For a better tomorrow
Almost ten years ago, on 10 December 1999, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) adopted the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace-Keeping and Security and hence passed what was then understood as the most ambitious instrument on the regulation o collective security ever attempted to date” (Abass 2000:212).
After three military interventions in the 1990s ECOWAS, then 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 deficiencies. Some relate to the provisions made in the Protocol, some relate to the nature of ECOWAS.
The success or failure of ECOWAS’ military engagement in securing peace in the region is vital for the all-Africa efforts to build up regional peace-keeping powers within the framework of the African Union and furthermore for th decentralization of the peace-keeping efforts of the United Nations. If ECOWAS found a way to manage matter os peace and security at its own this could be an encouraging example for other regions in the world. Reality however shows a different picture.
The body of this article wants to examine how successful exactly ECOWAS was in creating the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace-Keeping and Secrity (in the following short “the Mechanism”) and to hat extent the Mechanism can be a solution to the failures made a 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 against the “Mechanism”.
The Economic Community of West African States
The Beginnings from 1975 to 1989
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 Specialized Commissions namely in the fields of trade, customs, monetary issues, industry, agriculture, transport, telecommunication, energy and also social 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 gals, the Community agreed upon to “refrain from the threat of 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 Defense (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 defense.Excursion: The Civil War in Liberia Knowing that the international community particularly the United States, “historical godfather and Cold War patron of Liberia” (Adebajo 2002: 49), and the United Nations Security Concil did not pay much attention to the disaster occurring 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 sub regional organizations were capable of responding to imminent 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 (Economic Community Monitoring Group) its own establishment seems crucial for questions of authorization and responsibility in dealing with th Liberian crisis. It cold not be drawn from the decision at hand, however, who voted for the establishment of the SMC. According to the ECOWAS Treaty of 1975 all security issues had to be dealt with by consensus (see Haake/Willimas 2008:131). Korner states that Nigeria enforced the decision to establish the SMC with the self-confidence of a regional power (Korner 1999: 47).One of the five members of the SMC was to ve 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, The Gambia, Mali, and Togo were elected as the first members.” (Adebajo 2002: 1) What is eye-catching 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 the 6th and 7th August 1990 and adopted Decision A/DEC.1/8/90 on the established 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 constituting the five members of the SMC. Also present were President Conte of Guinea and President Momoh of Sierra Leone who 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 Communique of the First Session: doc. Nr. 54), even if there was actually no real peace to protect. It was state 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 Communique of the First Session: doc. Nr. 54).Detailed regulations for the ECOMOG engagement in Liberia were laid out on 13 August 1990 (Weller 1994: ECOWAS Regulations: doe. Nr. 58). The Commander and the Executive Secretary were thus the two most powerful offices for the ECOMOG intervention:
- The ECOWAS intervention in Liberia at first sight
- The following section will examine how the ECOWAS intervention in Liberia was launched and what shortcomings this process ultimately had.
- These factors let ECOWAS to assess the war in Liberia not entirely 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 Protocol on Non-Aggression and the Protocol relating to the Mutual Assistance of Defense were thus the only provisions made concerning peace and conflict issues when in December 1989 Charles Taylor aroused a seven year long civil war in Liberia, Charles Taylor’s 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 Cote d ‘Ivore 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 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 Africa countries were killed in the fighting’s or held hostage and refugees were flooding into the neighboring countries, Sierra Leone and Guinea (Adebajo 2002: 45ff; Olonisakin 1996: 34ff).
- “The Commander has full command authority over the [ECOMOG] Group. He is operationally responsible to the Chairman of the Authority through the Executive Secretary.” (Weller 1994: ECOWAS Regulations; doc. Nr. 58 Article 11)
- “The Executive Secretary of the Community shall have authority for all administrative and executive matters affecting the ECOMOG Group” (Weller 1994: ECOWAS Regulations; doc. Nr. 58. Article 16)
As the office of the Commander was reportedly in the hands of the Ghanian Lt-Gen. Arnold Quainoo (Weller 1994: BBC Report10 August 1990, doc. Nr. 55) and as the office of the Executive Secretary was in the hands of the Sierra Leonean Abass Bundu, the two most important offices for the ECOMOG engagement were in the hands of anglophone countries. This is an important note to remember. Furthermore, in August 1990the office of the Chairman of the Authority and hence the office of the Chairman of the SMC was held by Dawda Kairaba Jawara, President of the Republic of the Gambia, another Anglophone country. In May, only two and a half months earlier when the SMC was established, Blaise Compaore of Senegal, an important Francophone country, was Chairman of the Authority and the SMC. It might be a coincidence that the chairmanship shifted from a Franco to an Anglophon country in that very important moment but it seemed to be helpful for the birth of ECOMOG and the fortunate coincidence of having an Anglophone Executive Secretary and Chairman of the Community is also worth mentioning.
