Forewords to the ECOMOG Experience

Foreword to First Edition, by Amb James Victor Gbeho, Former Minister for Foreign Affairs

I am most grateful to Colonel Festus Aboagye (Rtd) for honouring me with the invitation to author the foreword to this very detailed account of the seven-year Liberian civil war, the commendable initiative of ECOWAS and the splendid performance of ECOMOG. I accepted to do so for many reasons.

In the first place, when the war started in December 1989 and saw the intervention of ECOMOG later in 1990, I had no definite position on the matter as I had just returned to Ghana, after many years as Ghana’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, with no immediate responsibility for Liberian affairs. Even when I was myself involved subsequently in the equally problematic Somalia conflict as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN, little did I expect that five years after the Liberian conflict had started, I would become directly involved in finding a solution to the intractable quagmire of Liberia.

Secondly, when I found myself in the role of the Special Representative of the Chairman of ECOWAS, held by Ghana between 1995 and 1996, little did I suspect that I would be brought face to face with the most unacceptable and challenging manifestation and nature of violent conflict in the West African sub-region. My thoughts and feelings have been under strain since the conflicts and civil wars. I am happy, therefore, that someone has undertaken to write about the management of the conflict in Liberia.

Looking back on those years, I feel gratified that the peace process made considerable political progress during the period that I served in Liberia under Ghana’s leadership of ECOWAS. If I had any illusions at the beginning of my tenure about a speedy resolution of the conflict, however, I was soon reminded on arrival that the Liberian conflict had no quick cure. It instead required the full and committed attention of the main parties to the conflict on the one hand and the facilitators on the other. The perseverance of the facilitators in the sub-region helped to resolve the Liberian civil war by the successful holding of elections in July 1997 and the subsequent inauguration of a democratically elected government under the leadership of Charles Taylor in August of the same year.

This success story was after an estimated 150,000 Liberians, and other nationals had been killed under primitive conditions, and another 700,000 displaced as refugees or internally displaced persons under challenging circumstances. Besides, there was the considerable destruction of an already decaying Liberian infrastructure while the whole war drained the limited resources of ECOWAS member states.

As I perused the manuscript of this book—The ECOMOG Experience—I appreciated even more, in retrospect, the tortuous path that ECOWAS treaded in its determination to deal effectively with the Liberian civil war through its novel concept of regional intervention. Indeed, Liberia presented enormous social, economic, political, diplomatic and military challenges to the West African Community. The whole experience brought to the fore the exponential growth inherent in domestic conflict, as well as the complexity of intra-state conflicts. It is more so in Africa, given the multiplicity of ethnic groups and the conflicting external interests in a region that was otherwise perceived until recently to be of little global economic and strategic importance.

The conflict betrayed how ill-prepared ECOWAS was for military engagements to protect the economic wealth that the Community seeks to create. As far back as almost a decade, it had foreseen the need for such an intervention and made provisions for it in the Revised Treaty, under the Protocol Relating to Mutual Assistance on Defence Matters (1981). Even then, political pundits would argue, however, that this was a provision for dealing with external attacks, not domestic conflicts. On the contrary, though, it showed how fragile the Community was, under the all-too-real influence of Euro-linguistic pressures and tendencies. It was also painful that because the Community had to rely on external funding assistance that came in trickles and with conditionalities, a speedy and sustained resolution of the conflict was nearly impossible.

These realities, by and large, underscored my readiness and willingness to author the foreword to a book that I consider very well researched and dispassionately written by Colonel Festus B Aboagye (Rtd), then in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. His professional approach to operations in Liberia, where he was Commanding Officer of ECOMOG Ghanbatt 13, and where I got to know him, not only constituted a model in peacekeeping, as I observed it but also qualifies him immensely for the analysis he undertook. I share many of the views and opinions expressed by him, particularly his belief that there are serious lessons to be learned from the seven-year Liberian war that indeed replicated many aspects of the Congo crisis in 1960-64. To this, I would add the lessons to be learned from the on-going conflict in Somalia.

