on the implementation of NEPAD in Central Africa as well as a declaration on gender equality.
ECCAS aims to achieve collective autonomy, raise the standard of living of its populations and maintain economic stability through harmonious cooperation. Its ultimate goal is to establish a Central African Common Market.
At the Malabo Heads of State and Government Conference in 1999, four priority fields for the organization were identified:
* The following agreements were concluded as appendices to the ECCAS Treaty :
Central African states adopted a pact of non-aggression at the end of the fifth meeting of the UN Consultative Committee on Security in Central Africa held in Yaoundé (Cameroon). The pact, adopted on 9 September 1994, was arrived at after five days of meeting and discussions between military experts and ministers of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tomé et Principe.
At a summit conference of the United Nations' Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa which took place in Yaoundé on 25-26 February 1999, member states decided to create an organisation for the promotion, maintenance and consolidation of peace and security in Central Africa, which would be called the Council for Peace and Security in Central Africa (COPAX). The COPAX Protocol has now entered into force.
The technical organs of the council are:
The standing orders for COPAX, including those of CDS, MARAC and FOMAC were adopted in June 2002 at the 10th Ordinary Summit in Malabo.
In January 2000, Gabon hosted a regional peacekeeping exercise “Gabon 2000” with the objective of increasing the capacity of ECCAS states in the field of peacekeeping and conflict prevention and management. This exercise represented a direct application of the French RECAMP-concept (reinforcement of African peacekeeping capacities).
Extraordinary Summits of both ECCAS and CEMAC took place in Libreville on 23 June 2000. Foreign ministers from 10 Central African states met in the Democratic Republic of Congo on 16 and 17 August 2001 to discuss security in their war-torn region. The meeting was sponsored by the United Nations, and only Rwanda declined to attend.
A Meeting of Defence Chiefs of Staff was held in Brazzaville in October 2003. The meeting decided to create a brigade-size peacekeeping force for intervention in zones of instability in Central Africa , in line with the African Union's plans to establish an African Standby Force with five brigades, one for each region (North, West, Central, East and Southern Africa). It recommended that military planners from each of the ECCAS states form a group to work out the details for the force. They also sugges ted the establishment of a joint peacekeeping training centre and military exercises every two years, the first of which is to take place in Chad.