Peace Operations in West Africa: ECOWAS Successes and Failures in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau
( Note on how to cite this journal: Author, Date of the post, WMO Conflict Insight, Title of the post, ISSN: 2628-6998, https://worldmediation.org/conflict-insight )
The purpose of this paper is to assess and evaluate the ECOWAS peacekeeping efforts in West Africa, specifically its successes and failures in Liberia, Sierrra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Guinea Bissau, using a simplified version of the evaluative framework created by Diehl and Druckman, to accommodate for the type of data that is available for these operations. The paper demonstrates that ECOWAS failed to restore peace and security in all its peacekeeping operations and that there is a lot that the sub-regional organization has to learn to deal effectively with its own conflicts. Nigeria provided most of the financial support and troops for the operations in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire, but decided to play a more limited role in the ECOWAS interventions in Guinea and Guinea-Bissau after being severely criticized for its hegemonic role by several ECOWAS members. ECOWAS might be able to play an important role in preserving the security of the region, but only after learning from its mistakes in past operations.
None of the ECOWAS peacekeeping interventions in West African countries, although they might have saved some lives, fulfilled their missions, and thus, can be categorized as failures. This paper discuss and analyze several research questions: (a) Which were the most important strengths and weaknesses of the ECOWAS peacekeeping missions in West Africa, such as Liberia (1989-2003), Sierra Leone (1991-2002), Côte d’Ivoire (2002-2007), Guinea (2007-2010) and Guinea Bissau (1998-Present)?; (b) Did they accomplish their objectives according to the criteria set by ECOWAS in each of their respective mandates?; (c) To what degree were they supported by the majority of the member states of ECOWAS, by the African Union and the United Nations?; (d) What was the role of Nigeria in these operations as the region’s hegemon and why was this role opposed by other nations within the ECOWAS organization?; (e) What motivated the serious discrepancies between the Anglophone and the Francophone countries within ECOWAS about these peacekeeping operations?; and (f) Does the evidence justify the hypothesis that Africans should solve their own conflicts as the UN has often proposed? None of these research questions have been addressed comprehensively by any other historian. The methodology used in this paper is a simplified version of the evaluative framework created by Diehl and Druckman to accommodate for the type of data that is available for these operations. Specifically, this paper will compare the results of these operations with the orders provided in the operations mandate, the document authorizing the mission, which is an approach that has been used by a number of researchers.
The historical literature shows a mixture of assessments and opinions from both the UN and ECOWAS participants about the conflicts that occurred in these nations and how they were handled. However, to date, there exists no comprehensive analysis of all ECOWAS’ operations, their successes and failures; and the political environment in which these operations were carried out, with constant antagonism between the different factions within ECOWAS in the case of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and with France in the case of Côte d’Ivoire. This paper attempts to start filling this important gap in the history of these peacekeeping operations.
This paper’s major findings are that none of these operations has fulfilled the objectives established in their mandates; that ECOWAS as an economic organization so far is not prepared to assume the role of the region’s peacekeeping force because of several reasons, including the lack of harmony among the foreign policies of the governments member of ECOWAS, the dependence of the sub-regional organization on Nigeria’s military and economic resources, and the apparently irreconcilable differences between the English-speaking and the French-speaking countries within the organization which, because of their different culture and viewpoints, had opposing policies about how to resolve the sub-regional crises. In addition, the ECOWAS peacekeeping troops were poorly trained and badly equipped to fulfill their missions.
The failures of the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations to accomplish their mandates in Somalia in 1992 and in Rwanda between 1993 and 1996 challenged the UN capacity to deal with a myriad of complex peacekeeping operations. As a result, the UN chose to pursue an alternative strategy in Africa by calling on regional organizations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to conduct certain peacekeeping missions. Specifically, the international community promoted the mantra of “having Africans take care of the African problems,” which encouraged regional actors such as ECOWAS, an economic international organization, to assume the role as peacekeepers within West Africa. This “outsourcing” of UN peace operations was both consistent with the UN Charter and the international organization’s past experiences. In addition, it was advantageous for the United Nations, because it relieved the world organization of some regional responsibility and the associated costs. However, in the case of ECOWAS, the UN’s reliance on the West African states to conduct regional peacekeeping proved to be less effective than previous experiences with the Organization of American States (OAS) or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Initially, the West African states were proud to prove the slogan that Africans could take care of their own problems. However, as this study reveals, ECOWAS proved unable to “take care of the problems” in West Africa. To put these efforts into historical context, since the late 1990s, the UN was working to the limit of its capacity in relation to peacekeeping operations suffering multiple failures in Africa alone. It was becoming more and more difficult for the UN to obtain the necessary troops to support the near-continuous stream of multiple peacekeeping operations. In fairness to the world organization, it is true that its budget was becoming thinner and that the enthusiasm of the permanent members of the UN Security Council and of the international community in general was declining, suffering of peacekeeping fatigue after having to deal with as many as twenty international conflicts at the same time. As of 1999, the UN was engaged in 19 active peacekeeping operations, and 16 more were started in the years between 2000 and 2013, with a total of 70 UN peacekeeping operations since 1947.
The African conflicts in the post-Cold War produced a proliferation of peacekeeping operations that have generated some interest by a group of both African and Western historians, but with most of them referring to the peacekeeping operations carried out by the United Nations rather than those of ECOWAS. Some of these historians have focused their interests in analyzing the catastrophic UN failures in Rwanda and Somalia. Relatively few historians, however, have addressed the peacekeeping operations carried out by ECOWAS, the West African regional organization, and those have written only about particular interventions, although all of them have concluded that despite the multiple errors committed during the planning and implementation of these peacekeeping operations, that the results would have been worse if ECOWAS had not intervened in these conflicts. The ECOWAS operations have been only analyzed in detail by the ECOWAS organization itself and by a very select group of mostly African historians who have written about specific aspects of these operations, usually one of the five nations where ECOWAS has deployed peacekeepers: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea or Guinea-Bissau. The ECOWAS organization has published two books, one about the organization itself and another about its peacekeeping operations. These documents include detailed narrations about each mission’s objectives, composition and major accomplishments. There are also official statements issued by the organization, minutes of the meetings and internal analyses lauding these operations, as well as some chronologies and journalistic sources, but no analyses comparing the different ECOWAS operations. This may be a characteristic that all relatively recent events may share and that gives a historian the opportunity of putting together information from different sources to make a historical evaluation about what went right and what went wrong in these operations. A comprehensive analysis of such operations that would justify the UN’s and the African Union’s reliance on the ECOWAS sub-regional organization to act as peacekeepers represents a significant gap in the historical literature.
The UN, through its Department of Peacekeeping Operations, regularly issues detailed chronologies about its operations, mostly highlighting the positive aspects of these interventions in an effort to promote the idea that these efforts have not been in vain, but seldom presenting an accurate picture that includes the failures and mistakes of these operations. The United Nations produced a number of scholarly studies not about the ECOWAS peacekeeping operations, but about the United Nations operations that took over for ECOWAS, or had to deploy a parallel mission in a country where ECOWAS was already deployed. These histories were often written by the generals that directed these operations, and although they are important primary sources of the events that occurred after the United Nations got involved in these crises, these sources frequently overstate the need for these United Nations operations, minimize the errors committed by these forces, and in any case, only cover the period after the United Nations became involved in these countries. It is important to note although ECOWAS sent peacekeepers to five nations in West Africa, eventually the United Nations had to take over four of these operations from the regional organization, and the fifth one is the ongoing operation in Guinea-Bissau that as of mid-2014 is shared with the African Union (AU).
The official historical documentation published by the UN, ECOWAS and the countries that participated in these efforts constitute the most important primary sources for this type of historical analysis, keeping in mind that it is in each organization’s best interest to highlight the positive effects of its efforts and to underreport negative outcomes.
Adekeye Adebayo, an African historian, wrote an interesting book analyzing all UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, beginning with the UN mission in the Suez Canal in 1956 and ending with the Sudan crisis. Although his analysis is cursory because he covered a lot of operations in a relatively thin book, he found that all UN peacekeeping operations in Africa could have been improved. He also wrote another book with recommendations about how to strengthen the African security architecture. Adebayo mentioned three main factors that have most often mentioned as having contributed to the success of UN peacekeeping operations in Africa: (1) whether these operations counted with the support of important UN Security Council permanent members. When at least one of the permanent members strongly supports a peacekeeping operation and is willing to provide the necessary financing of the operation and diplomatic support, or to seek approval from the Council and do the operation themselves, such operations are successful; (2) the willingness of the parties in conflict to cooperate with the United Nations to implement peace accords, which is critical, and in cases where cooperation is not forthcoming, the creation of strategies that are effective dealing with potential spoilers that are likely to sabotage the peace process; and (3) the coordinated actions of all the players in the peace process, so that diplomatic, economic and military aspects support the peacekeeping efforts. He also said that it was absolutely essential to ensure that all the economic resources in the war zones could not be exploited to finance one of the rebel factions; that neighboring countries could not provide political, economic or military support to any of the fighting factions and that the UN peacekeeping operations should be managed by well-trained and capable envoys.
Some scholars wrote specifically about a single or at the most two ECOWAS operations. An article by Mortimer gives the viewpoint of Senegal, a Francophone country that initially did not want to become part of the ECOWAS peacekeeping operation in Liberia, but that was enticed to participate by the United States under the wrong belief that Charles Taylor, the leader of the Liberian rebels at the time, would accept the terms of the negotiation agreement if at least one of the Francophone nations would send military contingents to the ECOWAS force in Liberia. Senegal even accepted the presidency of ECOWAS for a period of time, although 80 percent of the ECOWAS forces in Liberia continued to be constituted by Nigerians. Also, there is an account by Byron, a Liberian, who asserts that ECOWAS forces not only suffered attacks by the rebels of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) commanded by Charles Taylor, but the civil war that occurred when ECOWAS fought the NPFL inside Liberia. Yoroms is another Nigerian who wrote a lengthy article trying to prove that the reason why Nigeria formed the ECOWAS force, and took the determination to send troops to neighboring Liberia, was not because of the personal friendship between the Liberian President Doe and the Nigerian President Babangida. The Francophone group had used this argument repeatedly to oppose Nigeria’s peacekeeping efforts. However, it is not disputed the ECOWAS troops were sent to defend Liberian President Doe from a coup, even though President Doe himself had obtained power in another coup a few years earlier. Peter Arthur briefly analyzed the ECOWAS peacekeeping operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and also concluded that the beneficial effects of the ECOWAS peacekeeping operations in these nations greatly surpassed its potential negative consequences, although no criteria was mentioned about what variables or aspects of the operation were included in the analysis. It is clear that the life of every single human being is precious and that ECOWAS might have helped to avoid these conflicts becoming worse catastrophes. However, when a peacekeeping operation favors one of the parties in the struggle for power, it is unclear whether such participation helped or hindered what could have been a more adequate response by the international community. Mamadou wrote an article about the peacekeeping operation in Côte d’Ivoire that reflects the view of the Francophone nations that had opposed the military operation in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
A couple of sources wrote from their own experiences participating in an ECOWAS operation. Belmakki, a Nigerian military officer who attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and who brought to light both his experiences in the field and the theoretical instructions he obtained in the academic setting, wrote an analysis of the Liberian operation in which he participated and of the Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire operations (in which he did not participate). Although quite circumspect and accurate, his writing reflects the Nigerian perspective that sees how only this nation is able to bring peace to its neighboring countries. The same is true of the account written by Dr. Adamau, a Nigerian representative from ECOWAS, who glorifies the role of ECOWAS in these conflicts in the same manner that most UN analysts have praised their own peacekeeping operations, generally painting a rosier picture of their interventions than the cruder reality. Still, Adamau’s experiences as an officer of the sub-regional organization provide helpful information about some aspects of these operations.
