Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

Roles of the Economic Community of West African States in the Struggle against Insurgencies in Mali and Nigeria: A Critical Review

Academic journal article Eastern Africa Social Science Research Review

Roles of the Economic Community of West African States in the Struggle against Insurgencies in Mali and Nigeria: A Critical Review

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) initially focused on economic cooperation and subsequently assumed broader political and security functions. These security functions run the gamut of the raison d'etre of the Community ranging from providing forums for confidence building with little institutionalisation to entrenching collective security. ECOWAS was established in 1975 by West African states as part of their strategy aimed at promoting economic development and prosperity for the respective member countries. Following widespread conflict and instability in the sub-region in the 1990s and early 2000s, the leaders realised that economic prosperity couldn't be achieved in the absence of peace and security. Beginning with a process that led to the adoption of nascent security protocols in 1978, the region has currently developed and institutionalised elaborate conflict resolution, peacekeeping and security mechanisms (ECOWAS 1978). Even before ECOWAS began to pose as a security community, several scholarly works showed that ECOWAS is a 'nascent security community' (Kabia 2011; Dokken 2002; Nathan 2006; Neethling 2003). This claim has prompted serious debates among scholars in the ECOWAS region (Dokken 2002). Supposing that the claims made in the aforementioned publications that ECOWAS is indeed a nascent security community are correct, a reasonable question would be whether ECOWAS is actually in the process of becoming a security community in the full theoretical sense.

The main goal of a security community is to provide transnational peace and political stability within a region. However, armed border conflicts between neighbouring ECOWAS member countries emerge periodically due to unsettled territorial claims. The recent border conflicts between Ivory Coast and Guinea about the Kpeaba village area (near Sipilou (Siquita)) and Nigeria and Benin over several villages near the Okpara River are evidence of this (Cham 2012). Furthermore, in nearly half of the ECOWAS member states, there are ongoing armed insurgencies against the respective central governments. Due to a lack of coordination and cooperation, ECOWAS member states failed to take concerted actions against transnational insurgents. Establishing a security community provides an opportunity to anticipate security challenges and arms races between member states. Nonetheless, the historical mistrust between most of the ECOWAS member states is hardly fading since antagonisms and stereotypes, such as the colonial influence of the member states, are still used in political propaganda and feature in daily life. Moreover, distrust between government officials is aroused by the increasing arms purchases of several ECOWAS member states. Instead of mutual collaboration and integration dealing with security issues, there are only bilateral agreements between some member states. Rarely any multilateral agreement exists dealing with security issues. The aforementioned security issues suggest the lack of cooperation, efficiency, and willingness at the decision-making level of the respective member states to fully implement security cooperation within ECOWAS. In addition, sensitive civil-military relations as well as lack of political accountability in West African states pose obstacles to efforts for deepening transnational cooperation. In light of these and other inherent and generic problems among ECOWAS member states, this article questions the viability of ECOWAS' security arrangements and subsequently questions whether ECOWAS can be considered as a security community in the full sense of the term. This article is structured as follows: first, the basic concept of the security community is described followed by case studies on ongoing insurgencies in Nigeria and Mali. The last two sections deal with the security challenge in the West African Region and shed light on how to mitigate it.

2. CONCEPTUALISING SECURITY COMMUNITY

Scholars (Adler and Barnett 2000; Adler and Gause 1998; Adler and Barnett 1998a; Adler 1998; Adler and Barnett 1998b; Boas 2000; Hurrel 1998; Lake and Morgan 1997; McSweeney 1996; Morgan 1997; Moseley and Logan 2004; Nathan 2006; Neethling 2003; Russett 1998; Tilly 1998; Waever 1998) have long been trying to conceptualise the role of the ECOWAS as an actor in security community. …

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