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Uzoechina, Okechukwu Lawrence

PROSPECTS OF A SUB-REGIONAL APPROACH TO PREVENTING CONFLICT AND STATE FRAGILITY IN WEST AFRICA

Okey Uzoechina i

1.

Introduction

1.1

Conceptual Clarification

D

ue to increased focus on dysfunctional states since the 9/11 attacks, various development agencies, academic think-tanks, policy makers, aid donors, government departments and

intergovernmental organizations have sought to better understand the phenomenon of state fragility in order to develop policies to address it. Sadly, this has led to a muddling up of the concept resulting in what might now be described as terminological chaos. Thus, adjectives like weak, failing, failed, collapsed, vulnerable, quasi, recovering, inter alia, have been used to describe different degrees of fragility. 1 Different sets of indicators, assessment criteria and frameworks used by different agencies have, on an operational level, resulted in policy incoherence. In this paper, the term ―state fragility‖ is used in a generic sense as a continuum of various stages of state weakness. Fragile states are therefore states that have weak institutions of governance thereby making them precarious in their capacity to deliver public goods and services to their citizens, and lacking resilience in the face of conflict or political instability. Locating the discourse in the West African context, there appears to be a strong, mutually reinforcing link between state fragility and conflict. 2 While both terms are not coterminous, this regional dynamic informs the emphasis on conflict as both a driver and a product of fragility in this paper. Although sub- regional security challenges, history and geopolitical conflict complexes may be similar, there can be no template of policies for fragile states: what works for Liberia may not work in Nigeria

and may in fact be counter-productive. This makes it all the more tricky to adopt an overarching sub-regional strategy for preventing conflict or reducing state fragility.

1 In an attempted taxonomy of failed states, Jean-Germain Gros placed them in five categories: anarchic, phantom, anaemic, captured, and aborted. See: Gros (1996)

2 However, it has been argued that not all states experiencing conflict are fragile and not all fragile states are experiencing conflict. See: Grono (2007)

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which was established in 1975 to foster economic cooperation and development clearly lacked an integrated security mandate until the ad hoc Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) was deployed in response to the carnage in Liberia in 1995. It had become apparent that the insecurity and endemic instability in the sub- region was a major impediment to integration and development. ECOWASdefence and security mandate therefore developed in response to emerging threats and concerns as add-ons to the original treaty in supplementary protocols and defence pacts. 3 With the latest add-on to the ECOWAS Peace and Security Architecture, namely the adoption of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF) in January 2008, 4 conflict prevention is now the buzzword in ECOWAS peace and security policy. The ECPF is quite robust in scope given that it envisages both operational conflict preventionaimed to avert an impending or resolve an immediate crisisand structural conflict preventionaddressing the root causes of state fragility in order to prevent the re-emergence of conflict. Practically, this policy repositioning may still be far from sounding the death knell to the security challenges that plague the sub-region. The crux of this paper is a quest to addressor redefinethis policy challenge.

1.2 Book Map: Approach and Organization

Apparently, the political history, 5 political economy, 6 neo-classical economics 7 and realpolitik 8 approaches to the study of state fragility all address different fragments of the problem, often leading to misleading and reductionist explanations, and deficient policies. This paper adopts a somewhat eclectic but context-specific approach. The rest of the paper is structured into three parts. The next part examines the rationale for and some challenges that beset international engagement in fragile states, and envisages an increased role for ECOWASa middleman in the global peace and security structurein fostering better coordination between the development

3 Notably, the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS of 1993, and the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security (the Mechanism) of 1999. The Mechanism now supersedes the Protocol on Mutual Assistance in Defence 1981 and the Protocol on Non-Aggression 1978.

4 The ECPF aims to operationalize the conflict prevention limb of the Mechanism.

5 Huntington (1971); Herbst (1996); Mayall (2005)

6 Keen (1998); Menkhaus (2003); Reno (2006); Duffield (2001); Cramer (2006)

7 Collier (2003); Picciotto, et al. (2005)

8 Crocker (2003); Krasner & Pascual (2005); Ellis (2005)

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community and ECOWAS member states. The second part argues for an integrated sub-regional approach to conflict prevention, pointing out some challenges and opportunities in the system established under the pivotal Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Resolution, Management, Peacekeeping and Security, 1999 (the Mechanism) and the ECPF. The concluding part draws on the lessons learnt and incorporates policy recommendations as next steps for the ECPF.

