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IFRA Special Research Issue Vol. 1

The second Liberian peace process and the problem of post conflict peace building in West Africa: some contending issues and interests

Gani Yoroms


The conflict in Liberia has taken a new dimension. There is now a growing international reawakening on how to resolve the conflict. Again, Nigeria has found herself in the critical position of having to bear the burden of insecurity in the sub-region. What are the implications of this for Nigeria and her interests in the sub-region? In the light of this, the paper first attempts to identify the contending issues and interests in the Liberian conflict, which have affected other parts of West Africa. Secondly, the paper argues that this has implications for post-conflict reconstruction and peace-building in West Africa. Thus, using the Liberian case, the paper identifies the problems with post-conflict peace building in West Africa. On the basis of this, the third section tries to provide some policy actions by making concrete recommendations for post conflict peace building in West Africa.

Note de l’auteur

Note portant sur l’auteur1

Texte intégral


  • 1 Yoroms Gani and Aning, Emmanuel, 1997, “West African Regional Security in the post Liberian conflic (...)

1In 1997 it was thought that the general election, w hich brought Charles Taylor to power, had put paid to the endless conflict in Liberia and the danger of it spreading to the rest of West Africa. Indeed the 1997 election had many assumptions, among which were1

  1. the creation of officiai access for Charles Taylor. the main rebel leader, to ascend to power with the hope that it was the best option left to end the conflict;

  2. ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) was to remain in Liberia for some time to disarm, demobilise, train, reorganise and reintegrate the rebels into the national Armed Forces of Liberia which should be virile in order to ensure political stability and security in the country and in the sub region at large;

  3. at the end of the conflict, Economic Countries of West Africa States (ECOWAS) would engage in a self-assessment oh how to strengthen its hold on sub-regional security.

2These assumptions were shattered as soon as Charles Taylor ascended to power. He began to implement the hidden agenda, which he had when the conflict started in 1989. His intention was not only to rule Liberia but also to control regimes in the sub-region and build an empire for himself in the Mano river basin région. So, first, he refused to honour the mandate allowing ECOMOG to remain in Liberia to perform the post-war reorganisation of the Liberian military. Secondly, he reciprocated the gesture, which the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) had rendered to him while he was fighting to take over power in Monrovia. On assumption of office, he quickly supported the RUF to destabilise Sierra Leone in order to pave the way for Cpl Fodeh Sankoh to rule in Freetown. It was clear that Taylor was pursuing this course, because he was fingered in all the conflicts that occurred in the Mano River basin region and the entire West African sub-region as a whole.

3In turn, within Liberia itself, rebels that did not accept Charles Taylor’s leadership decided to return to the bush to continue the war. Thus, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, LURD, became the main rebel groups challenging Taylor’s authority. Subsequent differences among the rebels led to the emergence of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia, MODEL, among others. This was the genesis ofthe second phase of the conflict in Liberia, which ECOWAS Mission In Liberia (ECOMIL) was deployed to resolve. ECOMIL was an interposition force, which was expected to give way to the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) as from October 1, 2003. As part of the deployment of 50,000 UNMIL forces, which would be in phases, ECOMIL forces were expected to change their caps to UN blue beret by October 1, 2003.


  • 2 See The ECOWAS Ministerial Mediation and Security Meeting. Dakar. Senegal July 22nd, 2002.

4On August 4, 2003, a vanguard interposition force known as ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL), numbering about 3,500 troops, was deployed to Liberia. Nigeria contributed 1,500 troops to the vanguard. There were troops from some other member states of ECOWAS. The mandate of ECOMIL includes2.

  • establishing zones of separation (ZOS) between the parties to the conflict;

  • facilitating the functions of the Joint Monitoring Commission (JMC). in accordance with the Accra Agreement on Cease-fire and Cessation of hostilities;

  • taking necessary steps to guarantee the security and freedom of movement of personnel of the force and of humanitarian agencies;

  • forming the nucleus of an International Stabilisation Force (ISF) and preparing the ground for its deployment.

