Collective Insecurity: The Liberian Crisis, Unilateralism, and Global Order

Article excerpt

Ikechi Mgbeoji

Vancouver: UBC Press, 2003, xiv, 186pp, $80.00 cloth, ISBN: 0-7748-1036-X, $24.95 paper, ISBN 0-7748-1037-8 (July 2004)

In recent times, west Africa has come to represent one of the most explosive regions on the African continent. Indeed, the scale of the twin scourges of civil war and ethnic conflict in west Africa is overwhelming. Nowhere is such a state of affairs best epitomized than Liberia, which has seen a civil war wreak havoc since December 1989. In Collective Insecurity: The Liberian Crisis, Unilateralism, and Global Order, Ikechi Mgbeoji advances our understanding of the Liberian civil war, and of the efforts by west African countries, through the Cease-fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) of the Economic Community of west African States (ECOWAS), to deal with it. Employing historical analysis as well as theories of international law, Mgbeoji notes that while African countries have played their part in escalating regional conflicts, the role of western powers cannot be downplayed. He suggests that the main cause of political instability in contemporary west Africa remains the colonial legacy, particularly the Berlin Conference of 1884, which formally partitioned Africa among western powers and led to the creation of nation-states through the arbitrary drawing of national boundaries. In addition, Mgbeoji argues that the disruption of the continent's political evolution and the mutilation of pre-colonial African structures and institutions laid the basis for modern crises afflicting the continent.

It is in this vein that Mgbeoji suggests various courses of action to ensure the stability of countries such as Liberia. The first is the need for a reconstructed regime of African statehood based on the doctrine of self-determination. More importantly, Mgbeoji calls for the creation of a Pan-African organization based on a transnational federation of African peoples and nations. The second is the structural rearrangement of the African polity to provide for the legitimate governance of African people. To this end, Mgbeoji calls for culturally responsive modes of governance, that is, the revitalization and revisiting of traditional methods of legitimate governance to which African people themselves can relate. This should entail a process where, besides participating in competitive democratic elections, African citizens can also rely on a clearly established rule of law to influence decisions that affect their daily lives. …