Other authors wrote about a specific theme related to these operations. William Reno addressed the need to regionalize security, but criticized the regionalization of African security because not all sub-regions in Africa had an organization such as ECOWAS, as if all African regions had their own ECOWAS organization that these institutions could take care of the conflicts within their territories. This seems a light claim to make given what is known about the performance of the ECOWAS peacekeeping operations, and a statement that also ignores that other parts of Africa also have their own regional organizations. Pascal Zachary concentrated his efforts analyzing and writing about the problems that humanitarian organizations confront in providing aid in a failed state, where the government cannot take care of its own security and sometime these humanitarian organizations have to depend for their security on the peacekeeping troops on the ground. In many cases, the peacekeepers themselves have become a handicap to the delivery of humanitarian assistance rather than an asset, and although Zachary’s analysis refers only to UN peacekeeping operations, there is no reason to believe that the situation in the ECOWAS peacekeeping operations was any different. James Giblin, an Iowa University historian, wrote extensively about the manner that the socialist and communist ideas during the Cold War era influenced some important African leaders and how these approaches to build a modern state invariably failed.
A few authors dealt with the overall situation of peacekeeping operations, either in Africa or in general. Sudarsan Raghavan, a journalist, published a chilling account in the Washington Post in January 2014 lamenting that a record number of UN peacekeepers in Africa has been unable so far to stop the African wars. Eric Cooper and Alex de Waal, in two separate articles, discussed the successes (and mostly the failures) of UN peacekeeping operations in Africa based on the mandate of the UN Security Council at the time that these missions were authorized, but their coverage included only UN peacekeeping operations and left out the peacekeeping operations executed by the African regional or sub-regional organizations, such as the ECOWAS. These studies provide good background information although each operation is unique and had to deal with its own set of problems.
Peacekeeping historian Norrie Macqueen mentioned that what just some years in the past was considered “current affairs,” today becomes historical material. This author wrote about UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, emphasized both the negative and the positive aspects of these operations, and concluded that the beneficial effects of these operations for the indigenous populations could not be doubted. Thalif Deen wrote a journalist essay about how more recent UN peacekeeping missions have become more efficient because they have taken advantage of past experiences. This is what ECOWAS supposedly also should be doing. Patrick Manning is another African historian who has written about African and World Historiography and who studied some African conflicts. He observed that to analyze a peacekeeping operation in Africa is necessary to use a broad perspective that includes political, social and economic dimensions, in addition to the military dimension, and to include many of the overlooked variables that sometime are ignored by historians. Herve Ladsous and Knox Chitiyo also made a series of recommendations about how to improve the UN peacekeeping operations, and some of these suggestions might also apply to the ECOWAS peacekeeping operations. Paul Williams wrote about the policy of having Africans take care of the African problems; and concluded that the African governments are not ready to assume these serious responsibilities and that the rich developed nations of the world should not disengage from their responsibility to protect in the African crises. This is a weighty conclusion that this paper also supports.
This paper proceeds first with general background information about the regionalization of security in Africa and specifically in West Africa, the cooperation between the UN and the African regional organization and an overview of the UN operations in Africa. This introduction is followed by three chapters, the first analyzing the ECOWAS operation in Liberia. The second chapter is an analysis of the ECOWAS operation in Sierra Leone that was partly a result of the inefficiently handled operation in Liberia, and the third chapter will discuss and analyze the operations in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. All these operations failed to fulfill their mandates.
How ECOWAS’ Role Fits into the UN Charter
The UN Charter authorizes the UN Security Council to address issues which threaten peace and international security. As part of this important responsibility, the UN Security Council has been empowered to delegate on the regional organizations the function of creating and maintaining peacekeeping operations. This method was used with the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Americas and with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the Balkan wars. It has also been used to legitimize peacekeeping operations conducted by the African Union (AU). The creation of the Economic Community of West African States Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) by the ECOWAS organization also fits within this legal provision, although ECOMOG is a sub-regional not a regional organization and is an economic not a political organization. However, while all previous delegated peacekeeping operations had prior authorization from the UN Security Council, ECOMOG did not.
The ECOWAS organization might have had verbal support from the United States and other members of the UN Security Council, but went ahead with its first intervention in Liberia without the proper UN authorization which would have given its peacekeeping operation a measure of legitimacy and credibility. Although ECOMOG was formed without consent, the UN Security Council tolerated the action and two years later welcomed the ECOWAS initiative by issuing a statement, and a few months later by passing its Resolution 813 commending ECOWAS. By going on their own without previous authorization ECOWAS might have violated the UN Charter, because there is no provision in the Charter that authorizes a regional or sub-regional organization to undertake a military action against another country, even if the expressed objective is to provide peace and security by its own initiative. Most legal scholars believe, however, that the absence of condemnation on the part of the UN Security Council can be admitted as a tacit acceptance and approval of the operation.
The Regionalization of Security in Africa
In the African continent, since the early 1960, over forty wars have killed over 10 million Africans and produced another 10 million refugees. More recently, the UN catastrophe in Somalia (1993) and the genocide in Rwanda (1994) led to powerful Western actors abandoning Africa to its own fate. This neglect of the continent forced regional actors such as the OAU (now the AU); the Southern African Development Community (SADC); ECOWAS; the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS); the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU), most of them primarily economic organizations, to adopt limited security roles. African regional organizations, such as ECCAS, ECOWAS, IGAD and SADC, on their own initiative and also encouraged by the United States and the international community, went ahead and institutionalized lengthy agreements with the objective of preventing and resolving conflict. Similarly, the African Union (AU) took the extraordinary decision of creating what they called a Continental Early Warning System (CEWS) and an African Standby Force (ASF) composed by 15,000 African troops from its member states.
In 1963, the members of the Organization of African Unity, now the African Union, approved a resolution in which they accepted the borders established by the colonial powers that the African nations had inherited when they became independent. The African leaders within the OUA did so because in the immediate postcolonial period, these leaders needed to focus on the tragic reality that their postcolonial nations were weak and could be easily destabilized. Therefore, the nations that exist in Africa are the result of territories created by the Europeans that colonized the continent starting in the Congress of Berlin in 1885, which had partitioned Africa into units that completely ignored the tribal composition of Europe’s colonies. As a result of this artificial division of territory there are, for example, Yoruba English-speaking communities in Nigeria and Yoruba French-speaking peoples in Benin, divided by an externally-imposed “national” border.
In the post-Cold War period, the African Union sent some missions of several sizes to a number of nations in conflict, from a small mission of observers to Burundi to full peace enforcement operations in a number of African states, such as the Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Darfur, Liberia and Somalia. These last operations were fully integrated operations, which let the organization to improve its administrative, institutional, financial and operational structures for the potential deployment of new missions in the future. These improvements by the African regional organization are noteworthy because, although the organization received financial and technical aid from the developed countries, most of the effort put into these structures was by the Africans. When the economic underdevelopment of the region is taken in consideration, there is no question that the African efforts represented an important step forward, but was made with great sacrifice.
The African Union (AU) for a period of time at the beginning of its creation had limited capacity to intervene to maintain peace because it was prohibited by its own Charter to intervene in the internal conflicts of its member states. The Charter’s Article 3, Clause 2, specifically prohibited the organization from such interventions. As most of the conflicts in the continent are civil wars, this meant that the organization was unable to deal with most conflicts. When sub-regional organizations, such as ECOWAS, made the determination to intervene in Liberia, the AU endorsed such actions.
The AU obviously has gained valuable experience in international security cooperation and, in the cases of Western, Eastern and Southern Africa, has established relatively functioning security mechanisms and structures. In 2008, the AU limited its official collaborators to seven regional organizations with which it approved a Memorandum of Understanding about security cooperation. These organizations cover a few countries in Northern and Central Africa and the totality of all countries in Eastern Africa. Belonging to two or more regional organizations obviously is difficult, especially for poor countries with fewer educated people. The financial burden may be onerous, the implementation of policy decisions may be confusing and sometime maybe even contradictory, and the schedule of the meetings might conflict with others. The existence of so many organizations, some of them with overlapping responsibilities, can promote competition rather than cooperation and fragmentation of support, as the member states have to comply with several requests for resources.
At first sight, Africa’s institutional landscape appears perilously disordered. There are at least 19 regional and two continental organizations that count security cooperation among their reason d’etre, and states often belong to several of them. In fact, of the 53 current member states of the African Union, 26 are members of two regional organizations and 19 are members of three. Two countries, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Swaziland even belong to four, while only six countries are members of only one organization. The co-existence of several different regional security organizations also holds a number of obvious risks. These organizations could be addressing the same issue, thus duplicating unnecessary efforts and resources. They could come to different solutions that may need to be negotiated or re-negotiated with any other regional organization that has addressed the same issue. Other issues might be completely ignored, or might be incorrectly perceived to belong to another organization. It also makes more difficult for the international donors and contributors to know which is the organization to deal with in a specific country or situation. Furthermore, some organizations might be better financed than others and, thus, may have more resources to study and deal with a specific problem or conflict.
Africans Take Care of the Africa’s Problems
The idea of letting Africans take care of their own problems, applauded and encouraged by the developed nations, might have been an idea that might work had the UN member states, especially the developed nations, provided the UN or the regional or sub-regional organizations in Africa with the material resources that were needed to guarantee the success of such missions. However, in all cases, serious logistical challenges, poor training of the participating troops and slow commitments on the part of the countries contributing to the UN peacekeeping forces, have challenged the effectiveness of these operations.
Since the end of the Cold War, after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union during the early 1990s, West Africa has become one of the least politically stable areas of the world. Small military operations against the governments have occurred in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and others forming an interconnected web of chaos. The West African nations were forced to make an attempt to manage their own conflicts.
ECOWAS was created as a regional economic organization. It was only much later that the organization found itself engaged in issues concerning security. The West African leaders, after all, saw a very close relationship between economic development in the region and security. It was in this vein that the organization established two protocols in relation to security. The 1978 Protocol Relating to Non-Aggression, the first protocol issued by the organization, had as its main goal ensuring an environment of peace without infringements or attacks by one member state against another. The 1981 Protocol on Mutual Assistance on Defense, the second protocol, approved by the organization at a special meeting held in Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone on May 29, 1981, expressed that any aggression or threat of aggression against one of the state members of the organization would constitute an aggression or threat of aggression against all the nations in the community.
ECOWAS started in May 1975 as an economic organization for the sub-region. It represented the materialization of diplomatic efforts made mostly by Nigeria to promote the economic development of the region and to facilitate trade among the African nations. The organization faced daunting tasks: the region’s transportation system was primitive and it was difficult to get from one African capital to the others. In addition, most of the products in the region were the same, or of the same kind, what made trade among the organization members more difficult. The 16 founding member states were Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. However, in this early beginning the organization restricted itself only to economic issues. This tradition changed in 1990, when ECOWAS decided to intervene in the civil war in neighboring Liberia. The economic organization re-hatted itself as a security organization with the objective of making and enforcing peace. Making peace involved negotiation, mediation and arbitration. Enforcing peace involved the deployment of a 3,000-strong military force to supervise the ceasefire in August 1990. In 1999, Mauritania withdrew its membership, leaving the total number of member states in the organization at 15.
However, ECOWAS was not equipped to play a military role. It did not have the institutions or the capacity to deploy military forces on the ground with the objective of enforcing any peace agreement, even if all the parties to the agreement cooperated and did what they said they would do. ECOWAS was an economic organization, financed mostly by Nigeria, still poorly integrated in relation to decision-making and execution. Until that moment, ECOWAS had been mostly a forum where the African delegates could express the economic problems of their respective nations, where important resolutions were passed but where little economic development actually occurred. When ECOWAS decided to create a Cease-Fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), in 1990, the serious political divisions between the Anglophone nations led by Nigeria and the Francophone nations represented by Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire became apparent. This division, which eventually included most Anglophone countries on one side and most of the Francophone countries on the other side, not only hindered the implementation and the effectiveness of the operation, but also strained the cohesion of the organization.
ECOMOG was the name given to the force created by ECOWAS to intervene as peacekeepers in the sub-region’s conflicts. ECOMOG was created in a meeting of the organization in Banjul, capital of Gambia, on August 6-7, 1990, with the objective of intervening (citing humanitarian grounds) in the civil war in neighboring Liberia. It was the first attempt by a sub-regional organization to effect the mantra of Africans taking care of their own problems. However, not all the member states of ECOWAS were in agreement about the roles and functions of ECOMOG, or even whether it was reasonable for the organization to intervene in one of its member states.
