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Ecomog And Nigeria In West Africa

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ECOMOG AND NIGERIAN MILITARY INTERVENTIONS IN WEST AFRICA: SUCCESS OR FAILURE?

R.J. CoetzeeÐ'Ё

Number of words: 5515

INTRODUCTION

1. The notion of an African peacekeeping force is as old as 1963 when Kwame Nkruma proposed such a force to manage African conflicts. In 1981 an OAU Inter-Africa force was set up to monitor the civil war in Chad. Due to a variety of reasons this was a failure but it at least was the first practical attempt at inter-Africa cooperation in the field of peacekeeping.

2. The apparent aversion of Western nations, especially the United States of America (USA), to peacekeeping in Africa after the Mogadishu experience of 1993 has placed a big responsibility on the shoulders of African leaders to get their peacekeeping house in order. In fact, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the UN Secretary-General had already made a call for regional security arrangements to lighten the peacekeeping load of the UN in 1992. African heads of state looked for mechanisms to manage the conflicts of the continent and found what looked like a suitable vehicle in the existing regional economic cooperation arrangements. The apparent clash of interest between economic cooperation and military cooperation has been difficult to reconcile in many of the economic regions but in others it has been realised that development without peace is an impossible dream. In one of the regions, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), the dream was taken one step forward with the creation of ECOMOG (Economic Community of West African States Cease-fire Monitoring Group) for overseeing the cease-fire process in Liberia in 1990.

3. ECOMOG forces, mainly led and financed by Nigeria, have undertaken three interventions of note since its inception. These interventions were criticised widely at the time and in subsequent studies. Yet, some academics have pointed out the positive achievements of these interventions and have postulated the value of these experiences for the future of regional peacekeeping on the continent. It is against this background that this paper will evaluate the success or failure of the ECOMOG interventions. Due to the obvious parallels between of what transpired in ECOMOG and the current role of South Africa in SADC's (Southern African Development Community) efforts to establish a Standby Force, the role of Nigeria as the primary driver within ECOWAS/ECOMOG will be highlighted.

4. The paper will start of with a description of the security situation in West Africa prior to the interventions. In order to understand the West African security arrangements the establishment of ECOWAS and subsequently that of ECOMOG will then be discussed before the interventions will be analysed. The analysis of the interventions in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau will focus mainly on the political-strategic and higher operational levels with specific reference to the role of Nigeria. In conclusion the outcome of the analysis will be to determine the level of success or failure, not only pertaining to the three interventions, but rather to the concept of regional security and its manifestation in West Africa. Some pointers for the SADC efforts to establish a similar regional mechanism will invariably be encountered and these will also be summarised in the conclusions.

THE SECURITY SITUATION IN THE ECOWAS STATES PRIOR TO THE ECOMOG INTERVENTIONS IN LIBERIA, SIERRA LEONE AND GUINEA-BISSAU

Map 1: ECOWAS Region

5. At the inception of ECOWAS in 1975 the organisation was made up by sixteen states Ð'- Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania (left the organisation in December 2000), Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Togo, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.

Map 2: ECOWAS States

6. The post independence era had left this part of the world with a legacy of poverty and poor governance. These states were of different colonial backgrounds and were ill prepared by their colonial masters Britain, France, Portugal and the United States for democracy and good governance. The founding fathers of these new states often opted for de-democratising political systems and establishing one-party states. It was not long before the military made an appearance on the radar screens of the West African political scene. In the thirty years from 1960 to 1990 the region has seen no fewer than thirty-seven successful military coups d'etat. Of the fifteen remaining states in ECOWAS only Cape Verde and Senegal have escaped the scourge of military meddling in internal politics.

7. A variety of factors contributed to this state of affairs. The persistence of poverty, political autocracy, military coups d'etat, corruption, foreign meddling and the discovery of critical natural resources (oil, diamonds) have ensured the perpetuation of troubles in the region. Due to the interdependence of the region the troubles were not contained within states but quickly threatened to engulf the entire region in a nightmare of warlords, militias and sobels (alliance between government soldiers and rebels, or in other terms "soldiers by day and rebels by night").

8. In Liberia the resistance by the African population against the 133-year-old oligarchy by liberated American slaves led to a coup by Master-Sergeant Samuel Doe in 1980. His brutal rule and assassination of political opponents in turn gave rise to the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) who invaded Liberia from Cote d'Ivoire in December 1989 under the leadership of Charles Taylor to supposedly rid Liberia of Doe. Together with Taylor seven other factions got involved in the fighting over the next eight years. The situation was compounded by the availability of natural resources like diamonds, gold, timber rubber and iron ore on which the various rebel leaders enriched themselves in the process of "liberating" the country. The domestic confusion was compounded by the extra-regional role of the United States and some sub-regional actors like Cote d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Libya. It was into this fray that ECOWAS send ECOMOG to oversee a cease-fire in August 1990.

9. In Sierra Leone the civil war followed the same pattern as in Liberia. After independence in 1961 the Margai brothers successfully ruled the country for six years. Their party was ousted in the 1967 elections and was to be replaced by the All People's Congress of Siaka Stevens who won the elections. His assumption of power was interrupted by a coup

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