On 23 August – the day of departure of the ECOMOG troops – the Togolese government, also member of the SMC, stepped back from its engagement in ECOMOG and withdrew its promised troops its promised troops until the Liberian civil war factons would entirely agree to the mediatory role of ECOMOG – which the NPFL denied ( Weller 1994: BBC Report 25 August 1990; doc. Nr. 63) Also Mali denied to contribute troops, and so “ECOMOG initially deployed 3,000 soldiers from Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia. The troops arrived in Monrovia on 24 August 1990.” (Adebajo 2002: 52).
The intervention of ECOMOG was dominated “by the dissent of key Francophone statese, particularly Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, but also Senegal, Niger, Mali and Togo” (Adebajo 2002: 50). Most of the former French colonies eared Nigerian dominance in the region at all times since Nigeria’s gross national product and it’s population matched that of the combined other fifteen member states of ECOWAS (Howe 1996: 152). They accused Nigeria of trying to hold Doe on to power whereas namely Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso supported Charles Taylor in its fight against Doe. The francophone countries had major doubts about the dispatch of ECOMOG to Liberia because it was the Standing Committee, not the Authority that had established ECOMOG. It was therefore vital for the continuing of the ECOMOG mission to resolve the question of authority of the SMC. At the Bamako Summit in November 1990 the Authority approved afterwards all decisions made by the SMC (Weller 1994: ECOWAS Decision A/DEC.1/11/90, doc. Nr. 95). This was a major step in healing the rift in ECOWAS (because) the Francophone members of ECOWAS had accepted ECOMOG.” (Jonah 1993: 311)
To sum up: An ECOWAS summit meeting established the Standing Mediation Committee to mediate conflicts between two or more member states. The SMC in turn, consisting of Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Mali, and Togo, – three Anglophone, two francophone countries – established ECOMOG and made the decision to send it to Liberia. Mali and Togo however finally refused to contribute troops. Instead, Sierra Leone and Guinea chipped in, both neighboring countries and flooded with refugees from Liberia.
The remarks made at this point ca be found in literature dealing with the ECOMOG intervention in Liberia. There does not seem to be a publication or document that could be found, however the deals in detail with the legal provisions made in the ECOWAS Treaty and Protocols. T be able to assess the improvements of the Mechanism later on, an elaborate assess of the prior provisions of ECOWAS is necessary. The question remains whether the establishment of the SMC was at all necessary or if EOWAS could have become active with the instruments already given and if the SMC was then just a useful tool to the driving force of the ECOMOG mission, Liberia. The overarching questions to be answered are whether the decision-making procedures in ECOWAS are elaborate enough or if there is the possibility for misusing ECOWAS as Nigeria was accused of in the Liberian intervention.
Assessing ECOWAS legal foundations to the ECOMOG mission
In the original Treaty of ECOWAS of 1975 it lists under Article 4 the institutions of the Community (as seen above) and givs the possibility for “such other Commissions and bodies as may be established by the Authroity of Heads of State and Government” (Treaty of ECOWAS 1975: Article 4). It is not stated, however, how these other bodies are to be established. Neither was it stated in the Treaty hw the decisions of the Authority are to be reached but it was put off: “The Authority shall determine the procedure for the dissemination of its decisions and directions and those of the Council of Ministers and for matters relating to their coming into effect.” (Treaty of ECOWAS 1975: Article 7). As the establishment of the SMC seems to be the crucial point for launching the ECOMOG mission, it is very important to now on which provisions this happened. As the Treaty o 1975 give no explicit details how to establish other commissions and bodies there can be no indication drawn out.
The Protocol on Non-Aggression from 1978 gives better indications. It is state that –
“(1) any dispute which cannot be settled peacefully among Member States, shall be referred to a Committee of the Authority.
(2) In the event of failure of settlement by the aforementioned Committee the dispute shall finally go to the Authority.
(3) The composition and the mandate of the Committee referred to in the preceding paragraph shall be decided upon by the Authority.” (Protocol on Non-Aggression 1978: Article 5)
This article is the foundation for the establishment of the SMC in the way it was done: There are no regulations concerning the number of members and the mandate of the Committee is decided by the Authority. Through this the SMC was legally established with only five members and legally qualified by the Authority to create ECOMOG and to send it to Liberia. The questions that still remains is then who in the Authority and why voted for such a small committee with very broad competencies.