The Anti-Coup African Policy
In 1999 in Algiers, the Heads of State of the West African governments passed what was called the Algerian Declaration. This became an important document by which the nation members decided to take a no tolerance stand against coups, which had become quite frequent in the region and that threatened many countries in the organization. Esterhuysen published a list of military coups in Africa in the period from 1960 to 1969 and came up with 33 coups that took place in West Africa. After the military coup in Côte d’Ivoire in December 1999, ECOMOG represented an effort to show that military coups in West Africa would not be further tolerated. This policy continued with ECOWAS’ response to the coup d’état in Sierra Leone, where both Nigeria and ECOWAS severely criticized the takeover. After this statement ECOWAS started taking actions against all member states that had been the target of coups. These coups were condemned and the countries where the coup had occurred were suspended from membership in the organization.
In 2005 in Togo, after the death of the president, the army put in power the ex-president’s son Faure Gassingbe. However, this succession was not legal under the Togo Constitution. Instead, it was considered a plot to usurp power and install a hereditary kingdom. Many international organizations, such as the UN and the AU condemned the coup, and ECOWAS joined in this condemnation, as did France and the United States. Similarly, in early 2009 in Guinea, after the death of the president Lansana Conte, another coup took place. ECOWAS suspended Guinea’s membership in the organization and announced that national representatives could not participate in its meetings until democratic elections were conducted and the Constitution was restored. The African Union joined in the condemnation, announcing that unless the Guinea military junta committed itself to democratic elections before the end of the year, the provisions of the Lome Declaration would be enforced by having Guinea suspended from the continental organization.
In March 2012, in Mali, another coup overthrew President Amadou Toure. The militaries that overthrew him claimed that the government had proven unable to face the ongoing Tuareg rebellion and that this was the reason why they decided to overthrow him. ECOWAS reacted by issuing a strongly worded statement, saying that the organization’s position about coups was clear and that it would not tolerate the use of violence to resolve problems.
In April 2008, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on peace and security in Africa that stated that the capacity of regional and sub-regional organizations should be improved, so that they could deal with their own crises. These organizations should develop the ability to resolve and manage their own conflicts. The document also emphasized the need to establish more flexible financing arrangements when any of such organizations had to deploy a military force as a peacekeeping operation under a mandate of the United Nations. About a year later, a combined panel of the UN and the AU (led by former Italian prime minister and former president of the European Commission Romano Prodi), submitted a report to the UN making some recommendations about how to improve the cooperation between the UN and the AU. The report suggested improving the strategic relationship between the UN Security Council and the African Peace and Security Council; having the UN provide resources to AU peacekeeping in a sustainable way; funding UN-authorized AU missions for six months before the UN takes over such missions; and establishing a multi-donor trust to finance such missions. In July 2009, the UN issued a document titled “A New Partnership Agenda: Charting a New Horizon for UN Peacekeeping, which adopted these recommendations.”
Overview of UN Operations in Africa
During its first 45 years after its foundation, the United Nations was involved only in one peacekeeping operation in Africa, the operation in Congo between the years 1960-1964 that was so much criticized by the international community. This is the peacekeeping operation that was in Congo during the assassination of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. The United Nations did not come back to Africa for another 25 years after this infamous event and it did so to oversee the withdrawal of military forces of South Africa from Namibia and to supervise the first democratic elections in Namibia in 1989. However, throughout the next decade, a total of 17 peacekeeping operations were deployed by the world organization to Africa, with different degrees of success or failure depending on the variables used to analyze the missions. Mazrui and Ostergard have classified the operations in Namibia and Mozambique as relatively successful according to the fulfillment of their mandates, but those in Angola, Rwanda and Somalia as complete failures using the same criteria. In both Somalia and Rwanda, the poor performance by the United Nations had more to do with the members of the Security Council that failed to provide clearly specified mandates and with the lack of the dedicated political and material resources needed to meet the responsibilities in these conflicts.
Between 1948 and 2011, approximately 40 percent of the peacekeeping and observer missions in the post-Cold War era (27 out of a total of 65) were deployed to the African continent. At its peak in 1994, the UN deployed 75,000 peacekeepers to 17 conflict spots in the planet at a cost of $ 3.6 billion, reflecting the optimism of the era. The UN failures in Bosnia, Angola, Somalia and Rwanda (and the associated unpaid peacekeeping dues) quickly dampened this euphoria and led to a retrenchment of peacekeeping missions between 1995 and 1998, so that by 1999, only 19,000 peacekeepers were deployed around the world. In August 2000, the UN published the Brahimi Report on Peacekeeping. The report repeatedly warned the international community that the only missions that the UN should deploy are those which meet all specified conditions to be successful, but this tone was perceived in Africa as a code for avoiding all African conflicts after the catastrophes of Somalia in 1993 and of Rwanda in 1994. It was out of these discussions that the “third generation” of UN peacekeeping operations started to be deployed in 1999 and that were sent to some African conflicts, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia-Eritrea and later Liberia, Burundi and Sudan.
It is not surprising that the large majority of the UN peacekeeping operations have taken place in the African continent, because this area of the globe has counted with the largest number of conflicts in the post-Cold War period. Although the first large interventions of the world organization in Africa in this period of time were the unsuccessful operation in Somalia and the inability to stop genocide in Rwanda, the eruption of other conflicts in the continent eventually led the world organization to become very active in this area of the world. During the 1990s, more than three-quarters of all UN peacekeeping troops were stationed somewhere in Africa.
However, most of these interventions have not been extremely successful. With the notable exemption of the withdrawal of South African and Cuban troops from Namibia and Angola and the organization of the transition to democracy in Namibia in 1991, most of the other UN peacekeeping activities have been only partially successful. A relatively successful operation which fulfilled its mandate was the one deployed at the end of the long civil war in Mozambique, where UN peacekeepers monitored Mozambique’s first democratic elections in 1994.
In the 21st century, the conflicts in Africa increased considerably and they did at a time when the international community was not much interested in Africa. The International Institute for Strategic Studies, in mid-1990s, observed that, if there was some kind of consensus in relation to the attention given by the international community to Africa, it was that there was no attention whatsoever. However, while it is true that the end of the Cold War saw a sharp decrease in the attention paid by the developed countries, especially the remaining hegemon the United States, to the problems in Africa, this assessment is not completely accurate, because at this time the United Nations was also spending about three-quarters of its resources and of its peacekeepers in African conflicts. These conflicts were of several kinds and included not only the overthrow of democratic governments by military groups or by rebels, but also the displacement of populations, the assassination of civilians, climate change, diseases, nuclear proliferation, terrorism and humanitarian crises. In addition, occasionally, some permanent members of the Security Council have deployed small numbers of their own troops in non-UN peace operations in Africa, such as the UK in Sierra Leone in the year 2000; the United States in Liberia in 2003; and France in Côte d’Ivoire in 2003, the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003 and 2006 and in Chad in 2008.
Poor Performance of Other Sub-Regional African Organizations
In the case of Africa, two sub-regional organizations, ECOWAS and SADC, have deployed military troops to deal with their sub-regional conflicts. Despite whatever failures these operations might have had, arguably they helped to some degree. However, whole sub-regions of Africa, such as its northern, central and eastern sub-regions have sub regional organizations, but still do not have working sub-regional arrangements to deal with their own conflicts. Furthermore, it seems that the African nations together have a limit in relation to how many troops they can deploy in peacekeeping operations at a given time, with 30,000 being a number that is widely believed to be the maximum. As at any given time the African nations are contributing 10,000 peacekeepers to ongoing UN peacekeeping operations throughout the world, it is clear that not many additional human resources are left to be used in their own sub-regional initiatives. Although much aid has gone to the African nations from the developed nations during the last decade, the African military is still poorly equipped, badly trained and ineffectively managed. Overall, the peacekeeping capacity of the whole continent is equal to what might be needed in just one large peacekeeping operation.
Responsibility to Protect
In 2005, the United Nations General Assembly, after lengthy debates, approved the principle that each member state was responsible for the security within its own borders, but that when there were reasons that made impossible for them to assume such responsibilities, that it was the duty of the international community to intervene and assure that the lives and rights of the populations in danger were respected. In other words, the international community could no longer stay calm when an intra-state conflict raged anywhere in the world.
The UN was always willing to intervene to prevent international conflicts. The problem comes with interpreting and acting to protect. Until this important step was taken, the Charter article 2.7 restricted the organization from acting “in matters which are essentially with the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” This principle of the “responsibility to protect” was applauded as a great step forward by the international community, but in practice so far has not changed very much the manner that the world organization takes care of conflicts.
CHAPTER I: Peacekeeping in the Midst of Civil War: Liberia (1989-2003)
The Liberian Civil Wars: 1989-1996 and 1999-2003
The Liberian conflict has its origins in the private American Colonization Society that was started to “free men of color to the dark continent.” For 24 years after the 1947 Liberian independence, this nation had only one president, William Tubman, who ruled what was effectively a one-party state. His party, the True Whig Party, was the focus of all the political, economic and social activities and was at the center of a patrimonial network. Political power was firmly in the hands of the Americo-Liberian elite and political activity was either discouraged or suppressed. Beginning in the 1960s, every leading family had to have one of its members in government, because public employment alone secured agency contracts and sinecure jobs. After Tubman died in office in 1971, he was succeeded by his long-time vice-president William Tolbert. This new government made an attempt to integrate the interior of the country into the national politics, but his period in power was eclipsed by the oil crises of the 1970s. In 1979, the so-called “Rice Riot” was followed in April 1980 with a coup d’état in which 17 semi-literate soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) murdered William R. Tolbert Jr., the 19th president of Liberia, then the Chairman of the Organization of African Unity (OUA) and the standard bearer of the ruling True Whig Party (TWP).
The successor to the government of Tolbert was the regime of Doe, which destroyed the officer corps of the AFL and its integrity and professionalism. The coup d’état intensified Liberia’s endemic political instability, thoroughly undermined an already weak government, exacerbated perennial fiscal indiscipline, aggravated economic mismanagement and expanded capital flight. By the end of the 1980s, Liberia was a police state with some of the world’s worst human-rights abuses. Eventually, the brutal suppression and worsening poverty led to a civil war, in which four warring factions waged reciprocal tribal vendettas, looted public and private assets and destroyed the nation’s infrastructure. By mid-1990, Liberia had become a “slaughterhouse.”
Samuel Doe was the first non-Americano-Liberian leader. He was a member of the Krahn tribe and head of the People’s Redemption Council; as soon as he took power he suspended the Constitution and assumed dictatorial powers. He did not fulfill the promises that the people expected and proved himself “incompetent, capricious and corrupt.” He made enemies of a large part of the indigenous population as well as of the Americo-Liberian elite by the blatant manner in which he favored the members of his Krahn tribe. His behavior led the U.S. to end American aid to Liberia, aid that the country had become greatly dependent since the early 1980s. This caused grave repercussions for the Liberian economy. The standard of living continued to decline and opposition to Doe’s regime grew.
On December 24, 1989, a rebel force called the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) invaded the north-east of the country from Cote d’Ivoire led by American-educated Charles Taylor, who had been prominent in the Doe regime as Director General of the General Service Agency before being dismissed in 1984 for corruption. Taylor was a member of the Americo-Liberian elite and the brutality of the Doe regime allowed Taylor to gain supporters among Liberia’s Armed Forces. Other segments of the Liberian population, such as the Gio and Mano tribes, also supported Taylor. Unfortunately, the NPFL action began a bloody civil war that lasted over eight years and resulted in more than 200,000 deaths and a refugee population of about one half of Liberia’s 2.5 million population.
The armed rebel groups of Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson entered Liberian territory in Dadane and Nimba County from neighboring Côte d’Ivoire with the expressed objectives of overthrowing the dictatorship of Samuel Doe and conducting free democratic elections. On May 7, 1990, after suffering several losses, the Liberian President made an appeal to Nigeria and Togo for help, which led on August 25, 1990 to the creation of a West African peacekeeping force. Initially, ECOWAS responded by creating a Standing Mediation Committee on 28 May 1990 to mediate the conflict. On July 6, 1990, this Committee produced a peace plan that provided for an immediate cease fire, the creation of a peacekeeping mission, the creation of an interim government for Liberia and the holding of fair and free elections within a year under the supervision of the international community, a plan which would return Liberia to peace. This peace plan became the mandate of the ECOWAS operation and, while its specific steps were implemented, peace was not achieved until the UN took over from ECOWAS several years later. The ECOWAS operation did not produce permanent peace which made this operation unsuccessful according to the simplified Diel and Bruckman framework.
