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ECOMOG AND NIGERIAN MILITARY INTERVENTIONS IN WEST AFRICA: SUCCESS OR FAILURE?
Number of words: 5515
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’â€“ 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 but a counter coup handed him power in 1968. Due to mismanagement and corruption the country's economy declined drastically. By 1985 only USD 100 000 was being received out of the legal sale of diamonds whereas the income for diamonds alone in 1968 was already estimated at USD 200 million. Stevens handed over the reigns of power to his army chief, General Joseph Momoh in 1985 and the situation deteriorated further. In March 1991 the Revolutionary United Front under the leadership of corporal Foday Sankoh invaded Sierra Leone from Liberia. As with Liberia this took place against the background of the diamond trade. To add to the turmoil the Sierra Leone Army ousted General Momoh in April 1992. Captain Strasser replaced General Monoh. On the sub-regional level Liberian rebels of Charles Taylor and mercenaries from Burkina Faso were involved in the conflict. On top of that Strasser contracted Executive Outcomes, a South African based security firm, to assist in evicting the RUF rebels. On the extra-regional level the conflict was characterised by a lack of International involvement, mainly to the low strategic value of the country in the post cold war era. ECOMOG got involved in Sierra Leone due to its efforts to bring peace in Liberia and the link between Charles Taylor's actions in Liberia and his involvement in Sierra Leone over the same time.
10. The situation in Guinea-Bissau was different to the other two in the sense that the country is resource-poor and aid-dependant. Closely related to Cabo Verde, this lusophone country was thrown into turmoil by a coup in 1980 in which JoÐ“Ðˆo Bernardo Vieira took over the reigns and continued with the security-obsessed, autocratic traditions of his predecessor. The deterioration in the personal relation between Vieira and his Army chief, General Mane, led to faction forming in the ForÐ“Â§as Armadas RevolucionÐ“ÐŽrias do Povo (FARP) and eventually, in June 1998, to open fighting between the factions supporting Vieira and Mane respectively. Senegal and Guinea send troops to protect Vieira. Soon they realised that the force was too small for the task and the help of ECOWAS was requested. At the extra-regional level actors like to World Bank, EU and UN supported some peace building efforts but continued instability discouraged greater involvement.
11. The situation inside Nigeria at the time of the formation of ECOMOG was also far from ideal. After independence from Britain in 1960 the country had gone through difficult times in terms of political and economic turmoil. The first military coup took place in 1966 when Major General Ironsi took over control of the country. This was soon reversed by a counter-coup by Lieutenant General Gowon. Nigeria then collapsed into a state of civil strife with the Biafran war that lasted until 1970. In 1975 Lieutenant Mohammed took over from Gowon in a bloodless coup. He was killed in a coup attempt in 1976, after which Lieutenant General Obasanjo took control of the country. Over a period of four years Obasanjo returned power to a civilian government and in 1979 President Shagari was elected as head of government. His failures in government compelled the military to take back control in 1983 with a coup by Major General Buhari. This did not last long either and Major General Babangida replaced him in a palace coup in 1985. Attempts to reinstate civilian rule again came to a grinding halt when Babangida annulled the outcome of the 1993 elections that were won by Chief Abiola. Internal political pressure, however, forced him to hand over control to an Interim National Government (ING) led by Chief Shonekan later in the same year. The ING was a dismal failure and was replaced by the military rule of General Abacha in the same year.
Flag 1: Nigeria
Map 3: Nigeria
12. With the death of Abacha in 1998 General Abubakar took over the military rule. The year 1999 saw free presidential elections and retired General Obasanjo won this with an overwhelming majority. Nigeria is still plagued with corruption and mismanagement. Added to that is the continuing strife between Christians and Muslims, health issues and the insurgency in the Niger delta. All is not well with Big Brother.
13. When the role of ECOMOG and the specific involvement of Nigeria in it are studied it is imperative to keep in mind the situation in Nigeria itself. Apart from the open conflicts as discussed above the region was also plagued by numerous diplomatic and border disputes that threatened the existence of ECOWAS. Just to mention a few: Senegal and Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, Ghana and Togo, and Burkina Faso and Mali. It is also interesting to note that only four of the sixteen states had paid up their membership fees.
14. The summary above serves as backdrop for analysing the involvement of ECOMOG in the various conflicts. It is important to take note of the clashing interests in the region and also the role of individual leaders in involving their countries in conflicts from which they personally could benefit financially. In spite of existing defence pacts and agreements the members states in ECOWAS reacted differently to the various conflicts and a majority vote on any resolution regarding involvement would have been difficult. Before the conflicts are analysed in more detail it will be necessary to review the origin of ECOWAS and the drivers behind the formation of ECOMOG. At the time of the conflict in Liberia ECOWAS was hardly a unified entity with a common goal. The security situation left much to be desired and any one of the many conflicts could erupt into regional conflicts.