It could and should be seen as a weakness that there have been no further constraints or limitations been made for handling the case of a conflict. With more detailed provisions about the composition of such a committee, for example with a membership for at least 8 countries or with the restriction that decisions about mediating conflicts or getting involved may only be taken by the Authority, the controversial actions by the SMC could not have happened.
The Protocol relating to Mutual Assistance of Defense (PMAD) in the following laid out two circumstances under which the member states shall become active:
“(a) In case of armed conflict between two or more several Member States if the settlement procedure by peaceful means as indicated in Article 5 of the Non-Aggression Protocol proves ineffective;
(b) In case of internal armed conflict within any Member State engineered and supported actively from outside likely to endanger the security and peace in the entire Community. In this case the Authority shall appreciate and decide on this situation in full collaboration with the Authority of the Member State or States concerned.” (PMAD 1981: Article 4)
The PMAD allows the casual observer to view the Liberian civil was an internal armed conflict supported from the outside that is likely to endanger peace and security in the sub-region. The responsibility for that case is posed into the hands of the Authority.
The PMAD also estalibhsed two new institutions to manage matters of peace and security: the Defense Council and the Defense Commission. The Defense Council consists of the Ministers of Defense and Foreign Affairs.
(2) In an emergency, the Defense Council shall examine the situation, the strategy to be adopte and the means of intervention to be used.
In case of armed intervention, the Defense Council assisted by the Defense Commission shall supervise with the authority of the State or State concerned, all measures to be taken by the Force Commander and ensure that all necessary means for the intervention are made available to him.” (PMAD 1981: Article 8)
It is very much to question here why the establishment of the SMC was necessary and why any such mission as ECOMOG could not have been mandated by the Defense Council. As was just seen the Defense Council as enhanced with functions to examine in case of emergency the situation and the means of intervention. Also in the Defense Council every ECOWAS member would have been participated and the decision wuld not have laid in the hands of five members as in the SMC.
The Defence Commission on his part shall consist of a Chief of Staff from each member state and shall be responsible for examining the technical aspect of defense matters (PMAD 1981: Article 11).
Two other articles of the PMAD give detailed information about procedures in case of a conflict:
“When an external armed thret or aggression is directed against a Member State of the Commnity, The Head of State of that country shall send a written request for assistance to the current Chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS, with copies to other members. This request shall mean that the Authority is duly notified and that the AAFC (Allied Armed Forces of the Community) are placed under a state of emergency. The Authority shall decide in accordance with emergency procedure as stipulated in Article 6 above.” (PMAD 1981: Article 16)
“(1) In case where an internal conflict in a Member State of the Community is actively maintained or sustained from outside, the provisions of Article 6, 9 and 16 of this Protocol shall apply;
(2) Community forces shall not intervene if the conflict remains purely internal.” (PMAD 1981: Article 18)
In light of the above citations there are a few things to keep in mind:
As the NPFL invaded Liberia from Cote d’ Ivore and as the NPFL was supported by Cote d’ Ivore and Burkina Faso (Adebajo 2002: 66) it is legitimate for Doe to send a cry for help to the chairman and members of the SMC (Weller 1994: Letter by Samual K. Doe; doc. Nr 39).
It has to be questioned why the Authority did not apply to the procedures of the PMAD and became itself active or why the Defense Council did not become active as aid out in Article 8 of the PMAD. Instead it was resorted to the provision made in the Non-Aggression Protocol from 1978 that any dispute, which cannot be settle peacefully among Member States, shall be referred to a Committee of the Authority (Protocol on Non-Aggression 1978: Article 5). If the establishment of the SMC was a deliberate action by Nigeria to bypass the decision-making procedures in the Authority and in the Defense Council can’t and won’t be discussed or analyzed here. But it seems that if the case of Liberia would have been covered only by the Authority the establishment of ECOMOG would probably not have happened as quickly or easily.
There was an attempt to show that within the Protocol on Non-Aggression and the Protocol relating to Mutual Assistance of Defense there were already sufficient provisions made to deal with conflicts as in Liberia in 1990within the structures of the Authority and the Defense Council. Why ECOWAS resorted to the establishment of the SMC and which actors were crucial for this also cannot be analyzed with what materials can be found. But it seems that if the case of Liberia would have been covered only by the Authority the establishment of ECOMOG would probably not have happened as quickly or easily.