On July 20, 1990, almost immediately after the ECOWAS Committee approved its peace plan for Liberia which included sending troops, Charles Taylor rejected this plan and proceeded to capture roughly 95% of the Liberian territory; and on July 27, 1990, declared himself as President of Liberia. The international community, however, did not recognize Taylor as President and ECOWAS proceeded to form an interim government that did not include any of the leaders of the fighting factions pending free and fair elections. The reaction of Charles Taylor, as expected, was extremely hostile.
When the Liberian civil war erupted, action in the UN Security Council was blocked by three African members: Côte d’Ivoire, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Ethiopia. These nations opposed UN intervention in what they considered the internal affairs of a member of the Organization of African States (now the African Union). Although the African nations cannot veto any action of the UN Security Council, the members of the Security Council generally defer to their African peers when discussing issues related to Africa. Côte d’Ivoire also opposed any intervention because it was supporting the rebel faction of Charles Taylor. It was only after ECOWAS had taken the decision to intervene in Liberia and sent its mission called ECOMOG to Liberia that the UN Security Council issued a statement praising the efforts of ECOMOG in January 1991 at the request of Nigeria. At that point some ECOWAS countries, such as Nigeria, strongly opposed a potential UN presence in Liberia because they thought that the UN was going to take the glory from the sacrifices made by ECOWAS. In reality, the glory of the operation was more a Nigerian perception than a reality.
In 1989, following the rebellion of Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson against the government of President Samuel Doe, Liberia was finally plunged into a terrible civil war. The ECOMOG intervention, according to some scholars and member states, ran counter to the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of states, as stipulated in the first paragraph of the ECOWAS’ Protocol in relation to mutual assistance and defense.
At the beginning, Charles Taylor had the support of Houphouet-Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire, Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso and Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya. Also, Taylor was able to use the natural resources of Liberia to entice the cooperation of American and French business interests, and he also obtained support from these governments. In addition, ECOWAS was not able to control the borders of Liberia or ensure that the NPFL did not receive weapons or military support. Taylor was able to export minerals and timber and receive armed shipments through Côte d’Ivoire.
Although dictator Samuel Doe was unpopular within Liberia and had antagonized large segments of the Liberian population, he counted with a special relationship with the president of Nigeria. He also had good relations and received support from the governments of both Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso. Then, after ECOWAS was already entertaining the idea of intervening in the Liberian conflict, one of Taylor’s lieutenants, Prince Yormie Johnson, broke away to form a rival independent faction, the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). In August 1990, with the war now having reached the capital city of Monrovia and with no apparent prospect of settlement in sight, ECOMOG was deployed.
To end the fratricide, the ECOWAS Standing Mediation Committee (ESMC) held its first meeting in Banjul, Gambia on August 6-7, 1990 calling for a national conference of all the Liberian political parties and other interest groups to be held as soon as possible for the “establishment of an interim government of Liberia.” Charles Taylor, the leader of the NPFL rejected Gambia’s invitation to participate in the First All Liberia Conference, although six political parties, ten interest groups and a number of individuals accepted the invitation and participated in the event. Taylor felt he would achieve military victory imminently and upon withdrawing from the mediation meetings, he vowed to attend the June 1991 OUA Summit as President of Liberia, but his absence from the previous conference raised questions about his political objectives in the civil war.
In Liberia, ECOMOG (established as a “peacekeeping force”) intervened to restore peace – since there was no peace agreement in place to “keep.” In the initial ECOMOG operation, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria contributed troops. Later, Benin, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Senegal also participated. However, throughout the operation, Nigerian management and dominance raised questions about whether Nigeria should emerge as the more powerful actor within ECOMOG and within West Africa.
The initial commitment of 3,000 soldiers for the ECOMOG peacekeeping operation was made without a proper analysis of the real situation that these soldiers would have to confront on the ground. The first ECOMOG contingent, a few hundred soldiers and supporting staff of a later estimated force of 3,500 were contributed by Nigeria, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Guinea. It was led by Ghana’s Lt. General Arnold Quainoo as Force Commander and landed at Monrovia on August 24-25, 1990. Taylor called the ECOMOG force “a foreign occupation force,” fired on the first ECOMOG contingent as it attempted to land and killed a number of soldiers and civilians. However, in respose to Taylor’s demand that he would cooperate with ECOMOG if it integrated some Francophone nations, Senegal sent a large contingent in late 1991, and a little bit later, Mali also supplied troops. However, although ECOMOG in August 1992 was 9,000-troops strong, full hostilities broke out again in September 1992. As reported by the UN Secretary General, ECOWAS troops had to be withdrawn from Liberia several times because they were menaced by numerically superior rebel troops. Indeed, during most of its presence in Liberia, only about 16% of ECOMOG troops were fully deployed.
Many Liberians perceived ECOMOG as an occupation force that was protecting a president they no longer wanted. After President Doe was captured at ECOMOG headquarters and subsequently assassinated by Prince Johnson, ECOMOG redefined its mission. The killing of President Doe severely undermined the credibility of ECOMOG, because the peacekeepers did not act to save Doe. Also, ECOMOG undertook the enforcement action and intervention action in Liberia before obtaining authorization from the Security Council, which set a dangerous and disturbing precedent for international law.
ECOWAS declared an economic embargo against the NPFL on November 7, 1992, which was followed by a Security Council arms embargo. After both of these steps were taken, Charles Taylor was isolated both territorially and diplomatically. In mid-1992, Ivorian President Houphouet-Boigny began limiting arms shipments from Ivorian territory to the NPFL, and as a result, ECOMOG became more successful monitoring the embargo.
At the height of the Liberian civil war at the beginning of the 1990s, there were about eight different rebel groups struggling for power, some of them supporting factions along ethnicity or personalities and others either supporters of the Doe regime or groups financed by neighboring countries with interests in the civil war. It was in this chaotic environment that ECOWAS showed its best colors by being able to have the different groups reach out to each other and sign a peace agreement in September 1996. This Agreement had both a military and a political component, which formed the basis of subsequent arrangements for ending Liberia’s civil war. The military section called for an immediate cease-fire, followed by disarmament, encampment and demobilization of the warring factions, to be monitored by the Joint Cease-Fire Monitoring Committee (JCMC), composed of representatives of the warring factions, ECOMOG and the UN. The agreement also called for the formation of a transitional government to rule the nation for six months followed by free and fair elections. The elections were held on 19 July 1997 and Charles Taylor won the presidential elections with his National Patriotic Party winning 21 of the 26 seats in the legislature with 75.3 percent of the total vote. On August 2, 1997, Charles Taylor was sworn as President of Liberia.
The ECOMOG peacekeeping operation was characterized by its troop composition, which included mostly Nigerian and Ghanaian troops, a characteristic that hindered its capacity to secure effectively the cooperation of the rest of the members in the organization. When the peacekeeping operation started in August 1990, it was launched without any agreement among the Anglophone and the Francophone blocks within the organization. It was precisely for this reason that the United States and other countries supported the participation of troops from Senegal in this operation, on the belief that by expanding the number of participating countries the operation would gain more legitimacy, plus Charles Taylor had also said that he would accept ECOMOG if at least one Francophone nation would join this operation. The United States used an American private company named Pacific Architects and Engineers to provide drivers and trucks. The Americans also transported some of the ECOMOG troops in five C-130 Hercules. However, the decision on the part of ECOWAS to deploy a military force in Liberia to intervene in the conflict created a serious disagreement among its nation members. On one hand, the Anglophone countries, led by Nigeria, strongly supported the intervention; while the Francophone nations opposed the operation. Thus, on one side, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, and on the other Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Togo, each group pulling in opposite directions. The Francophone opposition to the intervention had several reasons, but the reason most advocated at the international meetings was that they were against the violation of the sovereignty of one of the member states.
In reality, the Babangida/Doe friendship limited the capacity of the former. He was unacceptable to the NPFL as a mediator. The NPFL alleged that Nigeria had supplied Doe with arms and was one of the last countries condemning Doe’s brutalities; and that these actions demonstrated a Nigerian alliance with Doe. In addition, NPFL antipathy aside, Babangida probably would have found it difficult to rally the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) of Nigeria for what seemed, even then, a daunting undertaking. President Houphouet-Boigny and many senior Ivoirians were personal friends of Tolbert and his colleagues killed on April 22, 1980 by the Doe regime. Personal antagonisms between Houphouet and Doe intensified when AFL soldiers dragged Houphouet’s foster son-in-law, Adolphus B. Tolbert, from the French Embassy in Monrovia and killed him in 1980.
Burkina Faso declared its opposition to the ECOWAS intervention as did Côte d’Ivoire, but in a more measured tone. These two nations helped the Charles Taylor’s guerrilla rebels. Senegal also expressed its reservations about the military intervention and complained about the lack of consultation in the decision-making process. The absence of ECOMOG troops from any Francophone country, with the exception of a minuscule contingent from Guinea, was a distinguishing characteristic of the West African force that landed in Monrovia at the end of August 1990. When Senegal, in September 1991, decided to commit a major contingent to ECOMOG, this action was seen as an important and significant event in the regional attempt to bring peace to Liberia. The U.S. government was behind this measure, with initially Herman Cohen, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and later the Secretary of State James Baker and President George Bush urging Abdou Diouf, the President of Senegal, to commit troops to ECOMOG. When the President of Senegal travelled to Washington D.C., the U.S. administration pledged to pay a significant portion of the material costs of the operation. Up to that time, the U.S. had contributed some financial support to ECOMOG, estimated at about $ 2.8 million. The U.S. expressed its intention to increase its financial contribution by an additional $ 3.75 million “to support the Yamoussoukro peace process.” In addition, the U.S. allocated $ 1 million to each Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal; $ 500,000 each to Ghana, Guinea and Sierra Leone and $ 250,000 to Gambia. Furthermore, the U.S. government took advantage of its prerogatives under the Section 506b provision of the Foreign Assistance Act, which gives the Pentagon the authority to supply materials and ammunitions from its inventory to help other governments in their peacekeeping operations. In this manner, the U.S. Government awarded the government of Senegal about $ 15 million worth of military equipment; and this decision probably convinced President Diouf that he should support the ECOWAS peacekeeping operation in Liberia despite what looked as a failed enterprise. Furthermore, when it was discovered that American military jeeps bought by the Doe government were still in transit in Dakar, the U.S. also gave them to the government of Senegal for use in his army. The Washington Post noted that in addition to all these material contributions to Senegal that the U.S. Government also forgave this country’s debt to the United States in the approximate amount of $ 42 million, as it was also doing with the external debt of other nations that had participated in the American-led Gulf War.
However, the participation of the troops from Senegal did not fulfill its political and military objectives. By mid-1992, it had become apparent that the assumption on which Senegal had agreed to join ECOMOG was no longer valid. The emergence of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) as a force in the conflict deterred Taylor from cooperating with ECOMOG’s disarmament mission. The civil war, rather than decreasing in intensity, became bloodier. Senegalese General Seck soon concluded that an intervention in the Liberian war was a failed effort and started to ask President Diouf to withdraw the Senegalese troops from the operation. Initially, Charles Taylor said that he would cooperate with ECOMOG as soon as a Francophone country would join the peacekeeping operation, so that the leadership of Nigeria could be somehow neutralized, but it was clear at the time that Taylor had mislead the international community and the United States specifically. At long last, the U.S. Government also realized that they had acted upon false premises. Both Assistant Secretary and ex-President Jimmy Carter expressed concerns that ECOMOG could not operate as a neutral force within Liberia and that it was necessary to engage the United Nations in the crisis. After about a year supporting ECOMOG, the military troops of Senegal were sent home without its participation achieving any of its objectives. Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Senegal and the non-ECOWAS member of Libya accused Nigeria of sponsoring ECOMOG as part of its “Paix Nigeriana” policy in the sub region without consulting the heads of state and the governments of ECOWAS.
The Ivorian President then accused the governments of neighboring Burkina Faso and Liberia of fomenting the rebellion in his country while Charles Taylor, the President of Liberia, accused Côte d’Ivoire of backing a faction of the Liberian rebels called Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). Reportedly, soldiers from both Liberia and Sierra Leone were fighting on both sides of the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. Overall, about 125,000 refugees from Côte d’Ivoire sought refuge in the neighboring countries of Liberia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso. Côte d’Ivoire, thus, provided a border base for the rebels to infiltrate Liberia through Nimba County. Burkina Faso served as training and transit point for arms transfers from Libya to the rebels in Côte d’Ivoire, and Libya served as a recruiting and training axis for the rebels.