5As a vanguard interposition force, ECOMIL was not supposed to enforce but to guide or keep peace. The intervention by the UN forces was likely to contain any attempt by the warring factions to maintain control over their territories. Their initial refusai to cooperate with the regional peacekeeping force led to series of fightings and abuses of human rights among the rebel factions and the government troops, and the refugee problem increased.

6The ECOWAS decision to send in ECOMIL stemmed from the Accra “Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government on the situation in Liberia.” at which ECOWAS pointed out that it was not ready to intervene unless there was a ceasefire, guaranteed funding and logistics. Nigeria’s President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, also argued that the Liberian crisis was not a problem to be solved by ECOWAS alone. According to him, Liberia is also a part of the comity of nations. Therefore, the international community had an obligation to intervene or support ECOWAS in both financial and material terms. The ECOWAS position, and indeed that of Nigeria, resulted from the scathing remarks that were made when it first intervened in the initial conflict in Liberia. Despite expenses to the tune of $12 billion and the loss of more than 1,000 Nigerian soldiers, the international community did not give any credit to ECOWAS or to Nigeria. Taylor rode on the criticisms, which ECOMOG received, to order it out of Liberia when he ascended power. ECOMOG led by Nigeria, departed from Liberia without accomplishing the final mission of the peacekeeping process. This was why the international community became wary about getting involved in the second leg of the Liberian Conflict.

  • 3 Festus B. Aboagye, 1999, ECOMOG: A Sub-regional Experience in Conflict Management and Peace keeping (...)
  • 4 ECOWAS Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace Keeping, and Security, ECOW (...)

7However, the replacement of ECOMOG with ECOMIL raised a new and critical issue on the status of ECOMOG as spelt out in the ECOWAS Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security. First, the renewed conflict in Liberia was the resuit of deliberate manipulations by Taylor, which led to the withdrawal of ECOMOG in the first instance, making it impossible for it to complete its initial mandate.3 Second, the discrediting of ECOMOG is an acceptance of the fact that its performance has shown that African nations and organisations are not yet ripe to keep peace on the continent unless extra-regional powers are involved. Arising from these complexities, the formation of ECOMIL, with the purpose of reinforcingan international stabilisation force (ISF), casts further doubt on the operability of the new ECOWAS Mechanism, which had been institutionalised as the ECOWAS peace keeping organ in West Africa.4 In the case of Côte d’Ivoire, ECOWAS never showed any active interest because of the sub-regional contradiction. Liberia was lucky to have ECOWAS intervening for the second time, as Côte d’Ivoire never had the opportunity of receiving a regional peace support operation.

  • 5 The Deputy Executive Secretary General of ECOWAS General Diara made this explanation at the Round T (...)

8However, in the case of the current Liberian conflict the ECOWAS Deputy Executive Secretary, General C. A. Diara, explained that doubts on the operability of the new ECOWAS mechanism were unfounded. According to him, ECOMOG still remains the umbrella of the regional peace keeping force, as spelt out in the ECOWAS Mechanism. What ECOWAS has done is merely to copy the United Nations which codenames its peace keeping exercises according to specific operations. Like the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone, UNAMSIL, so the ECOWAS Mission in Liberia, ECOMIL, is situated within this context.5

9There are contending issues and interests that have been lubricating the Liberian conflict. It is important if these interests are identified for the purpose of understanding the essence of the renewed interest in the ECOMIL/UNMIL intervention in Liberia.


  • 6 Professor Jinmi Adisa used the phrase ‘the ‘burden of community spirit’ to explain Nigeria’s commit (...)

10There are competing interests over contentious issues in the Liberian conflict. The principle interested parties include Charles Taylor, Guinea, the United States and ECOWAS. It could be recalled that previous interests in the conflict were from Libya, Côte d’Ivoire, and Burkina Faso, among others. Though these interests might still be visible in one form or another, he current focus has been on Taylor, the US, Guinea and ECOWAS. However, the important issue is how these interests impact on Nigeria’s ability to carry on with the ‘burden of the community spirit’6. Let us now look at some of the interests and issues involved.