2.

Engaging with Fragile States: The Problem with Reaction

2.1

Why Engage with Fragile States?

Per se, fragile states lack either the capacity or the political willor bothto fix the hydra- headed problems that beleaguer them. There now appears to be a consensus in the security and development field that the rest of the world cannot just sit back and do nothing. 9 Indeed, the cost of doing nothing might be more than the cost of intervention. The regional conflict complexes manifested in West Africa and the Great Lakes show that state fragility can be infectious. As aptly painted by Paul Collier, the effects of internal conflict emanating from state fragility ripples out in three concentric circles:

The first ripple is within the country: most of the victims are children and other noncombatants. The second ripple is the region: neighbouring countries suffer reduced incomes and increased disease. The third ripple is global: civil war generates territory outside the control of any recognized government, and such territories have become the epicenters of crime and disease. 10

However, the nature and purpose of intervention are as important asand even more politically sensitive thanthe commitment to intervene. Working with and in fragile states is costly, risky, and poses difficult policy dilemmas. Responses usually bear some humanitarian, security or developmental impetus, or some admixture of varying proportions of each. However, ad hoc humanitarian responses in the face of crisis do not address the twin pillars of statehood: capacity and resilience.

9 DfID (2005), p. 5; Collier (2003), p. 6

10 Collier (2003), pp. ix-x

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2.2 Supply-Side (Donors) versus Demand-Side (Recipients) Coordination

In a 1999 study, the Centre for Defence Studies, King‘s College London, identified five entities that ―need to be coordinated in order for future responses to complex emergencies to be successful‖: 11 donor governments, multilateral agencies, NGOs, military establishments, and the corporate sector. With the merging of security and development in the mid-1990s, cross-cutting linkages and networks uniting these entities in their pursuit of liberal peace have been consolidated. 12 Within donor countries, there is a growing recognition that development agencies must join up with other departments with comparative advantages and unique capabilities, particularly diplomatic and defence ministries, in designing strategies for engagement in fragile states. 13 This is the raison d'être for the now attractive ―whole-of-government‖ approach. 14 Although policy coherence and coordination of operations within and among these entities continue to be problematic, little attention has been paid to coordinating the recipients. The paradox is that donors often end up supplying what is not in priority demand in recipient states.

It is commonsensical that planning for success should involve the subjectsthe fragile statesfrom the early stages. However, this neglect indicates that fragile states are seen only as the problem, but not as part of the solution. At the sub-regional level, the recently adopted ECPF attempts to fill this gap by envisaging cooperation with development partners based on the principles of promotion and consolidation of human security; priority-driven programming; sustainability; subsidiarity and complementarity; local ownership, local context and sound analysis; transparency, accountability, mutual respect and trust. 15 Such cooperation aims at building synergy for coordinated interventions in conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Furthermore, the ECPF lays down guidelines for internal cooperation across all departments and institutions of ECOWAS, and for cooperation between ECOWAS and civil society organizations, member states, AU and the UN. Conceptually, there can be no better articulation of the whole-of-governmentnay, whole-of-governanceapproach.

11 Von Hippel (1999), p. 151

12 Duffield (2001), pp. 50-74. Duffield also notes the omission of another important community from this list:

academics. See: Duffield (2001), p. 52

13 Such “joined-up” approach is also referred to as 3D—development, diplomacy, and defence.

14 Patrick & Brown (2007), pp. 2-3

15 See: § 109-ff., ECPF

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Adopting an integrated sub-regional approach would also help overcome the donor-recipient coordination challenge at the level of individual states if ECOWASprogressively assuming its supranational authoritycan act as a go-between in streamlining, implementing and monitoring donor programmes in member states. The ECOWAS Peace Fund constitutes a common basket for resource mobilization from its ―development partners‖ to support its conflict prevention and peacebuilding initiatives. If this facilitating role is enhanced and complemented by bottom-up priority-setting by peace constituencies in member states, the issues of coherence, legitimacy, accountability, knowledge of local context and mutual trust might be put to rest. This is a good sign, but the workability of this concept is yet to be put to the test.

