– ECOWAS plans 2,700 strong stand-by force
– ECOWAS continues to play an important role in regional stability
– AFRICOM, Senegal, and France will likely assist in training the force
At the most recent meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Monrovia, Liberia, military leaders from the 15-member countries announced they plan to create a stand-by force comprised of 2,700 personnel. The stand-by force would be ready to be rapidly deployed to crisis events as they occur. The goal is to have the troops sufficiently trained and equipped by 2010.
Western Africa has been one of the most unstable regions in the world for the past three decades with long-lasting civil wars and frequent coups leading to governmental instability. However, there have also been significant improvements, particularly in Liberia and Sierra Leone in recent years. Despite these limited improvements, there remains concern about stability in several other nations in West Africa, thus fueling the need for a standing security force.
Lessons Learned from Liberia
Previous civil wars in Liberia highlight the regional impact of instability from one country and its affects on neighboring countries. Liberia’s civil wars lasted from 1989-1996 and 1999-2003 and involved Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Cote d’Ivoire. The civil wars resulted in significantly increased instability in the region. The ECOWAS Peace and Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) has played a significant role in ongoing stability in post-civil war in Liberia, by keeping violence and instability in check.
ECOWAS has taken the lessons observed from ECOMOG and is now applying them to the creation of a stand-by force. If a stand-by force had existed when the second Liberian civil war broke out, it is likely the war would have ended sooner, or been smaller in scale. The successes of ECOMAG are a positive indication that ECOWAS can and will play an important role in regional stability in the years to come.
The International Community’s Role
While the stand-by force is largely an ECOWAS effort, the defense ministers discussed ways the international community could also get involved. The defense ministers discussed the United States African Command (AFRICOM), which Liberia has offered to host. They focused on the role US forces under AFRICOM would play in training each country’s troops, as well as the stand-by force. The ministers also discussed what role Senegal and France, which has troops station in the region, would play in providing logistical and training support to the stand-by force.
Future Impact of the Stand-by Force
ECOWAS has increased its role in promoting regional stability. The January 27, 2007 Agreement in Guinea, and continued political pressure, was effective in preventing additional internal strife in Guinea during the Spring 2007. Had Guinea not been contained, the impact on regional stability would have been impacted the progress the region has made in recent years. Most recently, ECOWAS has also played an important role in the stability of Togo.
The establishment of a stand-by force is a positive step towards greater regional cooperation and security. With increased regional stability, West Africa will have an opportunity to focus on rebuilding their countries that have been damaged by decades of war. The stand-by force will play a role in addressing isolated conflicts in the region.