Charles Taylor

11Charles Taylor, an Americo-Liberian, started the crisis that has ravaged Liberia and the sub-region since the eve of Christmas in 1989. He has held the Liberia peace process to ransom, even when it was thought that stage-managing him to power would ease the conflict. Instead, he used his position as the President of Liberia to curb a regional alliance of contiguous countries through the perpetuation of conflict on Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. He benefited from resources that were generated from the conflicts in Sierra Leone to purchase arms for maintaining these conflicts in the sub-region. Recently, on 8 August 2003, ECOMIL intercepted a plane loaded with arms at Robertsfield Airport, which were meant for Taylor’s government. ECOMIL refused to release the airplane to Taylor, and it was flown to Nigeria. The increase in arms purchase was part of Taylor’s delay tactics to prolong the war to his advantage.

12Indeed, Taylor has not been a promise keeper. He cannot be trusted. He has not lived up to expectation and is notorious for disrespecting agreements reached in chanceries. Nevertheless, he has reached the crossroad, being noted as an international criminal. When he broke jail in the US he realised that there was no longer a hiding place for him. However, he had two options. The first option was for him to foment a crisis with tremendous regional impact, which would make him a force to reckon with. Or secondly, in the course of his belligerence, he might, by sheer luck, become a president of Liberia. This was the initial step he took when he found his way to Libya where he, together with his group of rebellious Liberians was trained to invade Liberia in 1989. But his over-ambition overturned all he could have achieved during the tenure of his presidency.

13Meanwhile, freedom doesn’t seem to be on his side as the International Criminal Court sitting in Freetown has indicted him for the heinous crime of genocide and resource-theft in the Sierra Leonean conflict. It is further speculated that he eliminated Major Johnny Paul Koromah and Sam Bukarie, the key Sierra Leonean witnesses, to make good his case. But his case is even made worse with the death of Corporal Fodeh Sankoh. The United States, one of the main sponsors of ECOMIL, has insisted that he must face the International Criminal Court of Justice. In addition, one of the conditions given by the rebel groups in Liberia was that Taylor step out of office as the president of Liberia, a position the US supports.

14Though Charles Taylor got some lawyers to defend him in court, he wanted the charges dropped as a precondition for his exit from power. He also tied up his exit to the presence of an international sub-regional peacekeeping force, which observers believed was one of his delay tactics. Nevertheless ECOMIL has since been deployed. And for the first time Taylor, who had no other delay mechanisms, agreed to step out of office on 11 August 2003. But his fear remains how to guarantee the security of his teeming supporters, especially the soldiers and the Americo-Liberians, from his vengeful rivais and opponents, especially the LURD of Mandingo stock.7 He also fears for his personal security: his aides, who might lose out in the emerging arrangement, may decide to eliminate him.8 It is in view of this that Taylor continues to remote-control the politics of Liberia while in exile in Nigeria. This has also raised some serious fears in Monrovia among the rebels and also rhe legitimacy of Moses Blah’s government. Though a new transitional government has taken over from Blah since 14 October, It is hoped that Taylor would keep his new pledge of commitment to peace in Liberia.

15Meanwhile, the Nigerian government has expressed its displeasure with Taylor for teleguiding the politics of Liberia from his exile home in Calabar. Even so, pressure groups, including the Nigerian Union of Journalists, have threatened to take the president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to court for granting Taylor asylum in Nigeria. Their threat was over the killing of two Nigerian journalists that wentto cover the Liberian civil war in the 1°990s. Because of these threats, Taylor also considered the option of taking up asylum in South Africa where he owns property. Later he also contemplated going to Libya. However, reason prevailed on him to take the Nigerian option because the Nigerian President had given a strong warning to the international community against any undue pressure for his release. The décision against going to South Africa might be due to the likelihood of South Africa succumbing to international pressure to hand him over to the international Criminal Tribunal. The Libyan option was also not feasible because it might worsen Libya’s reputation since that country had been under UN sanctions over its support for the terrorist bombing of a US airplane in 1988.


