Term Paper, 2009
20 Pages, Grade: 2,0
The Economic Community of West African States
The Beginnings from 1975 to
Excursion: The civil war in Liberia
The ECOWAS intervention in Liberia at first sight
Assessing ECOWAS legal foundations to the ECOMOG mission
The ECOWAS Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace- keeping and Security
Evaluation of the Mechanism and Conclusion
Almost ten years ago, on 10 December 1999, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) adopted the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace-Keeping and Security and hence passed “probably (...) the most ambitious instrument on the regulation of collective security ever attempted to date” (Abass 2000: 212).
After three military interventions in the 1990ies ECOWAS, a purely economically intended community at the beginning, was in need of better legal foundations for its missions. The interventions in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau were largely characterized by political disputes mostly between anglophone and francophone members of ECOWAS, by weak legal foundations and massive shortcomings in financing, training and equipping the military missions. None of the three interventions can be seen as a pure success. There is even a controversy debate whether the ECOWAS interventions might have prolonged instead of shortened the civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau (see Howe 1996).
The Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace-Keeping and Security was therefore the attempt to put future ECOWAS interventions on better ground. The outcome was promising, but still bears many deficiancies. Some relate to the provisions made in the Protocol, some relate to the nature of ECOWAS.
The sucess or failure of ECOWAS´ military engagement in securing peace in the region is vital for the all-african efforts to build up regional peace-keeping powers within the framework of the African Union and furthermore for the decentralization of the peace- keeping efforts of the United Nations. If ECOWAS found a way to manage matters of peace and security at its own this could be a encouraging example for other regions in the world. Reality however shows a different picture.
The present paper wants to examine how succesful exactly ECOWAS was in creating the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace- Keeping and Security (in the following short “the Mechanism” ) and to what extent the Mechanism can be a solution to the failures made at prior military interventions. For this purpose in the following the ECOWAS intervention in the Liberian civil war in 1990 will be examined against the background of earlier ECOWAS protocols and the against the Mechanism.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was founded on 28 May 1975 by fifteen West African states with the purpose of promoting cooperation and accelerating economic and social development in West Africa.
Within the Treaty of 1975 the following institutions were established to govern the ECOWAS:
- the Authority of Heads of State and Government (short “the Authority” ), as the principal governing institution of the Community (Treaty of ECOWAS 1975: Article 5);
- the Council of Ministers, responsible for the functioning and the development of the Community (Treaty of ECOWAS 1975: Article 6);
- the Executive Secretariat as the principal executive officer of the Community (Treaty of ECOWAS 1975: Article 8);
- the Tribunal of the Community responsible for disputes regarding the interpretation or application of the Treaty (Treaty of ECOWAS 1975: 56), and
- four Technical and Specialised Commissions namely in the fields of trade, customs, monetary issues, industry, agriculture, transport, telecommunications, energy and also social and cultural affairs (Treaty of ECOWAS 1975: Article 4).
As the purpose of the Community was purely economic there is no mentioning of peace and security issues in the Treaty of 1975. Such issues were first taken up three years later, in 1978, in the Protocol on Non-Aggression. Underlining the importance of an atmosphere of peace and harmonious understanding among the member states for the achievement of the aimed goals, the Community agreed upon to “refrain from the threat or use of force or aggression (…) against the territorial integrity of political independence of other Member States“ (Protocol on Non-Aggression 1978: Article 1).
In 1981 ECOWAS adopted the Protocol relating to Mutual Assistance of Defence (PMAD) constituting that “any armed threat or aggression directed against any Member State shall constitute a threat or aggression against the entire Community” (PMAD 1981: Article 2). Member states should hence give mutual aid and assistance for defence.
