Reports and papers

The pretence of peace-keeping:ECOMOG, West-Africa and Liberia (1990-1998)

15 Mar 2006 - 00:00

With the end of the Cold War the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) developed a high profile with regard to security issues. In 1998-1999 forces operating under its auspices and known as ?ECOWAS Cease-fire Monitoring Group? (ECOMOG) intervened in Sierra Leone and the conflict between the government of Guinea-Bissau and rebel military. In October 1998 the ECOWAS Authority approved a proposal for a Mediation and Security Council with responsibility for security issues that would transform ECOMOG into the permanent military arm of the Community.

These developments all began with the intervention in the Liberian civil war (1990-1998). This operation was, however, controversial and protracted. Suffering numerous setbacks it demonstrated that the role of ECOWAS in regional security issues is not an undisputed given.

ECOMOG's intervention in Liberia is the subject of this study. It shows that, rather than an impartial peace-keeping force intent on resolving the conflict no matter which belligerent would be victorious, the objective of the Nigeria dominated force was to stop one particular faction in its tracks: Charles Taylor and his NPFL. This led to a bitter controversy between ECOWAS members sharing Nigeria's partisan objectives and, on the other hand, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast which supported Taylor's struggle for the Liberian Presidency. With each member state pursuing its own interests, a West African crisis developed that became inextricably bound up with the Liberian conflict.

This study analyses the ECOWAS institutions involved in the Liberian operation; ECOMOG's dubious mandate; the partisan rationales of member states to deploy the intervention force; ECOMOG's involvement in Liberia's war economy; its military operations; and the protracted process of negotiations. It also analyses the evolution of the Abuja accords and the July 1997 plebiscite that brought Taylor to power. These concluded an exit strategy which the principal ECOMOG powers began to pursue when their failure to end Taylor's ascendancy became apparent. Finally, an alternative theoretical framework is explored in order to make sense of ECOMOG's record, as well as the wider implications for Western policy on intervention in Africa's intra-state conflicts.