I am hopeful that those who read this book will not only find it enlightening but very useful. I, therefore, recommend it to those who are directly and indirectly involved in peacekeeping as a mechanism for conflict resolution anywhere but especially in Africa. This group of clients includes officials of Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the officers and men of the profession of arms, especially commanders and staff, who may find themselves in the fields of military intervention, and academics whose collaborative studies contribute to the development of concepts and capacities for international conflict resolution.

Last but by no means least, I hope that many of our political leadership in Africa who read this book will be convinced by the wisdom of the leadership of ECOWAS. This wisdom re-echoed, as it were, the vision of President Kwame Nkrumah of always “finding African solutions to African problems.”

Foreword to Second Edition, by Mohamed Ibn Chambas, PhD, SRSG, Former Conflict Adviser

Like Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, who authored the foreword to the first edition of the book, I feel honoured for the invitation to author an additional foreword to the second edition of the book. I have known and interacted with Colonel Festus Aboagye (Rtd) over many years, especially during my involvement in the ECOWAS mediation efforts in the Liberian civil war in my capacities as Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and as Executive Secretary of the ECOWAS Commission.

As a result of his keen interest in research and writing on peace and conflict, notably peacekeeping, I had opportunities of meeting him and participating in seminars organised by him at the African Peace Support Trainers Association (APSTA). This dates to when I was Joint Special Representative for Darfur and Head of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), and in my current capacity as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).

I share the vision of Colonel Aboagye in the need for a second edition to this all-important book. There is no doubt that the ECOWAS initiative in 1990 to intervene in the conflict in Liberia marked a watershed period in the evolution of the Community and its role within the international community. Given my roles in various positions having to deal with matters of sub-regional and international peace and security, I naturally take a keen interest in the issues examined in the second edition of the book on ECOMOG. I am particularly pleased to note the focus of the second edition on the broader analysis of the causal explanations and dynamics of the first civil war, as well as the second civil war. More so, while maintaining the clarity of the narrative of the first edition, the second edition expands its coverage to the second civil war, which was closer on the horizon from as early as 1999 until 2003.

This edition also provides a comparatively broader contextualisation of the contribution of the ECOWAS experiment on two dimensions. First the establishment of institutions to gravitate the Organisation towards a security community, with enhanced mechanisms for conflict prevention, management, and resolution. An excellent example of such policy development is the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, which was signed in Lomé, Togo, in December 1999, in the immediate aftermath of the Liberian civil war.

Another example is the establishment of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF)in 2008, among others. More broadly, it is also expected that these would contribute to meeting the expectations of peaceful change for the peoples of ECOWAS.

Further, it underscores the contribution of that experiment towards norm building around such thematic issues as humanitarian interventions, protection of civilians and the responsibility to protect, as well as the problems of transitional justice. These are significant normative issues that, among other things, were informed by the Liberian conflict and the ECOWAS response, and which continue to engage the attention of the international community in the domain of international conflict resolution.I am convinced that the importance of the second edition lies in the recognition of the threat and impact of national and sub-regional conflicts to global security and the tenuous conflict resolution efforts by ECOWAS and the international community.

I have vivid memories of the efforts that ECOWAS and other partners deployed in managing the conflicts in the Mano River Union area. Indeed, I have a sense of gratification that all these efforts contributed to creating the conditions for further peacebuilding work, including by the office that I now hold. UNOWAS is building upon this by working closely with ECOWAS and other regional actors to consolidate peace and democratic governance in countries emerging from conflict or political crises in West Africa and the Sahel.

Having read the manuscript of the second edition of the book, ECOMOG, a Sub-Regional Experience, I have observed the marked difference in the depth of research for updating the content, the inclusion of additional key thematic issues and the qualitative nature of the analysis. These aspects, among others, convince me about the contribution of the book to knowledge and understanding of contemporary conflicts, and how they continue to inform the discourse around international conflict resolution. I remain hopeful that the readership of the book, including policy practitioners, academia, and military and other security professionals, will find the material educational, inspiring, and useful for personal and professional development.

Last but by no means least, I would like to reiterate the view expressed by Ambassador James Victor Gbeho in 1999, that many of our political leadership in Africa who read this book will be convinced by the wisdom of the leadership of ECOWAS. This wisdom continues to resonate, as it were, with the vision of Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President, of always “finding African solutions to African problems.”

Read Statements at the Book Launch…

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