This post is based on an email that was sent and in no way reflects the views and opinions of ''Met'' or To send in a story send your email to [email protected]


The Liberian Conflict and the birth of ECOMOG (3)

By Emmanuel K. Bensah Jr.

In life,what is permanent is change.
By: Deejay da talk man
More Quotes | Submit Quote
Three weeks ago, former Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted of providing moral support, weapons and operational help to Liberian-backed, drug-crazed rebels in Sierra Leone from 1996 to 2002, in exchange for blood diamonds. The following piece, by no means an exhaustive analysis, is a commentary I wrote back in 2000. Written then as a reminder of “African Solutions to African problems”, it serves not only as a timely reminder of the Liberian Conflict, but also of ECOWAS’ baptism of fire in pursuit of sub-regional peace and justice. This is the final part of a three-parter.

With respect to the proponents, however, according to a former Field Commander of ECOMOG, Brigadier-General Adetunyi Idowu Olurin (rtd.) for example, “the Liberian situation and ECOMOG deployment was a test case in regional peacekeeping effort {in that} it proved that nations within a region are often familiar with the political situation of the neighbouring states and when conflict ensues, …know key personalities involved.” He goes on to argue that it “proved successful lending credence to the statement that the regional peacekeeping process can be effective and can be replicated in any other region.”

Also, Lund and Solinas argue that at the regional level, “ECOWAS in particular, holds promising approaches to West Africa’s immediate and potential conflicts {to such an extent that} in 1995, one analyst was led to compare West Africa with other regions such as South America, in order to consider whether this region could be regarded as an emergency ‘security community’ and ‘zone of peace'” .

Comfort Ero, conversely, does not advance a similar argument, preferring to remain neutral when she writes that “the decision taken by ECOWAS to intervene can be seen as a novel move.” . She then goes on to ask “why then should a multilateral organisation established for economic integration assume the responsibility and the management of conflicts in the sub-region.”

In my opinion, detractors would primarily argue that in the organisation, at least one member, most probably possessed an agenda, which it could only effectively execute through this intervention. In fact this is what throughout the conflict, Nigeria appeared to be doing especially since 70 % of the ECOMOG force was Nigerian-led.

Conversely, proponents would defend the functionalist view that such regional organisations are equally instrumental in the maintenance of peace, and that ECOWAS merely wanted closure to a potentially problematic conflict. In fact, Comfort Ero proposes three principal reasons why ECOWAS went into conflict.

First of all, ECOWAS believed that “regional instability was inevitable due to the overflow and displacement of refugees in neighbouring countries.” Consequently, there was a fear that the conflict would trigger lateral pressure to such an extent that refugees would feel compelled to spillover into neighbouring countries, such as Sierra-Leone, Ghana, the Gambia, Guinea, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.

Secondly, ECOWAS went in purely for humanitarian reasons. According to Ero, “in its Final Communiqué, the Standing Committee gave a strongly humanitarian rationale for its decisions, {to that effect} adding that presently, there is a government in Liberia which cannot govern contending factions which are holding the entire population as hostages depriving them of food, health facilities and other basic necessities of life.” Moreover, an ECOWAS statement in August 1990 was more “explicit in emphasizing a humanitarian objective.”. In it, it stated that there needed to be a “stopping {of} the senseless killing of innocent civilians, nationals and foreigners, and to help the Liberian people to restore their democratic institutions.”

Finally, justification for intervention was predicated on the 1981 ECOWAS Protocol relating to Mutual Assistance in Defence . According to Article 16 of the Protocol, “the Head of State of a member country under attack may request action or assistance from the community.”

Nevertheless, it is not hard to see why the detractors of ECOMOG have a case, which Comfort Ero further outlines. The most prominent is the idea that two individual Member States — Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire — had their own reasons for wanting to intervene. Apparently, at the beginning of the conflict, supporters of Doe claimed that Taylor forces had been trained in Burkina (and Libya) and had entered the country from Côte d’Ivoire — a claim which was denied by the States concerned.”

Furthermore, there may have been a personal reason, which directs our attention to the “Burkinabe leader and President Houphouet-Boigny of Côte d’Ivoire.” Apparently, Doe had killed President Tolbert and arrested his eldest son, Adolphus Tolbert, the son-in-law of Houphouet-Boigny, who was subsequently killed in jail. . Ero maintains that it is against this background that the Ivorian leader was believed to have encouraged another of his sons-in-law, Blaise Compaore to support the rebel cause. . It is believed Compaore, in turn, introduced Taylor to the Libyan leader Colonel Ghadaffi, whose involvement in the conflict, despite falling beyond the scope of this paper, in my opinion, remains apocryphal.

