The Economic Community of West African States and the Responsibility to Protect

Authored by: Kwesi Aning , Samuel Atuobi


Print publication date:  June  2012
Online publication date:  June  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415600750
eBook ISBN: 9780203117637
Adobe ISBN: 9781136304873


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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was created in 1975 with the primary objective of member states jointly to ‘promote cooperation and integration, leading to the establishment of an economic union in West Africa in order to raise the living standards of its peoples, and to maintain and enhance economic stability’. 1 However, since its creation, the organization has largely pursued security and political agendas due to the prevalence of political instability and security challenges in the West African sub-region. Since the 1960s, when most of its member states gained independence, West Africa has experienced several coups d’état and civil conflicts. According to McGowan: ‘from independence through 2004 … West African states have experienced forty-four successful military-led coups [d’état], forty-three often-bloody failed coups d’état, at least eighty-two coup plots, seven civil wars, and many other forms of political conflict’. 2 The combined effect of coups d’état and political and civil conflicts on populations in West Africa have been disastrous. For instance, during the conflicts in Liberia, about 250,000 people were killed in the 1990s and early 2000s, whilst women and girls were sexually abused with impunity. 3 Also in Sierra Leone, 50,000 were killed alongside other horrendous atrocities against civilians. 4 So grievous were the atrocities committed by combatant groups in Sierra Leone that the UN established a war crimes court, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, to try the perpetrators. 5

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