16The Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) are the main rebel groups opposed to Charles Taylor’s presidency. They believe that Charles Taylor never won any election to rule Liberia but came to power through a special arrangement by ECOWAS. Therefore, the operability of the 1986 Constitution under Taylor’s presidency was questionable.

17Indeed, post-election gains were undermined by Taylor, necessitating the rise of new opposition on April 12.1999 when an unknown rebel group attacked Voinjama, a northern town in Lofa County. The intention of the insurgent group, according to their sources, was to remove weapons concealed in this Mandingo town during the 1996-1997 partial disarmament exercise, an exercise that Taylor did not allow ECOMOG to complete. The attack led to the death of 50 civilians while 32,000 were rendered homeless. This group was later identified as the Liberian Coalition for Reconciliation and Democracy (LCRD). Most of its actions are linked to Liberians resident in the US. The attacks spread as Taylor began to loose his stronghold around the country. Though Charles Taylor accused Guinea of supporting the rebels, he rallied his NPFL ex-combatants, with the support of Fodeh Sankoh’s Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and other armed units, to fight back the rebels who were advancing from Lofa County towards the capital, using refugees as a human shield. The LURD has not only acquired arms but has captured and maintained its stronghold in the Freeport and strategic supply routes in Monrovia.

18MODEL, a splinter of LURD, is in control of the strategic Buchanan area. They have been involved in looting, raping and intimidating innocent civilians to ensure that ECOWAS fails to deploy its forces and, even if they are deployed they may find it difficult to enforce the peace. They maintain a common ground with LURD, insisting on Charles Taylor’s exit from power. They will only stop hostilities when Taylor leaves, and they promise to hand over strategic strongholds to ECOMIL once it is in control of Monrovia. However, it is difficult to believe the rebels, for they seek relevance in their attempt to seize power or to maintain a bargaining balance in the control of state power. With the final exit of Taylor and the interposition by ECOMIL the rebels have only relocated their bases as fighting continues in the suburbs and in the counties. LURD’s leader, Conneh Conteh, has established his base in Tubmanberg, some 50 km from Monrovia. It is suspected that Liberians resident in the US the sponsored the attack. Contrary to their promises to support ECOMIL once Taylor finally exits from power, the rebels are still engaged in fighting and in the violation of human rights.


19Guinea is one of the countries bordering Liberia from the north. Its main ethnic group, the Mandingo, are also found in Liberia. In the first conflict the Liberian Mandingos had contended for power under ULIMO-K founded by Alhaji Koromah. In fact both the Mandingo and Khran ethnie groups founded ULIMO together but they parted ways and a faction came under Roosevelt Johnson. The Johnson faction became ULIMO-J. The two ULIMO factions later folded-up, after the 1997 elections. However, given Charles Taylor’s intransigence, these factions metamorphosed into LURD, with their base in Guinea. Indeed Guinea has been a buffer zone for both ULIMO-K and LURD, justifying its action by pointing to pockets of opposition in the territory traceable to Charles Taylor’s support.

20It is believed that Guinea is also involved in supplying arms to LURD. The source of some rockets fired at a residential suburb of Monrovia is being traced to Guinea. LURD is being used as cannon fodder for the protection of Guinea’s border with Liberia. The Guinean leader, Lansana Conteh, has been noted to be a rabid fighter of Taylor since the inception of the Liberian crisis for fear that Taylor may overrun his country.

The United States

  • 9 Gani Yoroms, 2003, “Impact of peace keeping on Target state and intervening states in West Africa: (...)

21Apart from the historical link the United States has with Liberia, there is no other profound connection between the two countries, whether economical and political. In the first phase of the Liberian conflict the United States paid little attention to the resolution of the crisis. In 1993 a statement from the State Department issued by Herman Cohen declared that the US was not going to send its troops to shoot at Liberians nor be shot at by Liberians. Even when the American Friends of Liberia (AFL) pleaded with the State Department to mediate in the conflict, and not necessarily by military intervention, it was clear to them that Liberia was not of vital interest to the US government as it was not ready to play the rôle of mediator in Liberia. This was the initial US declaration of non-interest in the Liberian conflict”9

  • 10 See details in T.A. Imobighe and IS Zabadi (2003). The African Crisis Response Initiative: Issues a (...)