2.3 New Rules of Engagement: Breaking the “Fragility Trap”

There is no easy way out. Standard development practice needs to be adapted to the realities of state fragility and be flexible enough to align with local priorities. This would entail adopting the ―good enough‖ governance approach which typically implies the lack of a capable and/or legitimate state. Donors are still caught up in the dilemma of channelling aid through NGOs and other parallel structures in a bid to be seen to be apolitical, especially where the recipient state is unresponsive and lacks legitimacy, or channelling aid through existing but weak government structures in order to bolster state institutions. Whatever the preference, the guiding principle should be not to leave a state worse off than it was before the intervention. While it would be unduly philistine to attempt to explain away the complex phenomenon of state fragility as a ―trap‖ in the sense of an inescapable downward spiralling state of affairs, there is no doubt that weak institutions of governance predispose a state to political instability and conflict, which if not well managed further weakens a state‘s capacity and resilience. However, the fixation with the manifestations of fragility (political instability and conflict) will be overcome if planners of the ―rescue missions‖ would also address the interests of not-so-visible but adaptive informal systems, the private sector, and the case-sensitive structural causes of fragility.

An aspect of state fragility which is not sufficiently explained by the notion of ―traps‖ is bad government. 16 The vagary of this human element remains a Gordian knot to the security and development community. It is perplexing that some governments which started out with the promise of a better future for their people have ended up doing the exact opposite. Most fragile states are poorly governed states, often marked by gross abuse of civil and political rights, élite

16 See: Easterly (2006), pp. 117-118

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manipulation, corruption, lack of accountability, natural resource predation, relative deprivation and horizontal inequalities, and ethnic nationalism. The situation is further complicated by the donor policy of channelling aid through governments. It is double tragedy that the modest aid that trickles down to fragile states often ends up in the hands of unaccountable governments. Could it be that ―the aid agencies need the poor-country government, even a bad government, to fill the role of aid recipient to keep money flowing‖? 17

Curiously, the quest for a panacea to state fragility may appear to be counterintuitive to the rapidly expanding security and development industry, 18 but a lot more will be achieved if weak but willing states are empowered to set their own priorities and drive their developmental process. Resilience is an appurtenance of legitimacy and will only come in due course as the organic link between the state and society is strengthened, and not with the cobbling together and instruction of military and police forces in quick-fix security sector reform processes as happened in the case of DynCorp in Liberia. 19

3.

Moving From Reaction to Prevention

3.1

Conflict Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect

The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) identified the responsibility to prevent as being of foremost importance in its report, The Responsibility to Protect (R2P). However, scholarly and policy attention has been focused mainly on the concept's reaction component rather than on its prevention component. 20 Prevention of deadly conflict isas with all other aspects of the R2Pfirst and foremost the responsibility of individual sovereign states. 21 Then, failing prevention and containment within a state‘s juridical borders, the UN Security Council bears responsibility for international (global) peace and security, including the sanctioning of intervention in internationalizedinternal conflicts. Given that the failure of

17 Easterly (2006), p. 137

18 “Industry” is used here for want of a better word. Duffield refers to this as “liberal strategic complexes”. See:

Duffield (2001), p. 50. Cf.: Cooper & Pugh (2002), pp. 57-58

19 This is not to suggest that SSR does not play a vital role in state-building, but the manner in which such processes have been undertaken in some post-conflict states leaves much to be desired.

20 Bellamy (2008), p. 135; Cf.: § 41 (a), ECPF

21 Gareth, et al. (2001), p. 19

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conflict prevention bears egregious international consequences, it is therefore not surprising that numerous legal and policy frameworks on both operational and structural conflict prevention have been developed by regional and intergovernmental organizations.

