The Role of Nigeria in ECOMOG. Nigeria has played a very vital role in the West African sub region as an active member. This article is aimed at revealing the role of Nigeria in ECOMOG.
ECOMOG stands for the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group. It is an off shoot of ECOWAS which is the Economic Community of West African States.
The initial move to form a union of West African countries dates back to 1945 when the CFA Franc was introduced as a singular currency to be used within the francophone West African Sub Region. It was not until 1965 that an agreement proposed by the then Liberian president William Tubman was signed, creating the union. This initial agreement was signed by Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
ECOWAS as it is known today was formed following the 1975 treaty that was signed in Lagos, Nigeria. This new treaty was a result of the commitment and vision of then Nigerian Head of State General Yakubu Gowon and Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo.
From the onset, the main purpose of ECOWAS has been to foster interstate economic and political cooperation between member states.
ECOWAS consists of 15 member countries. They are; Republic of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’ Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Togo. Across the ECOWAS region, three major colonial languages are spoken. These are English, French and Portuguese.
The present chairman of ECOWAS is Macky Sall of Senegal while the speaker of the ECOWAS parliament is Ike Ekweremadu of Nigeria.
As earlier stated, ECOMOG is an off shoot of ECOWAS. ECOMOG is basically the military arm of ECOWAS. The first defence agreement in the ECOWAS region was formed on the 29th of May 1981 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. It was called the Allied Armed Force of the Community (AAFC).
However, with the outbreak of the deadly civil war in Liberia, the English Speaking members (Nigeria, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea and Sierra Leone) of ECOWAS came together to form ECOMOG on the 7th of August, 1990 with Lieutenant General Arnold Quainoo of Ghana as its first force commander.
Its major aim was to end the Liberian civil war and bring peace to the country.
Since the formation of ECOMOG Nigeria has always played a very vital role in the various peacekeeping operations of the group.
The various contributions made by Nigeria to ECOMOG operations are as follows
In the thick of the first Liberian civil war, Nigeria mobilised other Anglophone West African countries to form the ECOMOG which then came together to bring peace to Liberia. But for the intervention of ECOMOG, the civil war which lasted from 1990 – 1996 would have been more deadly and would have resulted in more extensive destruction and massacre of innocent civilians. Nigeria invested large sums of money and also sent in military men and women to quell the conflict.
At the peak of the conflict, there were about 16,000 ECOMOG troops in Liberia, of which 75% – 80% of them were Nigerian soldiers. After the successful peace mission, an election was held which brought Charles Taylor to power.
Unfortunately, in 1999, Liberia descended into another civil war. Nigeria had to step in again through the ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL). This military contingent had soldiers from Nigeria, Mali and Senegal. They were led by Nigerian officer, Brigadier General Festus Okonkwo.
In a further attempt to bring peace to Liberia, Nigeria offered to provide asylum for President Charles Taylor, in order for him to resign from office and allow peace to reign in Liberia.
Nigeria paid a heavy price for stepping into Liberia. Apart from the huge financial resources expended during the war (about 8 billion dollars), it is estimated that Nigeria lost about 500 soldiers in these conflicts.
The Sierra Leone civil war was a spill over from the Liberian affair. It started as a result of the attempt by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group to overthrow President Tejan Kabbah. This group was largely funded by Liberian President Charles Taylor.
The invasion of Sierra Leone by the RUF brought about the indiscriminate killing and maiming of civilians. Again, the international community hesitated to step in, but Nigeria did not shy away from her responsibility as a regional powerhouse.
Nigerian troops stepped in and within a short while were able to chase the rebel army away from overrunning the capital city. With the intervention of the Nigerian troops, peace returned to Sierra Leone.
Like in Liberia, Nigeria also paid heavily to bring peace to Sierra Leone. Apart from the fact that Nigeria shouldered about 70 % (about 4 billion dollars) of the cost of the ECOMOG operation, the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook said that about 700 Nigerian soldiers were killed in Sierra Leone during the war.
Ever since the first ECOMOG mission in Liberia and subsequently Sierra Leone, Nigeria has been a major contributor of arms, ammunition, and men to the success of peace keeping in the West African sub region.
The commitment of Nigeria to these peace keeping missions has ensured that there is relative peace and stability in the region. Take for instance the conflict that came up as a result of the general elections in Cote d’ Ivoire. Nigeria through ECOMOG played a significant role to make sure that it did not escalate into a full blown war.
Criticisms have trailed the role played by Nigeria during its various ECOMOG peace missions. One of such is that ECOMOG intervention in the first Liberian civil war ultimately led to a prolonged conflict where numerous civilians lost their lives needlessly. Also, some people criticise the intervention as not being able to prevent Charles Taylor from ascending to the presidency in Liberia.
Some others also accuse the Nigerian led ECOMOG of trying to prop up an unpopular and corrupt government in Sierra Leone. Coupled with this, ECOMOG troops have been accused of partaking in human rights abuses in both Sierra Leone and Liberia.