22Thus, ECOWAS was left with the burden of resolving the conflict amidst international politics at the United Nations. It is, however, a surprising that pressure has been put on the United States lately to intervene in Liberia at a critical period in which it is contending with the death of its soldiers on Iraqi soil. Thus the US does not seem to be anxious to be committed in an intractable conflict like that of Liberia. Her experience in Somalia had show n that its participation in the resolution of conflicts in Africa should only be by proxy. This might be one of the reasons why it came up with the ACRI/ACOTA or Operation Focus Relief (OFR)10. Hence, the pressures on the US and the insistence by ECOWAS and Nigeria that they can only intervene in Liberia if funds and logistics were guaranteed are dependent on some variables that define the US interests.

23At the Dakar meeting of the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council, July 22, 2004 Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, General Martin Agwai broke the ice by promising the deployment of Nigerian troops within a week once the logistics were in place. The United States grasped the offer (as she was not willing to send her troops) by offering $10 million immediately. Earlier on the US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had, on July 27, 2004 pointed out that a US expeditionary force would only enter Liberia under a condition of ceasefire. And later it was added that if ECOWAS deployed her troops, a US amphibious task force would be dispatched to the Monrovia Coast to provide cover. The US Military Assistance Team visited Liberia, priorto any military intervention, to assess the levels of support and determine needs and strategy.

24As noted, the United States has not been enthusiastic about resolving the Liberian conflict. If any thing, it has in one way or the other, through its military assistance to Guinea, allowed arms to find their way into rebel hands. Meanwhile, what is worrisome is the careful way the United States is monitoring and measuring the progress of ECOMIL in order to claim the credit. The United States Ambassador to Liberia, John Blaney, has been seen moving about with the force commander. This is a public expression of a US presence in Liberia, though it makes no serious commitment in the deployment of troops. However, despite the brief us presence in Monrovia, the 200-man US amphibious ship deployed to Liberia in August has been recalled to the US in anticipation of the intervention of the UN multinational force by 15th October 2003.

25This action by the US itself does not augur well for the peace effort, as the UN forces have not yet been firm on ground. It is a demonstration of the fact that the US has no serious interest in Liberia, in spite of its historical connection with that country. Whatever interest it has shown is the resuit of the efforts of a few Liberians resident in the US who penetrated the State Department. Their efforts have drummed up some US interest in Liberia, in spite of the critical moment the US facing in Iraq. What the US has done in response to their efforts is to give legitimacy to their demand that Charles Taylor should leave office. It also provided some logistics and financial support for ECOMIL. However, given the attitude of the US, ECOWAS and Nigeria must begin to take the burden of regional peace keeping seriously rather than depending on extra-regional support.

Côte d’Ivoire

  • 11 For detailed analysis of the Ivorian crisis see Julie G Sanda, 2003, “The crisis in Côte d’Ivoire: (...)

26Côte d’Ivoire was the original propeller of the conflict in Liberia when it supported Charles Taylor in 1989. The splinter group of LURD, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), is currently based in the western part of Côte d’Ivoire. With the approval of MODEL, the Ivorian government allowed the French Chief of Defence Staff into the MODEL enclave. Gbagbo’s government is prompting MODEL on the grounds that Movement Patrotique de Côte d’Ivoire (MPCI) is not only connected to Biaise Campaore of Burkina Faso but also to Charles Taylor, who has supported it to topple the Abidjan government It is not unlikely that the recently uncovered coup plot in Burkina Faso is linked to the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.11 Taylor’s exit has not altered the configuration because what has happened in Monrovia was only a change of guard with Moses Blah as President.