Among other things, the UN Department of Political Affairs works to ensure coherence between the different departments and agencies of the UN through the Inter-Departmental Framework for Coordination on Early Warning and Preventive Action. At the regional level, Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU), 2000 articulates a commitment to conflict prevention and the responsibility to protect potential victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The Protocol on the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the AU creates a number of conflict prevention instruments: the Panel of the Wise, the African Continental Early Warning System, the African Standby Force, and the Common African Defence and Security Policy. At the sub-regional level, the ECOWAS Mechanismand the recently adopted ECPF aimed at making the Mechanism operational through a coherent, strategic approachalso creates organs parallel to those at the continental tier.

But policy frameworks alone have not prevented fragile states from plunging into conflict. As noted by the ICISS:

three essential conditions have to be met.

First, there has to be knowledge of the fragility of the situation and the risks associated with it – so called ―early warning.‖ Second, there has to be understanding of the policy measures available that are capable of making a difference the so- called ―preventive toolbox.‖ And third, there has to be, as always, the willingness to

apply those measures – the issue of ―political will‖. 22

For the effective prevention of conflict

3.2 Good Neighbourhood Principle: 23 The Imperative of a Sub-Regional Approach

The international security architecture can be pictured as a model of four concentric circles. It follows naturally that if there is a toxic leak in the innermost circle, it will diffuse into and contaminate its surrounding environment. In real life, this is a geopolitical complex: the national is a subset of the sub-regional; the sub-regional is a subset of the regional (continental); which in

22 Ibid., p. 20

23 Article 4(e), ECOWAS Revised Treaty

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turn is a subset of the global. But human groupings are not inanimate circles and so take self- preservative measures when faced with a ―toxic leak‖. When states become fragile—and as a result lack the capacity or the political will to remedy their situationit naturally falls to the sub- region, which will bear the most direct consequence if nothing is done, to take necessary remedial measures. Interestingly, a persuasive argument for the adoption of the ECOWAS Mechanism was that it would be better for the sub-region to retain autonomy over the decision to intervene rather than let the UN Security Councilwith its extreme reluctance to intervene as witnessed in Rwanda and Sierra Leoneprevent ECOWAS from taking urgent action to maintain sub-regional stability. 24 In the 2003 Declaration on a Sub-Regional Approach to Peace and Security, The Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS (the Authority) reiterated that only a concerted approach can guarantee peace, security and stability in the sub- region.

Article 33 of the UN Charter acknowledges the comparative advantage of proximity when it defers to ―regional agencies or arrangements‖ for the pacific settlement of disputes between states, although the shifting asymmetry of state fragility is now marked by conflict within states. Furthermore, Article 52 clearly states that nothing in the Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional actions, provided that such actions are consistent with the purpose and principles of the UN. Moving further inwards, Article 16 of the AU Peace and Security Council Protocol, and the Common Africa Defence and Security Policy, stress that the sub-regional mechanisms will form the ―building blocks‖ of the AU‘s peace and security architecture, including the African Standby Force (ASF). This more or less shifts some responsibility to prevent, resolve and respond to threats to international peace and security emanating from fragile states to the sub-regions. Today, greater realism informs the United Nations Office for West Africa‘s (UNOWA) support to ECOWAS on capacity building for early warning and early response, thus bypassing the intermediate regional level. The rationale for establishment of UNOWA was ―to bring regional UN activities in the areas of conflict prevention and peace-building closer to the local realities and needs‖. 25 UNOWA, which has diplomatic presence in Dakar, Senegal, promotes an integrated sub-regional, as opposed to country-by-country, approach.

24 Adebajo (2002), p. 146. Notably, the UN Security Council still retains the mandate to invoke or authorize any peace enforcement action against a country pursuant to Article 53, Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

25 UN, The UN Office for West Africa, p. 1 @ http://www.un.org/unowa/unowa/bckgrdnew.pdf, last accessed 10 August 2008.

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There are numerous practical reasons to justify an integrated sub-regional approach to the prevention of state fragility. Conflict spillovers from bad neighbours bear grave security and development implications that affect entire regions: refugee flows and the spread of disease, proliferation of weapons, violence and transnational crime, and the like. The invasion of Sierra Leone by the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in the first half of 1991 has been described as ―a belligerent strain of virus from neighbouring Liberia‖, 26 which would not have happened without the support of the architect of the Liberian war, Charles Taylor. Guinean and Nigerian troops joined forces with the Sierra Leonean government to squelch the insurgency, ostensibly to avoid the contagion of the war and its ripple effects. Regional dimensions tend to complicate the conflict continuum, as experienced in the complementary war economies of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Cote d‘Ivoire. 27 Such dynamic gets even worse where a country‘s natural resource endowment constitutes a honeypot to its neighbours. As the diagnosis reveals an essentially sub-regional ailment, the prescription should therefore be a sub- regional therapy.

