With the narrative of Humanitarian Intervention and its Responsibility to Protect (R2P) thesis virtually in ruins following the quick attack on it as Humanitarian Imperialism, the question of how regional interventions fare becomes very crucial in conflict infested Africa. This context makes Dr. Chris Kwaja’s recently published paper inviting for those who should constantly be reflecting on peace throughout the multiply troubled African continent. There has been a shift from the conflict typified by breakdown of central authority in Liberia nearly three decades ago to more diffuse wars nowadays, that does not make reflections on the early variants of disorder any less important. This is more so that Dr Kwaja is one of the few properly groomed scholars of Peace and Conflict Studies in a field dominated by migrants from other fields, many of who suffer from a problem-solving affliction to the detriment of Historicism.
The 2017 paper in the NUST Journal of International Peace and Stability (Vol. 1, No. 1) and titled “The Role of Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS) in Post-Conflict Rehabilitation: Lessons from Liberia”, splashes the claim that ECOMOG/ECOWAS was a success story, linking this to how the force shifted its mandate from peacekeeping to peace enforcement and peace-making as developments on the ground dictated, sustaining this shift by turning to regional, (OAU) and international (UN) initiatives in the face of limitations of such shift, all of that resting substantially on a sub-regional consensus on the inevitability of common security mechanism by the states involved.
Those who get to read the paper would see the attempt at demonstrating the truth of this claim with more claims, such as the one that the ‘Comprehensive Peace Agreement’ (CPA) of 2003 made ECOWAS a catalyst for peace because it presented an opportunity “for the transition of Liberia from one that severed serious dislocation to one that is peaceful and stable”. This is hinged on how it is argued to have provided clear-cut direction on the responsibilities of ECOWAS in defining the future of Liberia in the aftermath of years of violent conflicts via issues such as reform of the security sector, electoral reform, strengthening of governance and political institutions, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration among others.
Although the author recognized the 2003 Resolution 1509 of the United Nations Security Council which provided the legal and political framework for the design and implementation of the security sector reform, (SSR), as a core component of the CPA in Liberia, he did not forget to remind us of the recognition for “the strategic role of ECOWAS towards the success of the SSR process in the country” and, therefore, the leading role of ECOWAS as far as cessation of hostility and the signing of the CPA. (p. 59).
The rest of the essay goes on to give us details of how ECOWAS could afford to march confidently and score goals where richer or older regional organisations are still tip-toeing, too scared to dare. The list includes monitoring of elections, co-operation with civil society, the UN and ECOWAS as an inter-agency spectacle, the ECOWAS Early Warning System and the ECOWAS Moratorium on the Import, Export and Manufacture of Small Arms and Light Weapons. Dr Kwaja’s attention to these technical dimensions of the ECOWAS intervention is a major strength of his academic effort in this paper because they demonstrate the practical sides of seductive concepts about which many are still lost in how they are applied.
He goes further to speak of lessons learnt, listing such lessons as ECOMOG as a Model for Stabilization; a Test Case for Regional Security Mechanism; Successful Reconciliation; Shared commitment of Supra and Regional Organisations and Regional Cooperation as a Foundation for Peace, Security and Stability.
It is a celebration of ECOWAS intervention in Liberia as a pioneering attempt by a regional organization when it comes to putting into effect a mechanism for responding to complex emergency, relying “solely on its own human and material resources in its intervention in Liberia”. Many would challenge such an assertion but certainly not his echoing of those who insist that it was the first time in the history of Peace Support Operations (PSOs) that the United Nations deployed a military observer mission to support a regional force that was already on the ground” in line with the cry for ‘burden sharing between the United Nations and regional security actors.
ECOMOG in Liberia might have started fading from memories in the face of more dreadful space of violence that Africa is emerging into but those who watched the 1989 Christmas Eve drama play out would certainly find this paper worthwhile in many respects. Some conflict analysts would pick quarrel with Dr. Kwaja’s representation of ECOWAS as a ‘sovereign’ actor in particular. It is, however, possible that his elaborate backgrounding might pacify such critics. The long and short of it is how an ECOMOG force with membership drawn from Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone was put in place in August 1990 amidst the devastating effect of anarchy. The mandate of ECOMOG in Liberia included:
- Creation of a 30 kilometre free zone around Monrovia, the capital of Liberia;
- Enforcement of ceasefire among the factions and ensure compliance;
- Reporting of violations to the ECOWAS Secretariat;
- Separation of the warring factions by creating buffer zones between them; and
- Disarming and encampment of the warring factions to facilitate peaceful resolution of the crisis.
The author attributes to the 2006 United Nations Common Country Assessment some of the key conflict dynamics in the outbreak of violence in Liberia in terms of misuse of power, weak justice system, lack of a shared national vision, poverty and food insecurity, mismanagement of natural resources as well as regional dynamics relating to dynamics of conflicts in the Manu River Union. In other words, there were structural causes of the conflict which were deeply rooted in the country’s history and the gross inequities in the distribution of power and resources inherent in that history, aggravated by the reliance on violence to realize economic and political objectives, (P. 56). With a security architecture subsequently assuming the character of the fault lines, it was bound to be a case of war foretold. By the security architecture is meant the Armed Forces of Liberia (ALF), the Liberia National Police (LNP), National Security Agency (NSA), Ministry of National Security (MNS), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Special Security Services (SSS), Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization (BIN), Bureau of Customs and Excise (BCE), National Fire Service (NFS), and Monrovia City Police as at the time.
The point about this paper might thus be no more than the imperative of looking at governance as a definitive element in the search for peace across Africa in the search for a better and more secure future.