Whatever the case may be, it is hard to deny that there was serious political will on the ECOWAS Member States, and this is exemplified by ECOMOG’s controversial role as peacekeeper. It is controversial because, many believe, as N.D. White , that ECOMOG “attempted to tread the neutral tightrope of a true peacekeeping force” , but found itself “embroiled in the civil war, particularly after the death of President Doe in September 1990.” He goes on to argue that ECOMOG “…overstepped the boundary between consensual and neutral peacekeeping and military enforcement action.”

This actually begs the question of what enforcement action is, and to obtain an insight into this, we turn to Adam Roberts who proposes four dilemmas inherent in peacekeeping with force.

The first is based on the idea that using force increases the “risks to lightly armed peacekeepers in vulnerable positions” as exemplified by the case of Somalia. The second is predicated on the idea that the use of force” in complex civil wars frequently involves killing and injuring civilians as well as armed adversaries.” Roberts maintains the third dilemma – perhaps most important in the Liberian context — that most uses of force “risk undermining perceptions of the impartiality of the peacekeeping force” . The final dilemma is that “there must be a reluctance to leave the decision to others when the lives of peacekeepers and the reputation of the {organization} is at stake.”

With respect to Liberia, Ero argues that ECOMOG’s deployment has raised significant questions about its legitimacy, neutrality and effectiveness. ECOMOG was faced with Robert’s third dilemma in that “the consistent denial by NPFL of ECOMOG’s compromised neutrality undermined its authority in Liberia.” In fact, as early as October 1990, “the neutrality and peacekeeping nature of ECOMOG was in question especially when it was seen as assuming a combative role in alliance with the INPFL and ADFL.”

This was because after the ECOMOG force landed on August 27 1990, Charles Taylor promised to intensify his attack in order to undermine their advancement. What he did not know was that within a month of landing ECOMOG’s strategy would transform into a conventional offensive with the aim of driving Taylor’s troops out of Monrovia. Although ECOMOG had controlled Monrovia by November 1990, Comfort Ero maintains that its actual mission “bordered on peace-making and peace enforcement, which was a major departure from its original mandate.” Meanwhile ECOWAS had begun “a long slow search for the elusive formula that would unify the country under free and fair elections.”

The first came in the form of peace talks in Bamako, Mali on 27 November 1990 which was also the same time when the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) under Amos Sawyer was sworn in. Two other peace talks took place at Lome, Togo in February 1991 and Monrovia, Liberia in March 1991. These later remained abortive on account of Taylor’s refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the interim government.

Most significant, however, in bringing closer attention to resolving the crisis were the meetings in the Ivorian city of Yamoussoukro. There, “the meeting attempted to reconcile Taylor and Sawyer who, indeed, ‘pledged their reconciliation… by a long and warm embrace.” Although it would take three prior meetings for some progress to be made, it can be argued that Yamoussoukro IV Accord was agreed by warring factions as a step taken together “to constitute a framework for the settlement of the crisis.”

Equally significant was the Cotonou Agreement of July 1993. It was here that for the first time since the conflict, both the OAU and UN acknowledged efforts made by ECOWAS: “the signing of the Cotonou Agreement marked a new phase for ECOWAS as it embarked on peacemaking mission in cooperation with the UN (and also the OAU). According to Ero, what was different about the Cotonou Agreement in view of the past agreements was that ECOMOG was to be expanded to include two contingents from outside the West African sub-region – Tanzania and Uganda and a UN observer mission.

Walraven lends credence to this idea too when he writes how the Cotonou accord “was the most comprehensive agreement so far and all later accords would merely supplement this key agreement.” In fact, the accord stipulated in great detail how Liberia should walk out of the quandary . He maintains that “the belligerents would observe a new cease-fire to be monitored by ECOMOG and the UNOMIL” .

The parties agreed to slowly disarm. Specifically, they came to an agreement not to “import weapons and war-like material, use the cease-fire for a military build-up or engage in other activities that would violate the cease-fire. They also recognized that the ECOWAS-UN arms embargo would stay in place.”

The accords stipulated some political arrangements, of which the most important was the Interim Government of National Unity being replaced by the Liberia National Transitional Government (LNTG). The accords’ final provision concerned “a general amnesty to be given for any acts committed by the parties or their forces while in actual combat.” Unfortunately, the Cotonou Agreement was also undermined by the snail-like pace in establishing the LNTG. After some pussy-footing over its precise composition, it was finally formed on 7 March 1994, under a five-person Council of State. Free and faie elections were equally proposed to be held in September 1994.

As a number of obstacles continued to hamper the implementation of the Cotonoi Agreement, several meetings were convened leading to the signing of two agreements. These were the Akosombo Agreement (September 1994), which was supplementary to the Cotonou Accord, as well as the Agreement on what was to become the Accra Agreement, signed in the Ghanaian capital, in December 1994.