4.

Conclusion: Policy Recommendations

4.1

Sequencing the Operative Components of the ECPF

Translating policy into action goes beyond merely articulating the policy options in a given scenario, for instance, enumerating the components of conflict prevention given the security challenges facing West Africa. 28 To make for effective implementation, there is a further need to simplify and facilitate the administrative process of determining which things need to be done in every particular situation and in what order they are to be done. Step I is to encapsulate the components of the ECPF into operational frames. The operational frames will then enable selective application and prioritization of activities considering the needs and circumstances of each case. Moreover, given limited human and material resources, every desirable action cannot be taken in every ailing member state at the same time. Taking a typical conflict escalationde- escalation model, the ECPF components should be sequenced thus:

26 Stewart & FitzGerald (2001), p. 156

27 Pugh & Cooper (2004), pp. 103-110

28 See: § 42 ff., ECPF

(Operational) Prevention

o

Early Warning

o

Preventive Diplomacy

Stabilization

o

ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF)

o

Practical Disarmament

o

Humanitarian Assistance

Resolution/Peacebuilding

o

Crafting Peace Deals

o

Reconciliation and Accountability

o

Peace Education

Democratization

o

Democracy and Political Governance

o

Media

Reconstruction/Institutional Reform

o

Human Rights and Rule of Law

o

Security Governance

o

Natural Resource Governance

o

Women, Peace and Security

o

Youth Empowerment

o

Cross-border Initiatives

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As is, the components under Resolution/Peacebuildingexcepting the lastare not part of the ECPF. Consideration of post-conflict Reconciliation and Accountability is presently subsumed under the Human Rights and Rule of Law component, 29 thus inadvertently demoting it to a comparatively low-priority activity. Unsurprisingly, there is a tendency to fixate on organizing elections immediately after Stabilization to fill vital leadership space in order to avoid anarchic competition for power. While post-conflict Democratization is a worthy benchmark, it should always be preceded by Resolution/Peacebuilding in order to avoid operating on and perpetuating the same conditions that led to the conflict in the first place. West Africa has had its fair share of lessons learnt from neglecting this all-important transitional phase. Liberia, survivor of a fourteen-year-long armed conflict, provided a test case for ECOWAS, relapsing into conflict

29 § 57 (d), ECPF

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after a three-year lull. 30 ECOWAS facilitated and shared experience in negotiating the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) of 18 August 2003 between the Government of Liberia and the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), with the acquiescence of other parties, interest groups and peace constituencies. 31 Notably, the preamble to the CPA expresses a commitment ―to prevent the outbreak of future civil conflict in Liberia and the consequences of conflicts‖, and a pledge ―forthwith to settle all past, present and future differences by peaceful and legal means and to refrain from the threat of, or use of force‖. This experience should be built on and incorporated into the ECPF. An important element in crafting peace deals isonly to the extent achievableusing it as a constructive tool for social reconfiguration (to address the root causes of conflict) and balancing of power structures (to promote fair competition for political power). National reconciliation and accountability for violation of human rights and international humanitarian law should also be considered. As with other activities, the choice of method for pursuing this end should be left to the people of the state concerned. 32 Also, the culture of peace (Peace Education) should be mainstreamed into all levels of the society from this phase.