The Role of Nigeria
Nigeria was financing about 80 percent of ECOMOG’s cost in Liberia. A report published in the Financial Times stated that the government of Nigeria was spending from $ 250 to $ 500 million of oil windfall from the Gulf War in the Liberian operations. The government of Nigeria reported that it was spending much less, because each Nigerian soldier was on a daily allowance of only five dollars.
The failure of Nigeria to evacuate its nationals, as all other countries were doing before the landing of the ECOMOG troops in Liberia, received great criticism from the Nigerian media. Nigerians were worried that their government had sacrificed their fellow citizens for the safety of President Doe. The situation worsened when arms supplied by Nigeria to President Doe’s army were captured by the rebel forces of Charles Taylor. This singular act appeared to confirm the close friendship of President Babangida of Nigeria with President Doe and the conclusion that Nigeria was in Liberia to protect Doe. Both individuals had met while attending the Nigerian Defense Academy at Kaduna.
AU Participation and the UN Take Over
As ECOMOG proved incapable of settling the situation, the African Union arranged for the participation of a non-ECOWAS element in the operation in the form of troops from Tanzania and Uganda and also sought the approval of the United Nations for the modified operation. As this approach did not succeed, in September 1993, the UN Security Council gave authorization for the establishment of the UN Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL). The UN was going to embark on its first military mission in cooperation with another already established peacekeeping operation launched by a sub-regional organization. This approach looked, at the time, to be a new model for peacekeeping operations. However, one of the mandated functions of UNOMIL was to supervise the role of ECOMOG in the provision of security and the collection and destruction of arms. It was also to monitor the West Africans’ behaviors in relation to human rights and international law. This inevitably led to cross-organizational distrust. Within six months, it was clear to UN personnel that UNOMIL could not fulfill any of its two main mandates. At the same time, UNOMIL was perceived as naïve and not sufficiently robust to deal with the various factions within Liberia, particularly with the NPFL. The United States, which had been quite generous in funding the peace process, started to disengage, citing concerns about the political and military behavior of the ECOMOG commanders. However, as the combined UN-ECOWAS operation confronted even greater difficulties on the ground, the United States slowly realized that it had to play a more active role. The ECOMOG peacekeepers became so notorious for stealing the country’s resources that the acronym ECOMOG came to mean “every car or moving object gone.” One of the most blatant acts of thievery by the ECOMOG forces was the dismantling and sale of the Buchanan iron ore plant while it was under the control of ECOMOG troops. Sometimes the ECOMOG troops physically assaulted civilians in the population. A victim said, “They were just as bad as anyone else. Maybe even more. They will see you and beat for nothing, and there is not anything you or anyone can do about it.”
ECOWAS had requested technical assistance from the UN for its mission in Liberia in 1990 when it decided to establish its peacekeeping force, but at that time the UN Secretariat in New York did not respond positively, although James Jonah, the Sierra Leonean UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs, was dispatched to regional meetings and became an advisor for the ECOWAS leaders and an advocate within the Secretariat. At the 14th ECOWAS Summit in Abuja, Nigeria on July 4-6, 1991, the chiefs of state set up a committee of five members states to aid the Standing Mediation Committee seeking a solution to the conflict in Liberia. One week earlier, a consultative meeting of Heads of State and Government was held in Yamoussoukro where the mission of ECOMOG was redefined and a commitment was made by the interim government of Liberia and the NPFL to honor the cease fire. Present at the meeting were Amos Sawyer, President of the Interim Government of Liberia, Charles Taylor, Chief of the NPFL and the representative of the International Negotiations Network (INN) former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
In addition, although the African nations including the ECOWAS countries did not want the UN to intervene at that point, they requested the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo against Liberia’s warlords. In 1992, nine ECOWAS foreign ministers travelled to New York to lobby the UN Security Council about this matter. This is the same year that Boutros Boutros-Ghali published his landmark “Agenda for Peace” document which called for an increase in the cooperation of the UN and its regional organizations.
In July 1993, the UN appointed Trevor Gordon-Somers as the Special Representative of the Secretary General to take the lead from ECOWAS in the peace negotiations in Liberia. Also, the UN sent an UN-Observer mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) to work along with the ECOWAS mission. In reality, what the UN was doing was sending a group of military observers to police the ECOWAS peacekeepers and ensure that its 16,000 strong mission abide by the cease fire agreement and use force only if attacked. Under the terms of the Cotonou Agreement, signed on July 25, 1993 (between the interim government of Liberia, the NPFL and ULIMO), UNOMIL was responsible for monitoring the cantonment, disarmament and demobilization of the Liberian combatants as well as overseeing the UN-imposed arms embargo of 1992. UNOMIL was also mandated to work with ECOMOG, with the latter holding primary responsibility for disarming military factions. UNOMIL was further mandated to report on human rights violations and to coordinate humanitarian assistance. ECOMOG was also responsible for ensuring the security of the civilian and unarmed military personnel of the UN mission.
Problems between ECOMOG and UNOMIL started right away. The troops of ECOMOG, poorly equipped for the mission, started to complain that UNOMIL did not lend them its vehicles and helicopters and felt that they had to do the most difficult jobs while the better paid UN observers were doing the easy tasks. The problems became worse when the UN Secretary General, in a report in October 1994 to the Security Council, informed the Council that ECOMOG had collaborated with anti-NPFL combatants during a fighting that occurred in Gbanga in September 1994. The officers of ECOMOG thought that these allegations detracted from all the praiseworthy activities that they were doing, such as escorting the humanitarian convoys to the rural areas of the country and providing security to displaced people in the capital city of Monrovia and in Tubmanburg. However, the collaboration of ECOMOG forces with anti-NPFL combatants, which started at the beginning of ECOWAS’ intervention in Liberia, was not in dispute.
There were five key areas of friction between ECOMOG and UNOMIL. First, ECOMOG soldiers, who earned on average $ 5 a day and were often irregularly paid, were irritated that UNOMIL observers were earning $ 100 per day for performing less strenuous and less risky activities. Second, ECOMOG wanted UNOMIL to strictly “observe” rather than “supervise” the disarmament. Third, ECOMOG’s officials were frustrated by what they regarded as UN special representative Gordon-Somers’s unilateral disarmament negotiations with the parties without proper consultation with ECOMOG staff. The fourth area of disagreement involved UNOMIL’s chief military observer, General Opande and ECOMOG’s Nigerian field commander General Mark Inieger during 1993-1996, who held different views about disarmament strategy. Opande asked Charles Taylor be given the benefit of the doubt in his offer to disarm his combatants unilaterally and talked of the NPFL’s “good faith.” Inieger and his officers considered this view naïve and regarded Taylor’s offer as an attempt to avoid close scrutiny of his arms and military positions. The final area of disagreement involved ECOMOG’s criticism of UNOMIL for deploying some of its military observers without consultation with the West Africans who were mandated to protect them. UNOMIL said that it had obtained the consent of the factions to deploy and that it could not fulfill its mandate by remaining in the capital of Monrovia. The UN also accused ECOMOG of violating its mandate by not protecting UNOMIL personnel and by restricting their freedom of movement.
The central paradox of the joint UN-ECOWAS mission was illustrated in both Freetown and Monrovia. In the intensity of the battle, just where effective monitoring of ECOMOG behavior and human rights observance was most necessary, UNOMSIL was largely useless because only 40 of the planned 70 military observers had been deployed before the peace process disintegrated with the RUF offensive at the beginning of 1999, and even this small presence was quickly overrun. In a report to the Security Council in January 1999, Secretary General Kofi Annan reported the arbitrary execution of suspected rebels and their supporters as well as the indiscriminate use of air power by ECOMOG.
Assessing the ECOMOG Operation
In addition to the failures of the ECOMOG intervention in the areas of peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace enforcement, the intervention had an impact on Liberia that will adversely affect its political, economic and cultural development for a very long time. The most significant consequence of the participation of ECOMOG in the civil wars in Liberia has been the prolongation and spreading of the war. To Nigeria, it cost at least 600 killed and $ 1 billion above normal operating costs, at a time when Nigeria’s own external debt stood at $ 35 billion. It also contributed to the coup in Gambia that overthrew Sir Dauda Jawara. In Sierra Leone, it promoted the formation of ULIMO, which was formed in Freetown in part to neutralize the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and to keep Charles Taylor away from the sources of diamonds in the west. Obviously, the worse effects were in Liberia, which suffered massive devastation and looting of natural resources; death, displacement, and violation of human rights of populations; political, economic, social and cultural dislocation of society, and reduction of opportunities for agricultural and industrial development.
Many ECOMOG commanders also seem to have gone into business for themselves. ECOMOG, for example, collaborated with Alhajr Kromah in mining operations in the Bomi area, and jointly operated timber projects and rubber plantations with George Boley from the Liberia Peace Council (LPC) near the Ivorian border (estimated at about $ 1.5 million a year). In addition, underpaid and ill-equipped ECOMOG commanders became involved in diamonds and iron products and were even been known to have been involved in stripping some of the country’s assets, such as railroad stock, mining equipment and public utilities, to sell these to expatriate companies. Also, the destruction of limited industrial plant caused by the fighting and the uncertainties associated with long-term returns on industrial activity will limit investments in that area for some time because, as a consequence of the civil war, the physical infrastructure of the country was downgraded and the productive sectors of the economy were practically paralyzed.
The control that the NPFL exerted over the economy of Liberia allowed it to engage France, which welcomed the opportunity to be able to import a billion tons of high grade iron ore to the Mount Nimba of Guinea. Private actors from France, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia exploited the natural resources of Liberia, especially its minerals. During the conflict, Charles Taylor was able to finance resistance to ECOMOG’s efforts at peacekeeping and peacemaking because he had access to $ 200-$ 250 million dollars a year from the sale of timber, rubber and other natural resources. A French mining company by the name of Sollac and the American-headquartered Firestone Tire and Rubber Company were implicated in illicit commercial transactions. La Tribune, a Paris newspaper, in its edition of September 2, 1992, mentioned that Jean Christophe Mitterrand was replaced as his father’s advisor on African Affairs in the summer of that year because of media pressure against his personal business relationship with Charles Taylor.
The first of all regional or sub-regional peacekeeping operations was the ECOWAS operation in Liberia in the period 1990-1998, and this was an operation that was deployed only with the financial resources, troops and military equipment from the organization’s member countries, mostly Nigeria. It was also in this operation that the United Nations, for the first time, sent a group of military advisors to support and cooperate with an ongoing peacekeeping operation from a sub-regional body. In the Liberian conflict, both Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso provided financial and military assistance to Taylor’s NPFL because Samuel Doe, the President of Liberia, had killed the son-in-law of Côte d’Ivoire dictator Felix Houphouet-Boigny in 1980. The Liberian conflict itself, which was a demonstration of the contradictions within Liberia’s ethnic politics, was complex and involved a number of competing groups. This conflict extended the resources and the resilience of the sub-regional economic organization to the limit. However, ECOMOG accomplished a degree of success. Free elections were held in August 1997 in which Charles Taylor became President of Liberia, and for the next year the violence was greatly reduced.
Liberia’s Second Civil War (1999-2003)
The election of Charles Taylor as President of Liberia demonstrated the hope of the Liberian people for peace and stability. However, Taylor distributed positions among his supporters and did not make an effort to include wide segments of the Liberian population, which quickly became disappointed about the government they had elected. Within a year, Liberia reverted to civil war and the neighboring countries of Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire were back in the business of supporting rebel groups, with Guinea supporting the Liberian United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) group and Côte d’Ivoire supporting the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). By 2003, the two rebel groups had gained control of a large swath of Liberian territory and started to get close to the Liberian capital. Taylor was making a desperate effort to stay in power, but his situation was greatly weakened because the Sierra Leone Special War Crimes Court had indicted him for war crimes during Sierra Leone’s civil war.