BACKGROUND TO THE FORMATION OF ECOWAS AND ECOMOG
15. West Africa is characterised by a diversity and polarisation in terms of size of countries, inherited languages, economic development and sub-regional and extra-regional linkages. The postcolonial era left this region with nine Francophone, five Anglopone, and two Lusophone countries. This complicated inter-state relation in the sub-region to a large extent.
16. The decision to look into the integration of the different regions on the continent was taken on the Inter-Africa Public Administration seminar in 1969. Three years later, in 1972, Togo and Nigeria took the initiative to establish ECOWAS. The organisation was formally launched on 28 May 1975. Its aims were centred on the promotion of cooperation and development in all fields of economic activity.
17. Matters related to security were not addressed at all as they were not considered to be relevant to the integration project. Furthermore, the tainted record of the militaries in the region discouraged ECOWAS planners from including security aspects in their thinking.
18. This was to change soon when the mercenary attack on Benin in 1977 brought home the message that economic cooperation is not possible in an atmosphere of insecurity. This resulted in the signing of the 1978 Protocol on Non Aggression aimed at the defence against external aggression. This was followed up by the 1981 Protocol Relating to Mutual Assistance in Defence (PRMAD), which also covered matters of internal conflict. Neither of these protocols, however, made sufficient provision for mediation in case of conflicts within and between states. During the violent phase of the Liberian conflict in May 1990 it was deemed necessary to set up a Standing Mediation Committee (SMC) consisting of five member states (Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Mali, and Togo) to fill this gap. At the first meeting of the SMC in August 1990 it was decided to set up an ECOWAS Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) to oversee the ceasefire arrangements in Liberia.
19. The formation of ECOMOG was thus crises driven and the necessary supporting structures and channels of command were not clarified. Neither were issues like interoperability, common doctrine, training and logistics addressed. This did not bode well for the fledgling organisation that was soon to get involved in one of the most volatile regions of the world.
NIGERIA AND ITS STANDING IN ECOWAS/ECOMOG
20. In order to understand the three cases studies it is imperative to understand the role of Nigeria in ECOWAS and ultimately in ECOMOG at the time of the interventions. As the giant in the region Nigeria has been criticised by many as having hegemonic intentions in the region and on the continent. The so-called Pax-Nigeria has, however, not implied militarily expansionist imperialism as many would like to portray. It is rather an attempt by Nigeria to establish itself as a regional and continental leader through economic, political and military actions taken in, or on behalf of Africa. Its involvement in the formation of ECOWAS is typical of its efforts to integrate the region and to some extent minimise the francophone influences in the region. Nigeria's participation in peacekeeping and monitor groups, its efforts to represent Africa at the UN and its support to freedom struggles elsewhere on the continent is further evidence of its "benevolent hegemonic" intentions.
21. By the time of the troubles in Liberia the political and economic crisis in Nigeria had caused the country to have difficulties in supporting its attempts at Pax Nigeriana, yet in spite of the troubles it still overshadowed its poor neighbours economically and militarily. If it were not for the Nigerian diplomatic efforts, financial aid, and troops contributions ECOMOG would have been a sure failure. In spite of fears in the region about Nigeria's hegemonic intentions many realised that ECOMOG would be doomed without "Big Brother Nigeria".
22. Nigeria's foreign policy is premised upon three principles. The one is to promote and protect the country's national interests in its interaction with the outside world. The second is the policy of good neighbourliness towards the "ring countries" (Benin, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon) and the third is the stability of the West African sub-region. It is upon these three principles that Nigeria bases its participation in international politics. In spite of severe criticism from many sectors of the local, regional and international communities Nigeria has unashamedly pursued these principles.
ECOMOG IN LIBERIA
Flag 2: Liberia
23. Analysts differ on the reasons for Nigeria's participation in ECOMOG's Liberia intervention. Whilst some would attribute it to General Babangida's personal relationship with Doe and Nigeria's fear of French motives in the region others would explain it at the hand of political-strategic imperatives. These imperatives focus around Nigeria's leadership aspirations, General Babangida's desire to make an impact in the region and the aspiration of the Nigerian Army to enhance its status. At the UN in New York Nigeria's Foreign minister defended the intervention as being launched to stop the senseless killing of civilians and to help Liberia restore its democratic institutions.