There was indeed an attempt to show that within the Protocol on Non-Aggression and the Protocol relating to Mutual Assistance of Defense there were already sufficient provisions made to deal with conflicts as in Liberia in 1990 within the structures of the Authority and the Defense Council. Why ECOWAS resorted to the establishment of the SMC and which actors were crucial for this also cannot be analyzed with what materials are currently available.
This next section attempts to examine what lessons have been learnt by ECOWAS out of the quarrels that have been fought over ECOOGs interventions.
The ECOWAS Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Resolution, Management, Resolution, Peace-keeping and Security
In 1999 ECOWAS adopted the Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace-keeping and Security in the following short “the Mechanism). “Cote d’Ivore and Senegal (…) were said to have only reluctantly supported the Nigerian proposal.” (Adebajo 2002. 145) This chapter tries to assess if the Mechanism brought any improvement to the so far discovered problems in establishing ECOWAS interventions and military missions.
Eyecatching in the Mechanism is already the emphasis on humanitarian disaster and possible instability in the sub-region which could lead from a member state in crisis (The Mechanism 1999: Definitions). In principles the emphasis lies on “Economic and social development”, “security of the peoples”, “promotion and consolidation of a democratic government”, “protection of fundamental human rights”, but still “territorial integrity”. Like in the revised ECOWAS Treaty of 1993 the objective is not only to manage and resolve inter-state conflict ut also internal conflict (The Mechanism 1999: Article 3 (a)).
As the main new institution responsible for matters of peace and security within ECOWAS the Mediation and Security Council (MSC) was established through the Mechanism. Debiel et al. state that the MSC “was introduced at the urging of the Francophone states which (…) wanted to come up against the supposed instrumentalization of ECOWAS by Nigeria as a hegemonic power” (Debiel et al 2008: 172). It is astonishing then that the MSC does not offer stricter but quite loose provisions on the decision-making process as will be shown next.
The MSC consists of nine members of which seven shall be elected by the Authority. The other two shall be the current and the immediate past chairman of the Authority (The Mechanism 1999: Article 8). The regulations regarding quorum and decisions are as follows: “The meeting of the Mediation and Security Council shall be taken by a two-thirds majority vote of Memberse present.” (The Mechanism 1999: Article 9). This means that the MSC has a quorum when at least six members are present. If only six members are present, a binding decision can thus be taken by only four members of the MSC. Imagine a meeting of the MSC set up consciously by one group of countries when others are not able to attend the meeting and therefore cannot vote against a decision. This may be a very rare incident and would probably cause larger political resentments but the mere possibility that a binding decision can be made by just four of nine members of the MSC and of a total of 15 members of ECOWAS seems l ike a very low threshold which could be mused at some point. Adebajo notes: “The requirement of a two-thirds majority is an important check that allows for a blocking minority.” (Adebajo 2002: 154) But if this two-thirds majority is broken down to its least minimal majority it does not seem like a high obstacle.
Article 10 describes the responsibilities of the MSC: “The Mediation and Security Council shall take decisions on issues of peace and security in the sub-region on behalf of the Authority (and shall thereby) authorize all forms of intervention and decide particularly on the deployment of political and military missions.” (The Mechanism 1999: Article 10) This means that the MSC is allowed to mandate military missions without the approval and authorization of the United Nations Security Council even though it is state in Article 52 that ECOWAS is supposed to inform the United Nations about any military intervention undertaken. But the implications of the Mechanism for matters of international law will not be discussed here.
The Executive Secretary is also assigned a more important role through the Mechanism: “The Executive Secretary shall have the power to initiate actions for conflict prevention, management, resolution, peace-keeping and security in the sub-region. Such actions may include fact-finding, mediation, facilitation, negotiation and reconciliation of parties in conflict.” (The Mechanism 1999: Article 15) But the Executive Secretary may of course not decide over political and military missions.
The Defense and Security Commission – providing technical and logistical help concerning peace-keeping forces, the Council of Elders and ECOMOG are also to assist the MSC (The Mechanism 1999: Article 17). ECOMOG shall consist of several standby modules in their countries of origin, ready for immediate deployment, and has to fulfill a wide range of functions, starting from monitoring and policing activities to peace-keeping and peace-building (The Mechanism 1999: Articles 21 and 22). Since June 2006 the Standby Brigade ECOBRIG with up to 6,500 soldiers is ready for disposal (Debiel et al 2008: 172).