27From the analysis so far, the formation of ECOMIL is demonstration of the failure of ECOWAS in the initial ECOMOG operation in Liberia. If this is true, it is also important to argue that ECOMIL is a redemptive measure for Nigeria/ECOWAS to right the wrong which they were accused of perpetrating in the ECOMOG operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Therefore, in doing so it is only proper to ensure that the ECOMIL intervention must be properly planned. This was the basis of the ECOWAS insistence on an enabling environment for the intervention, that is, the support from the international community for funding and logistics. Given the humanitarian crisis on the ground, it was, wrong for ECOWAS to have given in to the dictates of the United States by also demanding for an incredible conditionality: a ceasefire before sending in the West African troops Acrisis of this nature invites peace enforcement and not peace keeping. As much as the US pays the piper, the tune should not be dictated wholly without the consent of the other partners that also pay for it. This point is important in the light of what happened in Sierra Leone. Despite the overwhelming presence of the Nigerian contingent in UNAMSIL, the United Kingdom took the glory because it was able to supply the logistics.

Other European nations

28Some other European Nations played tremendous roles in exacerbating the regional conflicts in West Africa. They benefited from the resource exploitation in exchange for arms transfer to inflame the conflicts. These included diamond, iron ore and timber, among others. France benefited from these resources so much that, together with Italy, it blocked a UN resolution on arms embargo against Liberia. Ukraine is very notorious in arms transfer to the sub-region. This has contributed greatly to the spread and sustenance of the conflict.

The United Nations

29In the light of the emerging development, the United Nations has begun to show a great deal of interest in the Liberian crisis. Stakeholders are all expecting the multinational UN force in Liberia by 15th October 2003. About 50,000 UN troops are expected to replace the 3,500 ECOMIL troops. Before then, on lst October, the ECOMIL troops had replaced their caps with the UN blue berets.

30The United Nations has worked with sub-regional and regional organisations elsewhere outside Africa, especially NATO in Bosnia. It is expected also that the UN, with the support of the US, will give ECOWAS and Nigeria the moral, légal and logistics support to perfect what was not accomplished in Liberia in the initial phase of the conflict, owing to scepticism from the international community.


31There are two important factors that determine Nigeria’s geo-strategic interests in West Africa. The first is that Nigeria’s size and population must be guarded jeâlously. Therefore, any threat to her first geo-strategic interest necessarily influences the second fact, namely, that by its sheer size and population it is incumbent on her to provide leadership in the sub-region. And though Nigeria may not be a superpower, the leadership it provides makes it a leading force in the sub-region. This has informed the series of interventions by Nigeria at diplomatic, military and economic levels. ECOMOG has been sponsored by Nigeria since 1990 to the tune of N12 billion. Nigeria also lost up to 2,000 troops in the course of the exercise. Moreover, Nigeria has spent up to N8 billion from the start of the work of the ECOMIL forces in Liberia. Nigeria cannot afford to fold its arms as the regional conflict rages on.

32Since independence Nigeria has assisted other African countries in both internai and external conflicts. Those that have been supported by Nigeria in this regard are Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola South Africa, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, among others. Unfortunately, despite this assistance and support Nigeria has been faced with hostility and disdain. She has neither any influence on these countries nor has she been respected by them. It has become necessary for Nigeria, to begin to have an architectural design on how to resolve conflicts and maintain peace in the sub-region


33The issues and interests raised so far have implications for post-conflict peace building in West Africa. And in spite of sacrifices made towards resolving these conflicts they tended to remain largely unappreciated. As pointed out. Nigeria has been in the forefront, alongside other member states of ECOWAS, in managing and resolving the conflicts. Thus, while the experience of the initial intervention in Liberia and Sierra Leone through ECOMOG is still fresh in our memory, the burden ofthe second effort through ECOMIL has also been shouldered by Nigeria.

34The main contentious issue is that the peace support operations that have been undertaken in West Africa do little to reduce the effect of the conflicts, which they were expected to resolve. Thus, most of the conflicts in the region remain unresolved in spite of the enormous human and material expenses incurred. This is because the nature and character of the operations suffer from peacekeeping muddling process. It is difficult to establish the parameter for peace building when conflicts are unresolved. Even when conflicts seem to have been resolved there are severe shortages of materials and infrastructure that affect the process of peace building, either because the institutions are weak or they are non-existent. For instance, post-conflict reconstruction and peace building cannot be effectives pursued when borders are porous and small arms and light weapons find easy entry into the region.