24. Although Nigeria had the capacity to go it alone in the Liberian operation it chose to obtain some political cover by involving some ECOWAS members in the mission (As South Africa did with the intervention in Lesotho). Key participants were Ghana, Gambia and Sierra Leone. Ghana was chosen for its importance in ECOWAS, Gambia for holding the chair in the SMC and Sierra Leone because of the friendship between General Babangida and Joseph Momoh.
25. By August 1990 the situation in Liberia had deteriorated to such an extent that the SMC decided to deploy a cease-fire monitoring group of 2700 troops from Nigeria, Ghana and Guinea to supervise a cease-fire. This was to provide Liberia an opportunity to establish an interim government, and organise elections twelve months later. The five SMC countries and Sierra Leone and Guinea volunteered troops for the mission. The francophone countries objected to the planned intervention. The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the international community were earmarked to be approached for financial support.
26. The intervention into Liberia was somewhat different from the normal UN way of doing things to say the least. Firstly, there was a lack of consensus about the intervention and the rebels did not approve of ECOMOG's involvement. Secondly, there was a lot of political dissent about the intervention amongst the ECOWAS members and within Nigeria itself. Thirdly, the financing and logistics was not sorted out before the deployment. Fourthly, the forces that were sent in did not have a common doctrine and equipment wise they were not interoperable. Fifthly, the command-and-control arrangements were less than acceptable. Sixthly, the opposition military forces were underestimated and gave the peacekeeping force a hard time. Lastly, and maybe most critically, ECOMOG failed to maintain neutrality and thus lost all credibility.
27. Nigeria initially played a subdued role in the intervention and allowed a Ghanian to be appointed as force commander. Ghana also contributed as many troops as Nigeria. In November 1990 things changed when Nigeria replaced the force commander with a Nigerian field commander, General Dodonyaro, doubled their troops and took to the offensive to drive Charles Taylor's rebels out of Monrovia. Even after General Dodonyaro was replaced Nigeria kept on providing the field commander to ECOMOG, thus reinforcing the "Big Brother" criticism some ECOWAS members had about Nigeria. Ghana was obviously opposed to this and sought help from Sierra Leone to balance Nigeria's dominance in the operation.
Map 4: Liberia
28. As if these troubles were not enough Nigeria also underwent a change of leadership in 1993. This placed General Sani Abacha at the helm in Nigeria and he immediately confirmed his continued support to the operations in Liberia. But, Nigeria was tiring of the never-ending peace efforts in Liberia and by February 1994 General Abacha announced that Nigeria would not increase its troop levels in Liberia. Back at home General Abacha was also experiencing a lot of political turmoil and his attentions were becoming focused
on retaining power rather than focusing
on the war in Liberia.
29. During the last phase of the operation ECOMOG started receiving international support for the first time and with it came the realisation amongst the role players that negotiations was the only way out. Elections were eventually held in July 1997 and Charles Taylor emerged victorious.
30. Taylor soon got involved in the Sierra Leonean crises in search of the diamond riches there that resulted in the UN implemented sanctions against his country. In 2002 the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) intensified their attacks against the Taylor government, forcing him to step down on 11 August of that year. The various factions of rebels appointed Gyude Bryant as president. Democratic elections followed in November 2005 during which Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf became Africa's first female president. In 2006 Taylor, now in exile in Nigeria, was turned over to the international court to face trial for his part in Sierra Leone's civil war during which more than 300 000 innocent lives were lost.
ECOMOG IN SIERRA LEONE
Flag 3: Sierra Leone
31. The Sierra Leonian conflict could be seen as a mere extension of the Liberian conflict. In the same vane the ECOMOG operation could be seen to be the follow-on of the operation in Liberia. Nigeria did not have much choice in the matter as it had a formal defence agreement with Sierra Leone and it was also involved in training members of the United Liberation Movement of Liberia for Democracy to fight the invading RUF rebels of Corporal Sankoh. Furthermore, the Liberian rebel leader against whom Nigeria and ECOMOG was defending the Liberian government, Charles Taylor, was supporting the RUF rebels.
32. For some analysts the Nigerian involvement in Sierra Leone was merely the enunciation of its foreign policy (see par 18). For others it was an indication of its domination of the West African scene. This last view is accepted by many in the light of the fact that Nigeria got involved in Sierra Leone before it had sought the approval of ECOWAS.