Very critical are the wide ranging conditions and cases for the application of the Mechanism (The Mechanism 1999: Article 25). The cases of aggression or conflict in any member state and of conflict between two or several member states have also been mentioned in the eaerlier protocols and would have authorized action by ECOWAS in earlier times. Other cases, however, that have been taken in consideration in the Mechanism that explicit for the first time, reflect ECOWAS’ experiences with its three interventions prior to the Mechanism:
“In case of internal conflict: a) that threatens to trigger a humanitarian disaster, or b) that poses serious threat to peace and security in the sub-region.” (The Mechanism 1999: Article 25)
Also massive violation of human rights and an overthrow of a democratically elected government authorization accordant to the Mechanism an engagement of ECOWAS. This is the point of the Mechanism where it is most obvious that lessons were supposed to be drawn out of the three – weak authorized – interventions of ECOWAS:
“Any other situation as may be decided by the Mediation and Security Council” The Mechanism 1999: Article 25)
This leaves room for abuse of the Mechanism (see also Adebajo 2002: 155).
Still unclear are what the exact procedures of action are. The Mediation and Security Council is supposed to accelerate decision making in crisis situations (Adebajo 2002: 147 but it seems difficult as the Mechanism may be put into effect through five different sets of actors and five different procedures (The Mechanism 1999: Articles 26 and 27). This shows the claim to act as fast as possible but it results again in complex decision structures and overlapping authorities and responsibilities.
The Mechanism therefore seems to bear several shortcomings (apart from massive problems in funding the provisions and training the standby units of ECOMOG): The MSC lacks the full authorization of all ECOWAS members and could – just as the SMC in 1990 – allow for decisions made with approval by only a few members of ECOWAS to become active in a sub-regional conflict. With the provisions of the Mechanism ECOWAS can get involved in any case as may be decided by the MSC. And again unclear chains of action and overlapping responsibilities seem to burden ECOWAS with over complexity at times.
Evaluation of the Mechanism and Conclusion
After accounting for these rather technical provisions and details of the Mechanism the focus shall now be laid on more broadr questions: How has the Mechanism dealt with issues arising from differences between Anglophone and francophone countries and with the predominant Nigerian activity in military missions? And how can these be dealt with among partial members simultaneously pursuing their own agendas and not so much the welfare of the community at large?
Regarding the everlasting dispute between Anglophone and francophone countries the Mechanism does not make any provisions or arrangements to dissolve this quarrel. Looking through the various treaties and protocols this does not seem to be an issue at all. Although it has been a matter from the beginning of ECOWAS onwards and there has never been made a special provisions to institutionalize the rivalry between Anglophone and francophone countries. It is bewildering that even after the huge dispute over the ECOMOG intervention in Liberia the opportunities have not been met to institutionalize a balance of power between the anglophone and the francophone countries in the main institutions of ECOWAS. For the MSC, consisting of nine members, such a distribution of seats might prevent future clashes in the council.
As far as the previous military dominance in the interventions of Nigeria is concerned, the Mechanism provides for the establishment of standby units which every country agreed to make available to ECOMOG (The Mechanism 1999: Articles 21 nd 28). Through all this it shall be guaranteed that every country has its stakes in military missions and that a predominance by one country is avoided. But as General Cheick Diarra said: “Nigeria is the problem and the solution to the problem” (cited in Adebajo 2002: 139). Nigeria’s military and financial power are indispensable to the ECOWAS peacekeeping forces. It is helpful and necessary for this reason for Nigeria “to learn to treat its neighbors with respect and to consult more closely with them” (Adebajo 2002: 140) if it wants to fulfill the leading role in the sub-region adequately.
However, one of the main problems in dealing with the Liberian civil war in 1990 were the multiple connections of the ECOWAS members to either one side of the warring civil war factions or the other.
As indicated above the Nigerian government was accused of trying to help Samual Doe to remain in power by delivering arms and setting up ECOMOG (Adebajo 2002: 48). Burkina Faso on the other side supplied Charles Taylor and the NPFL with weapons and guerilla warfare training (Howe 1996: 149), Cote d’ Ivore had allowed them free transit across its border into Liberia and also supported the NPFL militarily and Guinea and Sierra Leone supported factions fighting against Taylor (Adebajo 2002-66).
These entanglements and personal relationships between various leaders hinder a neutral and deliberate implementations of the Mechanism and dealing with conflicts in the sub-region at all. If everyone is pursuing its own interests and the spport of friendly leaders, the well-being of the community can only be playing a secondary role.
