Challenges faced by ecowas in managing the liberian conflict. » Download Project Topics

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1.1       Background of the Study

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional economic community set up in 1975 for the purpose of economic integration and the purpose of raising the standard of living of its people.

From the foregoing, it is apparent that the founders of ECOWAS never contemplated the nature of security challenges that would confront the sub-region in the international politics of the late 1980s and 1990s. Thus, the original treaty focused on the issues of “Settlement of Disputes” which they envisaged could arise from the interpretation of application of the Treaty and not as a result of deadly Internal Conflicts. (Joseph 2014:108).

The realization of the impossibility of achieving economic integration in an environment laden with security challenges prompted the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government to sign the Protocol on Non Aggression in 1979. To further state its readiness for not just collective reliance, but also collective security, the ECOWAS highest authority signed the protocol relating to Mutual Assistance in Defence into Force in Freetown in May, 1981. Though the protocol was more elaborate than the Protocol on Non-Aggression, it was legally and logistically powerless in the face of serious internal conflicts. The institutions provided for in this protocol were never established (Khobe: 2004).

As a result of the Liberian crisis the efforts made by the Protocol relating to Mutual Assistance in Defence was rendered inadequate. Under the circumstance of the Liberian conflict – the stability of the sub-region became threatened and its character did not fall under the 1981 protocol. According to (Golwa in Joseph 2014:109).

As a matter of conjecture, one could say that the community at the time of formation did not envisage the nature of the threat and conflict which engulfed the sub-region. Therefore priority was given more to issues of economic integration to the detriment of peace building or conflict management.

ECOWAS was however forced to rise up to the occasion to establish a Standing Mediation Committee in May, 1990. It was under these auspices of the ECOWAS Standing Mediation Committee that ECOMOG was established.

The S.M.C. met in Banjul, Gambia and agreed to send a military force named Economic Community of West African States monitoring group. ECOMOG was empowered to restore law and order and to create the necessary conditions for free and fair elections. It was also given the mandate to extend its stay in Liberia if necessary, until an elected government was installed. (Kabia 2011:4).

This research attempts to examine the politics rationale and objective of ECOMOG operations in Liberia and evaluates the performance and challenges that were faced by the organization in resolving the Liberian conflict.



1.2       Statement of Problem

The Economic Community of West African States is a sub-regional organization of fifteen West African countries established in 1975 for the purpose of economic integration and development in all fields of economic activity and raising the standards of living of its people.

The 1975 ECOWAS treaty provided no security role for the sub-regional organization. As a result of conflict and political instability in several member-states, ECOWAS realized that economic development cannot be achieved in the absence of peace and stability and with time has evolved a mechanism for conflict prevention and management.

Expanding its objective to include security responsibilities, the organization is likely to have faced some challenges that will have adverse effect on its operation as none of the sixty five articles of the treaty alluded the duties of defence and security on its establishment. Thus this research work will attempt to give answers to the following question.

  1. What were the propelling factors that motivated the decision of ECOWAS to intervene in the Liberian conflict?
  2. Taking into consideration the original objective of ECOWAS is the proper mechanism for addressing conflict situation in the West African sub-region.
  3. What were the challenges faced by ECOWAS in managing the conflict in Liberia.


1.3       Objectives of the Study

The objective of this work is as follows:

  1. To examine the reasons for the involvement of ECOWAS in the Liberian conflict through the ECOMOG mechanism.
  2. To investigate whether ECOWAS is the appropriate mechanism for conflict management in the West African sub-region.
  3. To examine the challenges faced by ECOWAS in managing the Liberian Conflict.


1.4       Research Questions

Was ECOMOG the appropriate tool for engaging the conflict situation in Liberia? The research work will attempt to give answer to the following question:

  1. What were the propelling factors that motivated the decision of ECOWAS to intervene in the Liberian conflict?
  2. Taking into consideration the original objective of ECOWAS is the proper mechanism for addressing conflict situation in the West African sub-region?
  3. What were the challenges faced by ECOWAS in managing the conflict in Liberia?



1.5 Theoretical Framework

For the purpose of this research work, the structural conflict theory and human need theory is employed. The management and resolution of conflict as one of the aims of ECOWAS, can be effectively arrived at with the application of this theories

The Structural Conflict Theory

This theory has two main sub-orientation. The first is the radical structural theory represented by the Marxist dialectical school with exponent like Marx, Engels and V.I. Lenin, etc. The second is the liberal structuralism represented by Ross Scarborough and Johan Galtung (1990) on structural violence. The main argument of the structural conflict theory is that conflict is built into the particular ways societies are structured and organized. The theory looks at social problems like political and economic exclusion, injustice poverty, disease, exploitation inequity, etc. as sources of conflict. Structuralism maintains that conflict occur as a result of the exploitative and unjust nature of human societies, domination of one class by another due to the structure and organization of society. This explains the root causes of the Liberian Civil War, the root causes of the Liberian Civil War are systematic inequity between the ruling elite and the majority indigenous population tribal allegiance and intertribal conflict, pervasive corruption were factors that led to the collapse of the Liberian State.