33. To understand this better it needs to be remembered that the Nigerian staging base for operations in Liberia was in Freetown, Sierra Leone. At the time of the RUF invasion into Sierra Leone in March 1991 Nigeria thus already had troops based in Freetown. It was, however, not until September 1996 that Nigerian troops became directly involved in stopping a coup attempt against President Kabbah. After Kabbah got rid of Executive Outcomes the Nigerian government provided troops for his personal protection. In August 1997 ECOWAS approved the deployment of ECOMOG II to enforce the sanctions imposed upon the military regime in Sierra Leone. Nigeria was eager to offer a helping hand and started to take direct actions against the rebels. Fellow ECOWAS members who saw the role of ECOMOG II as that of enforcing the embargo and not to employ force against the rebels did not appreciate this. The main critics of the Nigerian efforts are however slow to admit that they had refused to provide troops that would have served to diversify the force composition. Others had promised troops that never arrived.
34. As in Liberia, Nigeria bore the brunt of the operation in Sierra Leone. Fraught with difficulties like poor logistics, language problems, command-and-control, and lack of political direction, Nigeria received a lot of criticism for its handling of the operation. The severe fighting in January 1999 saw Nigeria employing strong-arm tactics against RUF forces that incurred them even more criticism.
35. Whether as a direct result of the military pressure form Nigeria on the RUF, or whether as a result of a combination of factors, a cease-fire agreement between the warring parties were signed on 18 May 1999. Nigeria soon after announced the withdrawal of 2000 troops per month to make place for a UN force. Some Nigerian troops remained in country under UN command until completion of the peace process in 2002.
Map 5: Sierra Leone
36. President Kabbah was re-elected in May 2002. By 2004 the disarmament of 70 000 soldiers was completed and an UN-sponsored war crimes tribunal opened. Sierra Leone is still considered by the UN to be the world's "least liveable" country, based on its poverty and poor quality of life.
ECOMOG IN GUINEA-BISSAU
Flag 4: Guinea-Bissau
37. The civil conflict in Guinea-Bissau took on urgency with the coup by General Mane in June 1998. In response to the violent clashes Senegal and Guinea intervened militarily to support president Vieira. This intervention was undertaken on the basis of bilateral defence pacts between Guinea-Bissau and its neighbours, and as with the case in Liberia and Sierra Leone it was done without ECOWAS authority.
Map 6: Guinea-Bissau
38. Early setbacks were encountered by the peacekeepers and president Vieira requested ECOWAS support. As soon as this request was received the ECOWAS foreign- and defence ministers met and approved the intervention. With ECOWAS and CPLP (Portuguese speaking countries) mediation a cease-fire was signed in July 1998. Fighting soon broke out again and a second agreement was brokered in Nigeria in November 1998. This agreement, amongst other demands, called for the withdrawal of Senegalese and Guinean troops and the deployment of ECOMOG observers from neutral ECOWAS countries. Nigeria, however, resisted requests to get involved directly. The rest of the countries alone battled to assemble 1500 troops for the mission. After having been criticised for it's handling of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean conflicts and the political difficulties at home Nigeria limited its role to that of helping with the planning of the deployment of ECOMOG observers.
39. After many peace agreements and equally many violations thereof General Mane managed to stage a successful coup on 7 May 1999. The weak ECOMOG force deployed in the country could do nothing but watch the events unfolding. The coup also prompted ECOWAS to withdraw the ECOMOG force from the country. This was later replaced by the 18-man UN mandated Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS).
40. Democratic elections were held in November 1999 and a civilian government was elected. President Yala was appointed on 16 January 2000 after run-off elections between him and an opposition candidate. General Mane and his military junta, however, insisted in ruling alongside the new government to look after "the interests of the people". This caused untold problems for the government.
41. General Mane was eventually killed in fighting between his supporters and those of President Yala in November 2000. Guinea-Bissau's problems were unfortunately not resolved as result of this. Internal squabbling, ethnic distrust and the Casamance rebel problems on the border with Senegal were continuing to destabilise the country in 2001.
42. President Yala was disposed in a military coup in 2003 and former president Vieira returned from exile in 2005 to win the presidential elections.
CHANGES TO ECOMOG AFTER THE INTERVENTIONS
43. Based on the challenges of legitimacy experienced during the three interventions the ECOWAS leaders decided to put into place a new Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeing and Security. Article 58(3) of the Revised ECOWAS Treaty (1993) called for "detailed provisions governing political cooperation, regional peace and stability to be defined in the relevant protocols". The new Mechanism was formally instituted on 10 December 1999.
44. Under the new Mechanism ECOMOG is charged with:
a. Observation and monitoring;
b. Peacekeeping and restoration of peace;
c. Humanitarian intervention in support of humanitarian disaster;
d. Enforcement of sanctions, including embargo;
e. Preventive deployment;
f. Peace-building, disarmament and demobilisation;
g. Policing activities, including the control of fraud and organised crime, and
h. Any other operations as may be mandated by the Mediation and Security Council.