This is in line with the argumentation by Haacke and Williams (2008) who examine the underlying security culture of ECOWAS. Security culture is in their argumentation “concerned with shared understandings abot what is security and what approaches (military and non-military) are legitimate and effective and thus best suited to dealing with threats to values” (Haacke/Williams 2008: 129). Security culture will mediate both the understanings of what situatons require the attention of policy makers and the thinking and deliberations on how to deal with a particular challenge (Haake/Williams 2008: 132).
Since the common feature of the ruling elite in many West African states was or is neopatrimoniliasm and the leaders overarching ambition to stay in power, this has to influence, accordingly to Haacke and Williams, the security culture of the ECOWAS members. They state: “in the case of ECOWAS, it’s traditional emphasis on regime security has often come at the expense of human security.” (Haacke/Williams 2008: 130) but although ECOWAS is comprised mainly of weak and neopatrimonial role states, as a collective the members of ECOWAS have started to sign conventions that stress the importance of human security issues and democratic governance and are therefore more typical for strong and democratic states (Haacke/Williams 2008: 130) How can this be explained? And how can it be explained that ECOWAS “has clearly broken with the traditional idea that all security issues should be dealt with by consensus” (Haacke/Williams 2008: 131) since decisions can be made in the MSC with only four out of fifteen ECOWAS member states?
As argued above the Mechanism does not provide the clear and strict provisions especially for military interventions of ECOWAS that one could have wished for. The ambitions concerning the standby unit, the funding and controlling of the missions are very high and the decision-making process still has critical hurdles. The possibility of misuse of ECOWAS in the interest by one or only few countries is still not banned. It could be argued therefore that although the Mechanism stresses important issues of human security and democratic governance, the essential provisions still service for the interest of the ECOWAS members in pursuing their ow interests. A low threshold in decision-making processes already seemed to have served Nigeria in pursuing ies leading role in the sub-region and its own political interests with its neighbors, Those low threshold of the Mechanism could be useful another time.
Does this pessimistic assessment of the Mechanism mean that nothing changed within ECOWAS? Of course not. The high ambitions set out in the Mechanism are not just idle talk and it may not be forgotten that the mass of the provisions in the Mechanism, as the standby units, the observation and monitoring zones and even the Executive Secretariat, lack funding and resourcing over all. This may be the actual problem of the development of the ECOWAS security mechanism. Therefore it is even more admirable that ECOWAS has confronted security challenges in the past despite lacking resources and capabilities.
The failures that ECOMOG was going through arise from the absolute will of ECOWAS or even only some of tis member states to engage in conflicts on very short notice in order in order not to let a destabilization of the sub-region and massive human rights violations happen. Hence, this shows the underlying dilemma that every multilateral security organization is faced with: The dilemma between acting concerted and in consensus. Therein lies the tension. On the one hand fast and efficient, trying to avoid human disaster but on the other hand… well then you have the arduous, lengthy and process driven obstacles that encumber decision making when responding to an emerging threat. This is probably a predicament that on one can resolve easily but to be sure it must be managed on a case by case basis. There’s no boilerplate for any situation that emerges and the complexities that follow.
Adebajo claims that “ECOMOG can be blocked by parochial, partisan interests from undertaking action that could benefit the interest of the wider community” (Adebajo 2002: 154) – but this can apply to every multilateral organization, above all the United Nations. To avoid an exploitation of ECOWAS by partisan interests the best way would be to strengthen democracy and good governance in the member states of ECOWAS. The Protocol on Democratic and good governance (2001) gives new hope for a strong commitment to these goals.
If it comes to military interventions there will always be controversies between the different members of ECOWAS and their various agendas. The assessment of the Mechanism showed that within this protocol there is still room for missing the provisions regarding the settlement of disputes. To avoid future disputes between the member states of ECOWAS over military questions, the best solution to the problem would be therefor to try to settle all external and internal conflicts before it comes to violent outbreaks within a diplomatic area or mechanism – a feature that has not been very present on the ECOWAS agenda and should be more recognized. The will to establish an early warning system was a good starting point within the Mechanism and the Protocol in Democracy and Good Governance gave new hope to better preventative actions and respected democratic principles. Unfortunately the persistent problems of funding and resourcing the provisions and mechanism seems again to break up the high ambitions of ECOWAS.
ECOMOG – Economic Cease-fire Monitoring Group
ECOWAS – Economic Community of West African States
MSC – Mediation and Security Council
NPFL – National Patriotic Front of Liberia (Taylor)
PMAD – Protocol relating to Mutual Assistance of Defense
SMC – Standing Mediation Committee
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