35In the course of this peacekeeping muddling process in Liberia, the unresolved conflict has now necessitated a renewed effort through ECOMIL. In Sierra Leone, the supposedly resolved conflict is yet to be concluded, as the country is still contending with the problems of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration. In Guinea Bissau, the short intervention by ECOMOG in 1999 failed to achieve its initial purpose, and this had led to a coup in that country recently. Similarly, the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire suffered from procrastinations by ECOWAS member states, which necessitated France’s intervention. Thus, in no single conflict theatre in the sub-region has the conflict been resolved on an enduring and satisfactory basis.

36As it is now, all the efforts so far made by ECOMOG and now by ECOMIL/ UNMIL, will hardly meet the expectation of peace keeping if there is no proper understanding of the contradictions and contending issues that have thwarted the peace processes. These contradictions include the problems disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, resettlement of refugees and humanitarian issues. Other important issues include infrastructural reconstruction and recovery assistance; rebuilding the security sector; restoration of good governance; and indeed the entire processes of post -conflict reconstruction that have been neglected during and after peace-keeping operations in the sub-region. It is, therefore, imperative that a first-hand study should be undertaken on these issues in each of the countries in question, so as to illuminate post-conflict peace-building challenges and properly focus the Nigerian government’s contributions to peace building in the sub-region. There must be a concrete approach towards the capacity building of institutions for post conflict reconstruction and peace-building


  • 12 Professor Omoruyi has made some useful contribution by advocating for a comprehensive seulement in (...)

37The successful implementation of the peace process in Liberia is dependent on Nigeria. Nigeria has a leadership role in ECOWAS.12 It must be seen to be demonstrating this in West Africa. Following the Liberian crisis, Nigeria has for the past 15 years forged a peaceful coexistence in the region. However, this effort has not been properly focused on post-conflict peace building. In spite of this criticism, the second phace of the crisis should make Nigeria evaluate her role in ECOMOG and indeed in West Africa, by taking a firm stand on critical issues. Her current democratic credentials should endow her to do this.

38Given the foregoing discussion, Nigeria must take some actions, These include:

  1. A fundamental reformulation of her role in West Africa and how to position herself in the light of her national interests.

  2. Ascertaining the fundamental principles of peace missions and reflecting whether her interventions in the regional conflicts were necessary and how or what she has gained in the process, without being consumed by the obstacles militating against the peace support operation.

  3. Understanding the nature and character of the rebellion and rebel groups in Liberia that have become eternal to the logic of hostility between ethnic nationalities.

  4. Reconciling contending interests in West Africa and the influence of regional and international power blocs/Hegemons.

  5. Post conflict reconstruction of Liberia in tenus of good governance and democracy. civil society and confidence building, and

  6. Strengthening ECOWAS as a regional organ for enforcing regional peace and stability.


39Nigeria needs to take a serious and realistic interest in the sub-region. Though the realistic approach might be costly, the future reward will certainly be worth-while in view of her status in the sub-region. This is important because Liberia from all angles, is a collapsed state. It has to be reconstructed w ith support from Nigeria and the international community. Nigeria must be seen to be involved seriously in the process of post-conflict peace building in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau and the Mano river région. The case of Liberia is much more crucial because the peace in the sub-region is tied up with the outcome of the conflict in Liberia. Liberia has been at the fore in generating the premier conflict that has devastated the sub region for the last fifteen years.

40If Nigeria must be involved she must take the lead on all major decisions and actions. Nigeria started on a good note when she sent troops immediately under ECOMIL and also provided a safe exit for Charles Taylor, despite the burden that came with that singular decision. Nigeria must be seen to be doing something different by going beyond these levels.