The Protocol on Non-Aggression and the Protocol relating to Mutual Assistance of Defence were thus the only provisions made concerning peace and conflict issues when in December 1989 Charles Taylor arouse a seven year long civil war in Liberia. Charles Taylors´ goal was to topple the highly brutal and ethnicity-based autocratic rule of Samuel Doe. With only about 160 fighters of his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) Taylor crossed into Liberia from Côte d´Ivoire and got support from citizens in Nimba County, formerly victimized by Doe´s army, as they marched toward the capital of Liberia, Monrovia. Soon the NPFL grew to 12,500-troop-strength. But factions split up of the NPFL, counter-rebel groups were built and soon the war was mainly fought by eight factions each of them enriching themselves by the exploitation of the country´s natural resources and thereby financing their military campaigns. Widespread human rights abuses by all factions let the Liberian population suffer tremendously. Also citizens from other West African countries were killed in the fightings or held hostage and refugees were flodding into the neighbouring countries, Sierra Leone and Guinea (Adebajo 2002: 45ff; Olonisakin 1996: 34ff).
These factors let ECOWAS to assess the war in Liberia not entirley as a domestic problem but as a probably destabilizing factor for the whole region - in matters of security and economic development - and to become active mainly on the initiative of Nigeria.
The following chapter will examine how the ECOWAS intervention in Liberia was launched and what shortcomings this process had.
Knowing that the international community particulary the United States, “historical godfather and Cold War patron of Liberia” (Adebajo 2002: 49), and the United Nations Security Council did not pay much attention to the disaster occuring in West Africa, ECOWAS felt the need to act on their own although it had never launched such a complex military mission on its own. The civil war in Liberia broke out at a time when all eyes were focused on the end of the Cold War and the forthcoming Gulf War. Also the wish to signal to the world that African subregional organizations were capable of responding to immanent challenges gave motivation to the establishment of an own peacekeeping force (Howe 1996: 152).
Therefore, on 30 May 1990 an ECOWAS summit in Banjul, Gambia, established a five- member Standing Mediation Committee (SMC) with a mandate to mediate disputes and conflicts (Weller 1994: ECOWAS Decision A/DEC.9/5/90; doc. nr. 20). As the MSC decided on the establishment of ECOMOG its own establishment seems crucial for questions of authorization and responsibility in dealing with the Liberian crisis. It could not be drawn from the decision at hand, however, who voted for the establishement of the SMC. According to the ECOWAS Treaty of 1975 all security issues has to be dealt with by consensus (see Haacke/Willimas 2008: 131). Körner states that Nigeria enforced the decision to establish the SMC with the self-confidence of a regional power (Körner 1999: 47).
One of the five members of the SMC was to be current Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government who should also serve as Chairman of the SMC. The other four members were to be appointed by the Authority. It is not stated, however, how this was supposed to happen. Membership should rotate every three years. “Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Mali, and Togo were elected as the first members.” (Adebajo 2002: 51) What is eyecatching is that there is only speech of conflict between two or more member states and no word of an intra-state conflict for what it was actually set up for.
In the following, the SMC met in Banjul on 6 and 7 August 1990 and adopted Decision A/DEC.1/8/90 on the establishment of an ECOWAS Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) for Liberia (Weller 1994: ECOWAS Decision A/DEC.1/8/90; doc. nr. 50). The meeting was attended by President Jawara of The Gambia, also Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority and of the SMC at that time, John Rawlings Head of State of Ghana, President Babangida of Nigeria, N´golo Traore Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mali and Bitokotipou Yagninim, Minister of Justice of the Togolese Republic constituing the five members of the SMC. Also present were President Conte of Guinea and President Momoh of Sierra Leone who both promised to contribute troops to ECOMOG.
ECOMOG was established for the purpose of “keeping the peace, restoring law and order and ensuring that the cease-fire is respected” (Weller 1994: ECOWAS Final Communiqué of the First Session; doc. nr. 54), even if there was actually no real peace to protect. It was stated in the decision that ECOMOG should be composed of contingents from the members of the SMC and from Guinea and Sierra Leone. The mission should be placed “under a Commander provided by the Republic of Ghana to be assisted by a Deputy Commander provided by the Republic of Guinea” (Weller 1994: ECOWAS Final Communiqué of the First Session; doc. nr. 54).
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