According to Walraven, “Ghana worked on the premise that a solution tothe Liberian crisis had to come from the warring factions themselves, especially, Taylor’s NPFL.” In hindsight, this increasingly also appears to be the case, since efforts to resolve the crisis, were consistently being stymied by these factions. He continues that the “Ghanaians argued that the factions had not disarmed as this had not been in their interest and that therefore had to be lured with a political prize to give up their guns.” Although this prize was to be remain elusive, what the Accra agreements, flawed as it may have been, showed was that “existing factions would be taken into account when deciding” on important issues with respect to settlement of civilain life, such as public agencies, corporations, agencies, etc.

One of the Agreements’ downside was that “Liberian citizens were outraged and generally interpreted Akosombo as an attempt to install a military ‘junta’.” These were not the only unsatisfied — the factions were also. Apparently, some had been left outside Akosombo and were therefore opposed to it. Nonetheless, the agreement attempted to “install a new ceasefire and introduce several safe havens and buffer zones in accordance with the Cotonou and Akosombo accords.”

Conclusion: Aspirants of Regional Peace?
For ECOWAS, Liberia will probably remain not only a milestone in their quest for peace in Africa, but as a symbolic indication that Africans can resolve their problems without Western assistance. For the international community, it will probably be seen a little less optimistically — and understandably so. If one were to go by White’s argument on how ECOMOG was trying to tread the tightrope of peacekeeping but found itself embroiled in the conflict, and consequently, maintaining what little peace there was by force, then, perhaps, the detractors have a point.

Furthermore, some will argue that peacekeeping means just that — keeping the peace that is hoped to be built. Once force comes into the picture, then it hardly qualifies as peaceful. I have no doubts that there will be some who strongly adhere to the neutral, yet toothless, peacekeepers that we are used to.

Nonetheless, how far must we go before we realize that this needs a change? Peacekeeping is problematic enough for it to continue remaining toothless. ECOMOG was admittedly flawed, but it worked. This does not mean to say that it can always work the way it did in Liberia, but perhaps, there are lessons that other regional organizations, working under Chapter VII of the UN Charter can adopt, and henceforth contribute in distributing the labour of the herculean task which peacekeeping is for the UN.

Of these lessons, the most important, in my opinion, would have to be that a relatively balanced rapid intervention force would have to be just that — balanced, not 70% led by one nation, as Nigeria clearly was. Three authors lend credence to this. The first are Solinas and Lund, when they write: “Nigeria wished to assume a leadership role in the region and to check possible Libyan designs in the area.” Comfort Ero also lends credence to this idea: “Beyond the concerns for its nationals, the Liberian conflict has provided Nigeria with the opportunity to establish itself as the most influential mediator in the sub-region.” Perhaps the most trenchant arguments, finally, come from Walraven. He argues that “Nigeria’s influence over ECOMOG goes some way to explain the latter’s lack of neutrality and the counter-productive effect of its intervention.” He argues that “politically and institutionally, it was clear that Nigeria was in command of the intervention force.” Apparently, so involved was Nigeria in the conflict that it went to the extent of replacing a Ghanaian commander with a Nigerian one once Samuel Doe was murdered on the way to ECOMOG headquarters.

The final lesson is that there should be unity. ECOWAS almost ran the risk of appearing to pay lip-service to peace when results consistently remained elusive. Funnily enough, it was the francophone countries which took the initiative of the Yamoussokro Accords in Ivory Coast, which eventually created an atmosphere conducive to collaboration. This had been the result of a latent friction felt by the francophone countries that the anglophones were leading the way too much for a small organization like ECOWAS’. Their initiative proved praiseworthy — as did ECOMOG’s role to an extent. If ECOWAS is to become the putative tool of conflict resolution in West Africa, and perhaps one that can be emulated in the rest of Africa, it must be willing to subordinate political and personal interests to that of peace

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

[+] kaskus emoticons nartzco

Current day month [email protected] *

DISCLAIMER The views or opinions appearing on this blog are solely those of their respective authors. In no way do such posts represent the views, opinions or beliefs of “Met,” or “Met” and will not assume liability for the opinions or statements, nor the accuracy of such statements, posted by users utilizing this blog to express themselves. Users are advised that false statements which are defamatory in nature may be subject to legal action, for which the user posting such statements will be personally liable for any damages or other liability, of any nature, arising out of the posting of such statements. Comments submitted to this blog may be edited to meet our format and space requirements. We also reserve the right to edit vulgar language and/or comments involving topics we may deem inappropriate for this web site.

****RULES**** 1. Debates and rebuttals are allowed but disrespectful curse-outs will prompt immediate BAN 2. Children are never to be discussed in a negative way 3. Personal information  eg. workplace, status, home address are never to be posted in comments. 4. All are welcome but please exercise discretion when posting your comments , do not say anything about someone you wouldnt like to be said about  you. 5. Do not deliberately LIE on someone here or send in any information based on your own personal vendetta. 6. If your picture was taken from a prio site eg. fimiyaad etc and posted on JMG, you cannot request its removal. 7. If you dont like this forum, please do not whine and wear us out, do yourself the favor of closing the screen- Thanks! . To send in a story send your email to :- [email protected]