ECOWAS deployed its second force on August 4, 2003 to Monrovia, renamed the Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL), with troops not only from Nigeria, but also from Senegal and Mali. A week after this deployment, Taylor resigned and accepted an offer by Nigeria to grant him political asylum as part of an ECOWAS-brokered peace agreement. Later, Nigerian authorities handed Charles Taylor over to the Special Court of Sierra Leone, where he faced 11 counts of war crimes, grave breaches of the 1949 Convention regarding crimes against humanity based on Taylor’s role in the conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
This second ECOWAS intervention in Liberia also faced problems of organization and resources, but this time the intervention was made with full support from the United States and the international community. On August 18, 2013, the Liberian rebel groups reached an agreement in Accra, Ghana, where they agreed to create a transitional government in Liberia to rule the government for two years and supervise the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of the rebel groups into civil society and prepare the conditions for new elections. In October 2003, the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) took over the operations from ECOMIL.
The ECOWAS experience in Liberia is a rare experiment for conflict resolution in post-Cold War Africa. It was largely an unsuccessful attempt by the West African states to undertake the management and solution of conflicts in their own region. However, it was a demonstration of self-reliance that eventually could lead to the development of African organizations with the political will, capabilities and skills to establish some kind of Paix Africana in the continent.
However, most of the methods used by ECOWAS failed to produce the desired outcomes. These failures were due to the fact that, by and large, the organization was not completely informed about the many supporters behind the civil wars’ diverse factions. The organization also did not receive accurate information from the field about its major problems and weaknesses. Nevertheless, the effort made by the organization was considerable. Overall, ECOWAS was involved in 14 mediation attempts, 12 of which were immediately unsuccessful. The only two that had a chance of success were the Cotonou and the Abuja II Accords, although even these two presented serious implementation problems that doomed them to failure. ECOWAS was never able to maintain the trust of the factions, and in the beginning of the peacekeeping operation, it was widely believed that ECOMOG was a Nigerian effort to assist General Doe and destroy Taylor. This led to ECOMOG losing a necessary attribute of any successful peacekeeping effort. Under these conditions, the warring factions had very little incentive to surrender their arms because they viewed ECOWAS as having taken sides in the struggle.
ECOMOG also was unable to fulfill its mandate to establish effective enforcement machinery due to its inability to achieve a consensus among its members. In Liberia, the conflict revolved around issues of ethnicity and resources. Soon after the war broke out, Taylor realized that control over areas rich with timber, rubber, diamonds and other resources was more important than the immediate capture of Monrovia. In Liberia, the fact that ECOWAS was observed fighting with different factions at different times promoted extreme distrust on the part of the factions, thus inhibiting the ability of ECOWAS to communicate effectively with them. At the beginning of the conflict in 1990 there were four contending factions in Liberia: the NPFL, the INPFL, the AFL (Armed Forces of Liberia) and ECOMOG/IGNU. In 1991, ULIMO joined the latter group. By 1995, several other factions emerged to include the Lofa Defense Force (LDF), the Bong Defense Force (BDF) and the Liberia Peace Council (LPC). By the end of the conflict there were more than ten participating factions.
As an economic organization, ECOWAS did not have any political or military experience. The ECOWAS Secretariat was not knowledgeable about Liberian political culture beyond the simplistic indigene vs. settler cleavage. Like other African dictators before him, such as Amin, Bokassa and Doe, Taylor was another greedy dictator, not a liberator. His decision to hold the nationals of West Africa hostages, to attack ECOMOG as it was landing and his non-cooperation and eventual withdrawal from the Second All Liberia Conference, demonstrate that he was guided only by personal ambitions and not by the desire to improve the lives of the Liberian people. Even the President of Côte d’Ivoire, which had supported Charles Taylor all along must have been personally embarrassed because of Taylor’s erratic behavior.
Liberia was the first test of fire for ECOWAS. However, such test was not successful. Rather than bringing permanent peace to the war-torn country, the ECOWAS peacekeeping forces became another party in the conflict. It was only with the establishment of UNOMIL by the UN Security Council that the international community as a whole reacted to the tragic events in Liberia. The mandate of UNOMIL, established by UN Security Council Resolution 866 of 1993 and adjusted by Resolution 1020 of 1995, eventually brought peace to Liberia.
CHAPTER II: Sierra Leone: Blood and Diamonds (1991-2002)
The ECOWAS peacekeeping operation in Sierra Leone was a consequence of the Liberian civil war getting out of hands. It was a consequence of ECOWAS’ inability to control the situation in Liberia. The crisis started when a group of rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) entered into the Eastern border of the town of Bomaru in Sierra Leone. The incursion was believed to have been promoted by Charles Taylor as revenge against the decision of the government of Sierra Leone to support the Nigeria-led ECOWAS operation in Liberia. Charles Taylor’s control of Liberia was deliberately extended into the southern part of Sierra Leone. His objective was to control the region’s diamond resources to finance his rebellion. By making Sierra Leone’s collapse into instability and insecurity, Taylor attempted (somewhat successfully) to relieve ECOMOG pressure on his own troops.
Foday Sankoh, the leader of RUF, and Charles Taylor, the leader of the NPFL, had agreed in 1991 to cooperate with each other in their objectives of overthrowing the respective governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone. The leaders of the two organizations knew each other and both of them had received military training in Benghazi, Libya and had been supported by Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Foday Sankoh was a retired corporal from the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLMF), who in the 1970s was implicated in a coup plot that was later linked up with the leadership of a Ghana group that was organizing the Benghazi trips. According to the account written by Adeleke, most of those who trained in Benghazi had a troubled educational and social background and were heavily involved in drugs. Their lifestyles were described as lumpen, or raray men in the local parlance. The movement recruited marginal youth engaged in artisanal mining (san san boys) and alienated rural youth who were contemptuous of traditional authority; it also abducted and drugged children to produce vicious behavior.
Early Developments in the Sierra Leone Crisis
In April 1992, after 20 years in office, the All People’s Congress (APC) was overthrown in Sierra Leone. The president at the time was Joseph Saidu Momoh, who had been in power for the last six years. Members of the RUF rebel organization installed themselves in power and proceeded to create a government called the National Provisional Ruling Council headed by Captain Valentine Strasser. This head of state ruled as part of the interim government for only a few months, from May 1992 until July 1992, and thereafter installed himself in power permanently as head of the Supreme Council of State. However, the new government confronted rebel groups in the Eastern and Southern sectors of the country and had to create a militia to aid the army to fight these groups. Pressure against the government to conduct elections intensified, not only internally but also from the international community. Although there were problems between the army and the militia, these were manageable. The military installed in power a new man, Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, with the objective of preparing the conditions for the country’s transfer to democracy. The Brigadier rapidly opened negotiations with the RUF, and in February 1996, national elections were celebrated which Tejan Kabbah won. The transfer of power to Kabbah required the retirement of the top cadres of the NPRC from the army to return the balance of power to what it was under the APC.
In November 1996, President Kabbah, on behalf of the government and Sankoh, as the leader of the RUF forces, signed a peace agreement in Abidjan, but later backed down. On May 25, 1997, the military overthrew the government of Kabbah installing in power an obscure major named Johnny Paul Koroma who was in jail awaiting trial on an accusation of trying to overthrow the government. The Sierra Leone military then asked the RUF to join the new government, Sankoh was made Deputy President and a few members of the RUF organization were given posts in the new government. In November 1996, as a result of the Abidjan Peace Accords, the RUF for some time gained some legitimacy. As part of the agreement, all members in the military organization were absolved of any crimes they might have committed during the civil war and were given an opportunity to participate in the democratic process by becoming recognized political fighters. RUF rebels were either integrated into Sierra Leone’s new army or were helped to obtain civilian jobs. The organization was permitted to send representatives to the peace and electoral commissions. However, this situation was not going to last. After the RUF and the Sierra Leone military overthrew the elected government in May 1997, the RUF again became an illegitimate organization, whose members were the targets of a global travel embargo imposed by ECOWAS and the UN Security Council.
In March 1998, when a coup overthrew the government of President Kabbah, an ECOWAS peacekeeping operation put back in power his deposed government. This was, in fact, the mandate of the operation. However, although the government was reinstated to power temporarily, the situation did not last. The Diel and Bruckman analysis framework also would characterize this operation as unsuccessful, because although the government was reinstated for a short period of time peace was not achieved. On January 6, 1999, the RUF military groups, together with a group of soldiers from Sierra Leone’s military forces, occupied Freetown and overthrew the country’s government for the second time. A year earlier, in 1998, ECOWAS had restored the government of Sierra Leone to power after a coup, but now the president was overthrown again. This was the second time that the government of Sierra Leone had been overthrown in a coup within the last two years. The occupation of the city was a bloody endeavor, resulting in more than 6,000 deaths; the abduction, maiming and physical abuse of a large number of civilians and the burning of a considerable number of public properties, mostly houses and buildings owned by the government.
President of Liberia Charles Taylor several times sent troops to chase members of the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) that entered Liberia to attack the Liberian army and then sought refuge in neighboring Sierra Leone. In addition, the war in Côte d’Ivoire, which will be analyzed in Chapter III, also spilled into Liberia as the rebel bands led by Laurent Gbagbo fighting the Côte d’Ivoire government of Alassane Quattara, crossed the border to seek refuge in Liberia after attacking facilities in Côte d’Ivoire. In Sierra Leone, at least 6,000 of the fighters were children under 15, and 10,000 were aged 15 to 18. In many cases, the children had been inducted into war by being kidnapped or removed from their families and drugged into submission. The tragedy in Sierra Leone is another example of failure of leadership, both regional and international.
The ECOWAS Foreign Ministers in Conakry on June 27, 1997 decided to overturn the military coup again, and on August 28-29 in Abuja, at the organization’s Summit Meeting, the organization increased the scope of ECOMOG to include activities in Sierra Leone. The main countries contributing troops to ECOMOG in Sierra Leone were Nigeria and Guinea. Ghana, which had stood with Nigeria in the peacekeeping efforts in Liberia, backed down and criticized the operation in Sierra Leone and other Francophone nations also did the same, although all of them supported the embargo imposed against the new military and RUF-led Sierra Leone regime because such embargo had been declared by the UN Security Council by its Resolution 1132 of 1997.
A number of disaffected elements from the country’s elite, left out by the government led by Kabbah, joined or supported the AFRC. The population in Sierra Leone was no longer sympathetic to RUF and this organization was seen more and more as illegitimate and destructive. Especially in the Southern and Eastern parts of Sierra Leone, the general perception was that the RUF was a rebel group created in the North of the country with the goal of exterminating the peoples in the South and the East, mostly the Mende. This idea, although not true, was reinforced because Foday Sankoh himself was a Northerner and led to the incorrect popular perception that the majority of the combatants in these group came from the North.
The Myopic Participation of the United States in Sierra Leone
Since the fall of Freetown, the United States was working to negotiate a peace settlement with Sankoh. In late 1997, the Clinton administration appointed Reverend Jesse Jackson as its Special Envoy of the President for the Promotion of Democracy in Africa. Jackson’s primary objective was to bring peace to Sierra Leone. The Clinton administration and Jackson undoubtedly knew about Sankoh’s record, but negotiated with him anyway on at least two occasions in 1998. It was in this manner that the U.S. became deeply involved in what became one of the most absurd peace agreements ever negotiated, the Lome Peace Agreement in the spring of 1999. Despite the well-publicized barbarity of the RUF campaign to seize Freetown, Jesse Jackson and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright forced the Sierra Leone government to pardon Sankoh and offer him a post in a new government responsible for Sierra Leone’s diamond mines, where he could continue stealing the country’s natural resources for his own benefit. RUF members were also offered amnesty for all crimes. ECOMOG troops were to leave the country and a large UN peacekeeping force, the UN Assistance Mission for Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) would be deployed to help monitor the peace agreement.
However, UNAMSIL was a poorly run and incompetent peacekeeping force that made the situation worse. In 2000, some UNAMSIL troops tried to position themselves in areas occupied by the RUF insurgents and were taken prisoners, deprived of their weapons and according to some accounts even of their clothes because these troops, primarily from Kenya and Zambia, immediately surrendered. The RUF was also significantly strengthened by stealing UN weapons and vehicles. Just in May 2000, the RUF took 500 UNAMSIL troops hostages. In June 2000, UNAMSIL and Freetown would have been overrun if it were not for the deployment of 800 British marines who made a show of force and drove the RUF forces back. The UNAMSIL hostages were then released, although more hostages were taken later on. By mid-2001, the government of Sierra Leone controlled Freetown and limited areas of the interior of the country. UNAMSIL protected these areas.