45. From this it is clear that the ECOWAS leadership has indeed learned from their earlier exploits with ECOMOG in the region. The bigger question is whether the rest of the continent can benefit from the experience?
SUCCESS OR FAILURE?
46. Were the ECOMOG efforts in the three countries successful? The answer, I think, lies in the perspective one takes in analysing the history. From a military strategic perspective it was certainly successful if it is considered that acceptable level of peace and democratic elections were eventually achieved. From a tactical point of view it can be argued that it was successful BUT the process was painful and many lessons are to be learned from it by all who wish to follow in the footsteps of ECOMOG. From a political perspective the answer is less clear.
47. Professor Amadu Sesay of the Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria is more upbeat about the success story of ECOMOG. He writs that "ECOMOG has been credited with restoring peace in Liberia", and "ECOMOG II, also led by Nigeria, intervened in Sierra Leone and ousted Major Johnny Koroma".
48. Overall the performance of ECOMOG could be classified as tactically disastrous, operationally flawed and strategically partially successful. Given the realities in West Africa, the history of the region, and urgency of the humanitarian situation during the conflicts it is probably fair to say that, from a humanitarian point of view, the operations were successful in returning some calm to the afflicted countries, even though it took very long and involved a lot of violence. To lay the subsequent political turmoil, economic decay and human suffering before the door of ECOMOG and Nigeria would be unfair. What is abundantly clear is that peacekeeping does not stop at the signing of the peace accord or at the first round of elections. All too often the causes of the conflict are still prevalent in the society and would-be peacekeeping nations would be well advised to linger for a while and assist with the post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Here also the role of the international community will be of critical importance in terms of the financing of rebuilding efforts and stabilising failed economies.
49. For an outsider looking at the ECOWAS experience as a model for future African regional peacekeeping there are many red lights. The question that needs to be asked now is not whether the specific operations were successful but whether the overarching concept of regional peacekeeping is viable. I believe not. The countries of a region are all too involved in the situation to be neutral. Soldiers of a specific region should not be involved in peacekeeping in that region. The AU should rather use them in other regions where they should be deemed neutral. If the UN and the AU are serious about Africans sorting out African problems they should give the necessary support to Africans to enable them to do so. Brigadier General Olurin, former field commander of ECOMOG forces in Liberia, supports this sentiment.
50. If the notion of the role of regional peacekeeping forces in that region seems problematic what remains is to determine if regional peacekeeping forces for the use on the continent is viable. The answer is a resounding yes! Although it could be argued that South Africa was successful in participating in countries within the SADC region (Lesotho, Burundi, DRC) it needs to be said that similar efforts in the DRC by Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia were more controversial. Therefore such controversies need to be avoided from the start by deploying peacekeeping forces outside of their own region.
51. The lessons and experiences of ECOMOG remain valid nonetheless. The fact is that it was clearly demonstrated that Africa could manage its own conflicts. Provided that the necessary institutional controls are in place and rules on managing conflict are spelled out , the vision of Kwame Nkruma is certainly achievable.
52. The success of ECOMOG must rather be looked for at the international strategic level in terms of the messages it send to the international community with regards to its callous ignorance towards human suffering on the African continent. Whilst major European powers were doing brisk business with Taylor, Liberia was burning. ECOMOG set two precedents for continental and regional peacekeeping. Firstly, a regional body without prior consent of the UN mounted it. Secondly, it facilitated cooperation between ECOWAS, the OAU and the UN.
53. In spite of the criticism and operational level blunders lessons from ECOMOG can serve as guidance for regional peacekeeping bodies on the continent. The lessons are:
a. Regions can contain deadly wars if their leaders are committed to make the necessary financial and human sacrifices. Political will is the key operative word in the regard.
b. The emphasis on human security demands that leaders take a more flexible view of old fashioned political concepts like non-interference and sovereignty.
c. The response of world leaders to events outside their areas of interest will always be influenced by the way they perceive their national security interests. Africa must not expect the international community to have pity on it and provide support. Those countries that do get involved will have vested interests that may complicate the matter. Africa must build its own capacity in this regard.
d. The entrenchment of democracy and good governance is the only guarantee for peace and security. This is a function of political leadership and must not be left until the military has to step in to correct the situation. It is much cheaper to prevent disasters than to correct them.
54. To AU and SADC leadership can and should indeed take note of the ECOMOG experience to prevent repetition of its failures and build on its successes.
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