41The concrete recommendations here include:

  1. Nigeria should, first, be seen to be involved in initiating a comprehensive post-conflict reconstruction and peace building process in Liberia which would require nothing less than 100 billion. This process may take on the pattern which Mozambique. East Timor and Cambodia went through when they were confronted w ith similar conflicts. This can be done by mobilising international support. A special national team made up of credible lobbs ists should be constituted to seek the support of the international community for a comprehensive post-conflict peace building process in Liberia. This effort will cover all spheres of Liberian national life: political, economic, social, military, humanitarian and administrative, among others. This is important if Liberia is to be restored to its past glory.

  2. Ensure that the international community considers a long period of 5-10 years of interim government in Liberia under the comprehensive post-conflict reconstruction peace process. This will mean involving various professionals that can be mobilised from West Africa and abroad to assist in the reconstruction process.

  3. The National War College should be tasked to carry out a comprehensive research on ECOMOG/ ECOMIL operations and the post-conflict reconstruction and peace building with which Nigeria has been involved since the start of the crisis. It is important for the government and people of Nigeria to properly appreciate the sacrifice being made in regional peace and security in West Africa. The National War College occupies a central position in West Africa as a regional training institute for the strategic level of command. It certainly should provide a guide for policy in the sub-region.


42In sum, this paper attempts to create a deeper understanding of the regional conflict in West Africa in the minds of stakeholders. This is done by properly putting the contending issues and interests in perspective. The pivot of the discussion is that Nigeria has its geo-strategic interests at stake in the West African sub-region. The security of the region is tied to Nigeria’s geo-strategic (security) interest. Hence, whatever happens in the sub-region definitely affects Nigeria’s economy, security, politics and foreign policy. Although Nigeria’s domestic economy is too overstretched to take care of the regional concerns, nevertheless Nigeria’s domestic interests are tied up to her regional security interests. To meet these challenges, peace and security in Liberia, and indeed the entire sub-region, are paramount.


1 Yoroms Gani and Aning, Emmanuel, 1997, “West African Regional Security in the post Liberian conflict Era: Issues and Perspective”. COR Working papers No. 97.7.

2 See The ECOWAS Ministerial Mediation and Security Meeting. Dakar. Senegal July 22nd, 2002.

3 Festus B. Aboagye, 1999, ECOMOG: A Sub-regional Experience in Conflict Management and Peace keeping in Liberia. Sedco, Accra, Ghana.

4 ECOWAS Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace Keeping, and Security, ECOWAS Secrétariat. Abuja.

5 The Deputy Executive Secretary General of ECOWAS General Diara made this explanation at the Round Table Workshop on the Liberian conflict held at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Abuja, August 14, 2003 when the author raised the issue with him.

6 Professor Jinmi Adisa used the phrase ‘the ‘burden of community spirit’ to explain Nigeria’s commitment in ECOWAS. See his work, The politics of Regional Military Cooperation: The case of ECOMOG in M. A. Vogt (ed) The Liberian Crisis and ECOMOG: a Bold Attempt at Regional Peace keeping. Lagos. Gabomo Press.


8 Ibid.

9 Gani Yoroms, 2003, “Impact of peace keeping on Target state and intervening states in West Africa: The Case of Liberia and the Nigerian-led ECOMOG/ECOMIL in Liberia”, paper presented at the Round-Table on the Liberian Conflict held at the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. Abuja 14th August.

10 See details in T.A. Imobighe and IS Zabadi (2003). The African Crisis Response Initiative: Issues and Perspectives, National War College, Abuja.

11 For detailed analysis of the Ivorian crisis see Julie G Sanda, 2003, “The crisis in Côte d’Ivoire: Implications for Nigeria”, Lecture delivered to the Participants of National War College. Course 11.19th February.

12 Professor Omoruyi has made some useful contribution by advocating for a comprehensive seulement in the post conflict reconstruction in Liberia. See “On the Second involvement in Liberia”. Letter to President Olusegun Obasanjo, July 2003.

Notes de fin

1 Centre for Peace Research and Conflict Resolution, National War College, Abuja.


© IFRA-Nigeria, 2005

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