ECOMOG in Sierra Leone
The involvement of ECOMOG in the civil war in Sierra Leone was a necessary part of its efforts to bring peace to Liberia. It was from Liberia in March 1991 that the RUF had started its operations and from where this rebel group launched an offensive against the government of Sierra Leone with full cooperation from Charles Taylor and his NPFL.
The ECOMOG operation in Sierra Leone strengthened in May 1997 when Nigerian General Sani Abacha, who was leading the peacekeeping operations in Liberia, diverted his troops to Sierra Leone after the operation in Liberia was terminated. The objective was to overthrow what they considered the illegitimate government in Sierra Leone that had obtained power by overthrowing the previous legitimate regime. This was indeed what happened. In February 1998, the ECOMOG troops overturned the coup and restored the previous president and his government into power. Nevertheless, this was not the end of the story. In January 1999, once again the rebels invaded Freetown and got control of the government, a clear demonstration that ECOMOG was unable to bring security and stability in Sierra Leone.
ECOMOG remained a regional hope for security, but one that was deprived of the necessary funds and training and that could get into problems once the warlords refused to cooperate. Under these circumstances, Nigeria’s President Obasan decided to withdraw his participation from the ECOMOG operation. Once again the United Nations was stepped in to take over, this time as the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) which included 3,500 “rehatted” Nigerian peacekeepers from ECOMOG. Also, the United Nations Security Council authorized a more international peacekeeping force to continue the efforts made by ECOWAS. Thus, in 1999-2000, the ECOWAS operation in Sierra Leone, (financed and manned by the organization’s members) just as they had in Liberia, ended up being taken over by the United Nations.
Most accounts about the ECOMOG participation in Sierra Leone conclude that without ECOWAS’ intervention Sierra Leone would have remained under the violent rule of the AFRC/RUF or that the war would have become an ethnic war. However, the limitations of the regional intervention were many. ECOMOG lost much of its deterrence value after its highly successful ejection of the AFRC from power because it was expected not only to defend all towns and villages, but also to fight the rebels in all corners and bushes of the country. The problem was not only with the tremendous difficulties but with faltering resolve. Nigeria, the main country participating and financing the troops, grew uneasy as the difficulties started to mount. A series of factors contributed to this cooling down of Nigeria’s resolve. In March 1999, all of Nigeria’s three most important political parties criticized the involvement of Nigeria in the civil war in Sierra Leone, and Abdulsalam Abubakar, the Nigerian leader, also started to have second thoughts about the Nigerian participation in the operation. The great reduction in the prices of oil, which were of about 40 percent in the last part of 1998 and the beginning of 1999, severely affected the commitment of the Nigerian army to succeed in the operation in Sierra Leone.
The Nigerian army gave several reasons about why ECOMOG had failed to protect the capital city of Freetown, and thus, been unable to avoid the second coup. They said that the rebels made fighting against them more difficult because they had used defenseless civilians as shield to protect themselves when they came into town; that a Nigerian lieutenant colonel had failed in his duties by abandoning his post at the important entry point of Kissy and had to be court martialed and sent back to Nigeria; and that the operation in Sierra Leone lacked appropriate military equipment such as Mi-24s and other helicopter gunships.
In Sierra Leone, the ECOMOG mission had its weaknesses exposed through allegations of illegal arms transfers to loyalist forces, its inability to provide effective security in rural and urban areas and the incursion into Freetown of supposedly defeated rebels. The attack on ECOMOG troops by the NPFL rebels reflected the absence of an effective cease-fire before ECOMOG sought to enforce peace. In addition, ECOMOG soldiers were accused of human rights abuses and sexual exploitation of women and children, of lack of discipline and of accountability. ECOMOG displayed a complete disregard for the principle of impartiality and violated one of the key principles of peacekeeping, the others being consent and the use of force only in self-defense. It is clear that no peacekeeping mission can succeed when the intervention force has a vested interest in the conflict, which is true for any peacekeeping operation. However, peace enforcement missions always take sides (as do most military operations), the difference is that a peacekeeping mission must maintain “impartiality” and there must be a genuine desire by the majority of parties for a peace to “keep.” If these elements are missing, there can be no peacekeeping operation, only peace enforcement operation. The war in Sierra Leone caused numerous coups and counter coups, killed at least 15,000 people and created 1.5 million refugees, one quarter of the country’s population.
As a result, in May 2000, the U.K. decided to send 800 troops to help stabilize the faltering UN mission and used its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to prioritize the conflict in Sierra Leone, mobilize donor contributions and increase the UN peacekeeping mission to 20,000 personnel the largest UN peacekeeping mission in the world at the time. Neither ECOMOG nor UNAMSIL on their own had been able to bring peace to Sierra Leone.
CHAPTER III: Côte d’Ivoire (2002-07) and (2010-11); Guinea (2007-10) and Guinea Bissau (1998 -Present)
Although operating under an autocratic rule from 1960 through 1993, the Ivorian President Houphouet-Boigny managed the political system with intelligence and adopted an enlightened policy toward the country’s large Burkinabe and Malian immigrant populations, estimated at 25 percent of the country’s population. However, as his cocoa-based economy declined from the 1980s onwards, his internal problems erupted into the open. Although his country was pressed by important social and economic needs, the failing leader decided to build one of the largest churches in the world, the “Basilica in the Bush” in his hometown of Yamoussoukro, an act that demonstrated how his mind was no longer focused on his country’s many social and economic problems.
When the Ivorian leader died in December 1993, his heirs, all family relatives that included Henri Konan Bedie, General Robert Guei and Laurent Gbagbo, did not have the political acumen and negotiating skill of their predecessor to manage the complex political system in Côte d’Ivoire. The new leaders instituted a xenophobic policy of favoring the Ivorites, but relegated citizens born of mixed families to a status as foreigners. These included the large populations of Burkinabe and Malian immigrants that the previous leader had managed through political acumen. The decision to disallow former Ivorian prime minister Alassane Quattara (who had one of his parents born in Burkina Faso, and thus was considered foreign under the new laws) from participating in the presidential elections antagonized many Muslim voters in the north of the country. Laurent Gbagbo, who won the flawed elections, as soon as he achieved power, also dismissed about two hundred northern Muslim soldiers from the army. The tensions ended in an attempted coup by mostly military officers from the north in September 2002 and the creation of three rival factions: the Mouvement pour la Justice et la Paix (MJP), the Mouvement Populaire Ivorien du Grand Ouest (MPIGO) and the Mouvement Patriotique de la Côte d’Ivoire, which later became known as the Forces Nouvelles and still later as the Republican Forces. The 2002 civil war in Côte d’Ivoire started when a rebel faction from the country’s Christian south tried to disqualify a presidential candidate from the north from contesting the presidential elections. The civil war that followed divided the country into two halves: the Christian south and the Muslim north.
In this case, the mediation by France and ECOWAS proved successful and in January 2003 the rebel groups and the government signed the Marcoussis Peace Accord. This agreement provided for an immediate cease-fire and the creation of an inclusive interim government charged with the responsibility of reinstating full citizenship for all locally born Ivoirians as a prelude to the celebration of national elections. The agreement also included the deployment of the ECOWAS Forces in Côte d’Ivoire (ECOMICI), composed mostly of troops from the Francophone nations but also including a contingent from Ghana to work along with UN and French forces (LICORNE) in the stabilization of the country. Although ECOWAS troops participated in the implementation of the peace agreement, it was the presence of UN and French troops which proved essential in establishing the peace, with ECOWAS playing a secondary mostly legitimizing role. The stability was sustained by 4,600 French troops (reduced to 900 by 2010) backed up by 8,000 UN peacekeepers.
Under its Mechanism for the Prevention, Management, Resolution of Conflicts, Peacekeeping and Security, ECOWAS also took actions in two fragile countries in the region, namely Guinea and Guinea Bissau. These actions, however, were unsuccessful and did not bring permanent peace to these countries.
Guinea obtained its independence from France in 1958, but subsequently was governed by autocratic rulers that contributed to make Guinea one of the poorest nations in the sub-region and in Africa in general. During the first 50 years after independence, Guinea was ruled only by two presidents, the last one President Lansana Conte. By 1994, the ongoing conflicts in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone had forced more than 50,000 people to flee to Guinea mostly from Liberia. By the end of 1998, this number increased to over 270,000 refugees from both countries. However, Guinea was not a neutral observer in the conflicts for Liberia and Sierra Leone. The government of Guinea had allowed Charles Taylor, the most prominent figure among the Liberian rebels, to establish training camps in Guinea Since 2003, the Guinean president’s failing health became a concern for the region.
President Lansana Conte decided to run for a third time in the presidential elections held in December 2003, allowing only an obscure candidate of the opposition, representing a party that nobody had ever heard before. Obviously, Lansana Conte won the elections with over 95% of the votes. However, the situation throughout the country was so deteriorated that demonstrations and protests started to occur almost everywhere. The civil servants also demanded higher wages. This unstable situation, however, lasted for three years, until January 10, 2007, when the trade unions started a well-organized protest in the most important cities and called for a general strike. The leaders of the trade unions Rabiotou Serah Diallo and Ibrahima Fofana, the representatives of the two largest unions, were detained when they were organizing a peaceful demonstration in the capital city of Conakry and allegedly brought in front of President Conte, who told them that they either desisted in their subversive activities or they would face death. These events catalyzed a number of anti-government demonstrations demanding the resignation of the President, which were attacked by the police, the security forces and the special battalion of the president’s security. These incidents resulted in 59 civilians killed.
In these tragic circumstances, ECOWAS decided that it could not allow Guinea, one of its member states, to harbor another civil war and launched a conflict resolution initiative to mediate between the trade unions and the government. The unions suspended the strike and a new prime minister was appointed to lead the government under powers delegated by the president. The agreement also provided for the apprehension of all the responsible parties in the killing of civilians. However, the weakness of this agreement was that President Conte remained in power. He nominated as Prime Minister Eugene Camara, his minister for presidential affairs, clearly a person that he could control. The country spiraled into chaos.
ECOWAS once again attempted mediation. The prime minister was removed and replaced by Lansana Kouyate, who had been Executive Secretary of ECOWAS in the period 1997-2002 and who at least was not perceived as being closely associated to the president. However, when the changes that the public demanded did not materialize with the speed that the Guineans expected, new crises ensued. The Guinean elite, which supported President Conte, also reacted negatively toward the new prime minister, whom they thought was planning to become a presidential candidate in the next elections and solidify himself in power. The international community remained concerned that the potential death of President Conte could be followed by a military coup. Next, Prime Minister Lansana Kouyate was replaced by another government minister, this time Tidiane Souare, another close assistant to the President. In May 2008, Guinean army personnel mutinied in demand of the payment of their salaries, something that had become habitual during the previous months because of the dismal state of the country’s budget.
In December 2008, the expected death of President Conte arrived and with it, as also expected, a takeover by the military. On the same day that the death of the President was publicly announced by the Speaker of the National Assembly Aboubacar Sompare, who according to the Constitution was supposed to substitute the President after his death, a group of young military officers announced the formation of a military junta called the Council for Democracy and Development or CNDD, headed by Captain Dadis Camara. Camara immediately proceeded to fire 22 generals and to arrest some of them. ECOWAS rejected the military take-over and demanded that the country return to democracy by conducting elections in 2009 and declared that the officers of the CNDD were banned to become candidates in such elections.
On September 28, 2009, demonstrators once again demanded the return to democracy and the military government opened fire against the demonstrators killing or maiming 156 civilians. ECOWAS obviously had to do something, and in addition to condemning the killings, the organization asked for the formation of a Commission of Enquiry, together with the African Union and the UN Commission for Human Rights, to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of the massacre. The military junta appointed General Sekouba Konate, a close associate of Dadis Camara, as temporary Head of State. Dadis Camara, supposedly ill, spent some time in Morocco, but later was involved in the peace agreement signed in Ouagodougou in Burkina Faso on February 17, 2010, in which the temporary President would allow the nomination of a new Prime Minister proposed by the so-called Forces Vives, the main opposition group that included the trade unions and other organized sectors of civil society.
