Peacekeeping: June 7, 2003

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Next week, five African presidents will meet the leaders of the world's most industrialized countries at the G8 summit in France to try and persuade them that Africa is serious about sorting out its problems by itself. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) leaders from the 15-nation bloc vowed to do more to head off conflict in their region and to activate standby units to set up a regional rapid response force. Their first step was a commitment to triple the size of their peacekeeping force currently in the Ivory Coast, where a little over 1,000 ECOMOG peacekeepers were working alongside 3,000 French peacekeepers and a small UN liaison officer team.

The question is, are the ECOMOG troops up to the task? The West African ECOMOG peacekeeping mission was first deployed in Liberia back in 1990, to stop fighting in the capital Monrovia. The ECOMOG force's role became controversial when it effectively became a faction itself in the war, stopping warlord Charles Taylor's forces from entering the capital. Then Nigerian commanders began cooperating with Taylor, when it was clear he was the major force in the country. 

On May 25 1997, Major Johnny Paul Koroma led a military coup against the democratically-elected government and President Kabbah fled into exile in Guinea. Intervention by the ECOMOG forces failed to remove Koroma from power, but at the time their action was supported by both the UN and the Organization of African Unity (OAU). 

Ultimately, ECOMOG`s success was less in peacekeeping and more in shooting the place up. The Liberian fighting may well have been more prolonged and heavy because they did intervene. The ECOMOG operation became an ambiguous exercise in attrition, sustained by Nigeria's willingness to accept heavy material costs (around 500 dead and $8 billion). There were also numerous alleged incidents of corruption (including the sale of American-supplied fuel intended for ECOMOG vehicles) hence the local joke that ECOMOG was an acronym for "Every Car or Moveable Object Gone". - Adam Geibel

For additional reading on ECOMOG, check out the South African-based Institute for Security Studies treatise "The Evolution and Conduct of ECOMOG Operations in West Africa", online at:

http://www.iss.co.za/Pubs/Monographs/No44/ECOMOG.html


 


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