The theory addresses the reaction of individual to social change (Faleti, 2006). It operates on the basis that conflict can be resolved by the elimination of structural defects with policy reforms as stated by the liberal structuralist, this explains the involvement of ECOWAS and its Ceasefire Monitoring Group as a third party in the conflict to restore peace because at the height of crisis the conflicting parties cannot reason to bring about policy reforms. The Marxist sees the outbreak of revolution and civil war as a means to end contradictions that is they believe that the contradictions between warring parties will end in a revolution, civil war or some form of violence leading to the overthrow of the exploitative system. This explains the outbreaks of the Liberian Civil War.

The Human Needs Theory

This theory operates on the premise that a precondition for the resolution of conflict is that fundamental human needs be met. Its main assumption is that all human needs which they seek to fulfill and that the denial and frustration of these needs by other groups or individuals could affect them immediately or later thereby leading to conflict (Rosati, et al 1990).

The human needs theorist over time has identified some of these needs which cause conflict. Maslow in his motivation and personally need identified physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love, esteem and self actualization.

Burton (1979:72) lists response, stimulation, security recognition, distributive justice meaning need to appear rational and develop rationality, need for sense of control and the need for role defence. Azar (1994) identified needs like security, distinctive identity social recognition of identity and effective participation in the process that shape such identities. Burton identified a link between frustration which forces humans into acts of aggression and the need on the part of such individuals to satisfy their basic needs and because of this they are forced to react against the factors groups and institutions that they see as being responsible for threatening such needs.

Human needs for survival, protection, affection, understanding, participation, creativity and identity that are shared by all people are irrepressible and according to Burton, have components/needs for recognition, identity, security, autonomy and bonding with others) that are not easy to give up).

No matter, how much a political or social system tries to frustrate or suppress these needs, it will either flair or cause far more damage in the long run. Gurr (1970) believes that the tension between deprivation and potential are main issues addressed by the human needs theory because when important needs are not sufficiently satisfied economic and political problems will grow.

Needs theorist agree to the fact that frustrations of these needs hamper the actualization of the potentials of groups subsequently leading to conflicts.

For ECOWAS to effectively resolve conflict within its sphere of operation, the needs of the people have to be met with appropriate satisfier, those things that were defined them in the first instance.

1.6       Research Methodology

A qualitative methodology was used in the conduct of this research, qualitative research examines a problem through information collected from several sources including primary and secondary materials, which constitute the date important to the study.

The major source of information that would be employed in the research is the library research survey which consists of secondary source of data collection. This would involve textbooks, journals and internet articles.

To conduct this study, a historical approach would be the primary method employed. Historical, because the study shall examine the fundamental factors that informed the ECOWAS. ECOMOG operation in Liberia and also the challenges encountered by the organization.

1.7       Significance of Study

The finding of this study is significant in the sense that it highlights the importance of the external intervention-intervention by a sub-regional organization.

It would provide an in-depth understanding of the nature and consequences of the politics surround ECOWAS and its intervention in the Liberia crisis.

1.8       Scope and Limitation of Study

The scope of this research work focuses on the role of ECOWAS in resolving conflict in Liberia from 1990 – 1997. This work will give direction to the evolution of ECOMOG operation in Liberia, the challenges encountered by the organization, finally the evaluation of ECOWAS-ECOMOG performances in Liberia.

In carrying out this research, the study was initially faced with limited literatures and finance poses a constraint in carrying out the research.


Azar, E., (1994). Protract International Conflict: Ten Preposition in Rabie M. Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity, London; Praeger.

Burton, J., (1979). Deviance, Terrorism and War: The Process of Solving Unsolved Social and Political Problems, London: Macmillan.

Faleti, S.A., (2006). Termination of Protracted Social Conflicts in Africa: Victory or Consociation? In 1.0 Albert, (ed.) Perspectives on Peace and Conflict in Africa, Ibadan: John Achers Publishers Ltd.

Gurr, T.R., (1970). Why Men Rebel, Princeton: Price University Press.

Gaya, S.B., (ed.) (2006). Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies in West Africa. Ibadan: Spectrum Books Ltd.

Johan, G (1990). Cultural Violence: Journal of Peace Research.

Joseph A.O. (2014). The Phenomenon of Ambiguous Mandate in Conflict Management: An Analysis of ECOMOG Intervention in the Liberian Civil War. British Journal of Arts and Sciences Vol. 16(11).

Khobe, M.M. (2004). The Evolution and Control of ECOMOG Operations in West Africa http/www.isscoza/pubs/monograph IN044/ECOMOG html.

Kieh, G.K. (1994). “The Obstacles to the Peaceful Resolution of the Liberian Civil Conflict”. Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. Vol. 22(1)

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