The root of the conflict in Guinea-Bissau was the struggle for power between President Joao “Nino” Viera and the chief of the Armed Forces Ansumane Mane, and was produced in a political environment in which Guinea-Bissau changed its international orientation from Portugal, the colonial power, to France and the Francophone states in the region. When President Viera suspended Ansumane Maneas of his responsibilities in the armed forces, (supposedly because the later had been involved in the supply of weapons to one of the fighting groups in northern Senegal – the Mouvement des forces democratiques de la Casamance) the civil war started. The people of Casamance in Senegal have cultural and ethnic ties with the Diolas of northern Guinea-Bissau and it was widely believed that this rebel group was obtaining its resources from the illicit arms trade in Guinea-Bissau.
In June 1998, members of the military rebelled against the government and attempted to get control of the government. To contain the situation, the neighboring countries of Guinea and Senegal sent contingents of 2,500 and 500 soldiers respectively to support the government of Guinea-Bissau. These troops did not deploy under an international mandate, but they were able to neutralize the situation on the ground. In November 1998, the military rebels agreed to a peace agreement that included a cease-fire, the withdrawal of the foreign troops of Senegal and Guinea and the acceptance of ECOWAS peacekeepers. In March 1999, the foreign troops departed and were replaced by the ECOWAS contingent. At this point, the United Nations endorsed the ECOWAS initiative giving the operation the character of an internationally approved intervention. However, the function of this ECOWAS operation was limited to provide security to the country’s international airport and to assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid. The mission was also charged with the disarmament of the rebel group, but was unable to that. The general mandate of this operation was to monitor the cease-fire and to facilitate the holding of elections. However, the ECOWAS troops were not experienced in this type of operation and suffered from lack of logistical support. General Mane, sensing the weakness of the ECOWAS peacekeeping mission, broke the cease-fire agreement and removed President Viera from his office, what made ECOWAS withdraw from this country. The Diel and Bruckman framework would again characterize this operation was unsuccessful because its long-term objectives of bringing permanent peace to this country were not achieved.
On May 6, 1999, the Mane junta launched an offensive to disarm Viera’s soldiers and took Guinea Bissau the following day, putting an end to the almost two-decade long presidency of Vieira. These events rendered the activities of ECOMOG irrelevant. In its ministerial meeting held in Lome on May 24-25, 1999, the ECOWAS organization explained that the reasons why they had decided to withdraw their troops just five months after their deployment was because of their own financial difficulties and because of the coup d’état. Overall, 712 ECOWAS troops from Benin, Gambia, Niger and Togo intervened unsuccessfully in Guinea Bissau in February 1999 before being withdrawn four months later. Once again, as in previous peacekeeping operations, ECOMOG was relieved by another UN peacekeeping operation authorized by the UN Security Council, this time UNOGBIS, the Peace Building Support Office in Guinea Bissau, which continues through 2014. The UN did not deploy any military personnel into Guinea Bissau and the country did not experience the same level or duration of protracted conflict as the other cases. The Security Council has informed that Guinea-Bissau has had two rounds of the presidential elections that are perceived as fundamental to restore the country’s constitutional order.
The 1990s was a difficult decade for the nations in West Africa. Not only they confronted very serious demographic and societal issues with criminal gangs and drug lords threatening their security, but environmental conditions also contributed to the scarcity of resources. These were compounded by the erosion of state institutions, the increased porosity of international borders and the creation of private security and military companies that arose to protect those individuals or groups that could afford to pay for such protection. It was in this chaotic environment that ECOWAS took the gigantic step of establishing its first sub-regional peacekeeping operation.
In West Africa, the crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire spread into each other’s territories through rebels, arms and refugees. The failure of ECOWAS to restore peace and security in all its peacekeeping operations showed that there is a lot that the sub-regional organization has to learn to deal effectively with its own conflicts. Nigeria has provided most of the financial support and troops for these operations, and as such, has been perceived not only as the region’s hegemon, but also as a bully. Without Nigeria’s participation, the ECOWAS peacekeeping operations had no chance of ever being deployed. Therefore, a place to start would be to have Nigeria more clearly express why it proposes the operations that it does and have it do it consistently, although Nigeria did not send a military contingent to the last two peacekeeping operations in Guinea and Guinea Bissau. ECOMOG, the military arm of ECOWAS was able, despite its serious shortcomings, to protect the capital cities of Monrovia and Freetown from the rebels in 1992 and 1999 respectively. ECOMOG also was able to defend Monrovia in 1990 from Charles Taylor’s NPFL and in 1997 and 1998 to restore the deposed president Ahmed Tejan Kabbah back in power in Freetown.
Both Liberia and Sierra Leone endured a full decade of civil wars that resulted in approximately 300,000 deaths and one million refugees that spilled across Liberia’s borders into neighboring countries. The civil war in Liberia lasted from December 1989 until early 1997 and was fought by eight to ten factions. The elections held in July 1997 were won by Charles Taylor, the most powerful warlord. However, elections did not bring peace to Liberia. Once again in 1999 the conflict resumed, and ended only with the enforced exile of Taylor to Nigeria in 2003.
The conflicts in Liberia and Sierra Leone demonstrate the interrelationship that exists to secure the West African sub-region. The Liberian crisis not only produced cracks within the ECOWAS organization, because of the split between the Anglophone and the Francophone nations, but from Liberia the civil war spread to neighboring Sierra Leone, after starting as a military incursion originated from Côte d’Ivoire. The expanded conflict involved most of the region, with some countries either promoting peace or supporting one or more of the groups fighting for power. Libya, a non-ECOWAS member, also contributed to the crisis by providing military training and financial support to both the NPFL and RUF. The conflict in Guinea was not only internal, but was ignited when the rebel group of LURD operating from Guinea crossed the border into Lofa County in northern Liberia. The governments in both Monrovia and Conakry, in fact, were supporting rebel groups fighting against the regime of each other.
Although elections were held in Sierra Leone in 1996 and in Liberia in 1997, they proved to be disastrous for the peace process in the absence of a strong disarmament plan. However, after the successful disarmament in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the stage was set for holding elections and peace.
The Role of Nigeria in the ECOWAS Peacekeeping Operations
The ECOWAS peacekeeping operations were financed largely by Nigeria. It has been estimated that the combined operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone cost Nigeria over US $ 12 billion. Prior to the United Nations taking over the operation from ECOWAS in Sierra Leone, Nigeria’s daily spending for its troops in Sierra Leone was over $ 1 billion a month. These tremendous expenditures obviously meant that Nigeria was unable to use these amounts for the economic development of Nigeria itself, despite its grave social and economic problems. Furthermore, Nigeria lost more than 1,000 soldiers in the ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
West Africa’s regional hegemon, Nigeria, closely supported by Ghana, played an important role in Liberia and Sierra Leone, providing the military backbone and financial support for both missions. However, some of Nigeria’s neighbors accused it of pursuing a national interests and dominating the agenda . Countries such as Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Liberia sometimes obstructed peace efforts, forging alliances with domestic warlords –as did Nigeria – which prolonged the conflicts.
The United Nations encouraged ECOWAS to deal with its own conflicts, but later on, when ECOMOG proved unsuccessful, eventually had to take over from the sub-regional organization in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau. The United Nations did not enter into the fray until the sub-regional organization had failed to resolve these conflicts. The program of re-hatting the ECOWAS forces basically made them an integral part of the UN peacekeeping operations. It meant that while the troops were the same, under the UN arrangement, the United Nations reimbursed the ECOWAS contributing countries for the troops, equipment and services that they provided to the UN mandated peacekeeping operation.
On the other hand, Nigeria’s political and socioeconomic problems, and the opposition of the Nigerian public to future expensive operations, may become the major limitations for any civilian government’s participation in future regional peacekeeping operations, as opposed to the military brass that launched the interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nigeria withdrew 8,500 of its peacekeepers from Sierra Leone in 2000, and insisted that the UN take over the Nigerian-led mission in 2003 after three months’ notice, as a condition for re-deploying. This action reflected the growing frustrations of the West African country with carrying a disproportionate burden of regional peacekeeping.
In the peacekeeping operations in Guinea and Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria played a political and diplomatic role, but left the fighting to other countries. The intervention in Guinea was mostly funded by the international community and the one in Guinea-Bissau by France, leaving Nigeria free to play the more comfortable role of mediator and negotiator. Most ECOWAS countries, on the other hand, recognize the need for Nigeria’s leadership, but remain unconvinced about the manner that Nigeria has used its power to impose its will on the rest of the members of the organization that do not have similar military and financial resources. In the future, Nigeria needs to become aware of this important political limitation of its power and act in such a way that its behavior in peacekeeping operations is perceived as emanating from the organization from where it draws its legitimacy.
The Re-hatting of the ECOWAS Forces by the UN
The re-hatting of the ECOWAS forces continued to have the same serious problems that the forces had before re-hatting. Changing the leadership of the forces could not improve issues related to lack of preparedness, although some equipment issues were improved. The ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL) in 2000 became UNMIL. ECOMOG became part of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in 2003 and in Côte d’Ivoire; the ECOWAS Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (ECOMICI) was transformed into the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI). The UN also took over the mission of the African Union in Burundi and the ECOWAS mission in Côte d’Ivoire in 2004 as well as the AU mission in Darfur in 2007. In each of these cases, the UN had less than two months to prepare and execute the transformation. In Liberia, DAF trucks from UNPROFOR donated by the United States could not be serviced because parts for such trucks were no longer manufactured. In both Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, the troops at the beginning received insufficient provisions such as rations, water, fuel and lubricants. There were insufficient vehicles early in the mission to support logistics as well as operational tasks.
The UN expanded peacekeeping operations and the ECOWAS intervention were not the answers to resolve the Liberian crisis. The only solution that had some possibility of success would have been a military operation to invade the country and arrest Charles Taylor, which was an action too radical for the international community to take. Absent the political will to do that, the international community attempted to resolve the crisis using less costly methods. On the other hand, a case can be made that if ECOWAS, and later the UN, had stayed out of Liberia and simply let Charles Taylor get power, that thousands of Liberian lives would have been saved. The UN and ECOWAS did not improve the situation in Liberia. The civil war killed between 100,000 and 150,000 people and forced 700,000 to seek refuge in neighboring countries. As in Rwanda (1994-5), but on a smaller scale, murderous elements in Liberia benefited from weak regional and international leadership and neglect.
In Liberia, the UN played a limited, but useful, role by monitoring the West African force, ECOMOG, and providing oversight for the country’s 1997 elections. The world organization, pressed mostly by the United States, also sent a mission to Liberia which had been plagued by two decades of civil war. In Sierra Leone, the world body played a similar important role, as it had done during the first intervention in Liberia when it took over peacekeeping efforts from ECOMOG in 2000. British troops also helped stabilize a crumbling UN mission in 2000. In Côte d’Ivoire, the UN took over ECOWAS’s peacekeeping responsibilities in 2004, while between 900 to 4,600 French troops supplemented UN peacekeepers. These were not the only cases where European troops helped to stabilize conflicts in Africa. In 2003 and 2006, an EU force also helped stabilize parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The idea that Africans should take care of their own problem sounds good because theoretically, Africans understand their environments and politics better than anybody else, but such hypothesis yields at least two negative results: (a) it provides an excuse for the developed Western states to leave the fight to the Africans and avoid sending their well-trained and equipped soldiers to fight other people’s wars; (b) it isolates African dictators from international oversight and potential criticism. Rather than making the Africans responsible to solve their own crises, the international community should make a serious attempt to use its financial and technological muscle to develop effective solutions for the complex issues created by Africa’s armed conflicts.
A major lesson learned during the West African conflicts is that conflicts tend to easily spread across the national boundaries and quickly grow to become a region-wide threat. The crisis in Liberia, for example, had a “domino effect” on its closer neighbors such as Sierra Leone and Guinea, and affected even the coups that occurred in Guinea Bissau, Côte d’Ivoire and Gambia. Rebels from Liberia and Sierra Leone were involved not only in the crises in their respective countries, but also in the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire. The security problems in West Africa will not be solved until ECOWAS and the international community realize that socio-economic aspects of development, such as high unemployment and mortality, and poverty in general, constitute fundamental aspects of security.
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