Thus framed, ECOWAS‘ engagement with a weak state (for instance, Ghana or Nigeria) can then prioritize and clearly sequence Institutional Reform, Democratization, and (Operational) Prevention; with a failing state (for instance, Côte d‘Ivoire or Guinea Bissau), on (Operational) Prevention, some elements of Stabilization, 33 and Institutional Reform; with a failed but reviving state (for instance, Liberia or Sierra Leone, depending on the actual stage in post-conflict reconstruction), on Stabilization, Resolution/Peacebuilding, Democratization, Reconstruction/ Institutional Reform, (Operational) Prevention. Prioritization could be in varying degrees but in a reinforcing order. Importantly, the frames are not water-tight compartment. Thus, activities under the frames may be carried out consecutively or concurrently as the case requires. Also depending on the case and nature of activity, an operational frame or its subsets should be categorizes as long-term, medium-term, or short-term activity in a clear work plan, and may be one-off, ad hoc and remedial, periodical, or continuous.

30 The first war lasted from 1989 to 1996; the second from 1999 to 2003.

31 Another uneasy success was the Ouagadougou Peace Accord of 4 March 2007.

32 Liberia preferred a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) over a war crimes tribunal. The CPA considers general amnesty for human rights violation as an incentive for the warring factions to drop their arms. Sierra Leone adopted a two-pronged process: a hybrid international-national court, in addition to a TRC.

33 For instance, preventive deployment of the ESF as envisaged under § 49 (d), ECPF

4.2 Peer Review versus Self Review

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Weak implementation mechanisms and the absence of any independent sub-regional body for monitoring member states‘ compliance with their obligations under the Mechanism and the Supplementary Protocol are glaring. Under the UN treaty system for instance, monitoring states‘ compliance with their international obligations involves three separate but complementary procedures: state reporting, individual complaints, and independent studies and investigation. 34 In contrast, Article 35 of the Supplementary Protocol mandates member states to establish independent national institutions to report on human rights violations on their territory. This hybrid reporting/complaints procedure is inchoate and may prove unworkable for several reasons. The independence of such institutions from political control can only be bolstered with legal safeguards of tenure of office and independent funding. Where independence is not guaranteedand because states are apt to report on their achievements rather than their failures or non-compliancepermitting self-incriminating reports to the ECOWAS Commission may prove to be a tall order under the present political climate. 35 On an operational level, in the absence of any provision delegating authority to an expert body, the Office of the President of the Commission 36 will be inundated with reports of all shades of violations from the national institutions.

Under Chapter II of the Supplementary Protocol on Modalities for Implementation and Sanctions, the most severe sanction envisaged in the case of coup d’état or massive violation of human rights in a member state is suspension from all ECOWAS decision-making bodies. 37 The efficacy of such sanction in deterring, much more reversing, the menace of bad government is doubtful. On closer examination, the Modalities for Implementation and Sanctions partakes of the character of ―peer review‖ enunciated under the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) by which African rulers are meant to enforce standards of good governance on one another. But the effectiveness of collective sanctions could be hampered by the fact that some of the supervisory Heads of State and Government may not be exculpated from the same indictment on an

34 See for instance: Articles 28 & 40, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966; Article 16, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966; Article 62, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

35 Nigeria’s local experiment with the Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission suffered this fate.

36 Note the difference in nomenclature from the “Executive Secretariat” under the Supplementary Protocol.

37 Article 45(2), Supplementary Protocol. This provision was invoked in the suspension of the Republic of Niger in October 2009.

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offending state? Besides, the target of collective sanctions should be regime decertification rather than state decertification. However, there is much room for less forceful but practical modes of enforcement. 38

There is the need to institutionalize a procedure for states to submit periodic reports on the measures they have taken in fulfillment of their treaty obligations. Such report, if and when corroborated or contradicted by the independent reports of fact-finding missions, would give a fuller, more balanced picture and constitute an important source of feedback. Member states‘ reports should be submitted to the Office of the President of the Commission, which will then mandate an expert committee under the supervision of the Political Affairs, Peace and Security Commission for consideration and recommendations. Such expert committee should be broadly constituted in terms of nationality in order to reduce the likelihood of bias and politicization.

Although complementary self review does not offer a foolproof solution, there is a psychological catch to it: the added responsibility of periodic reporting will keep a state alive to its obligations and may even make it strive to outperform its neighbours. If this method is adopted, states would begin to point out areas of need where they require the support and cooperation of ECOWAS. Because states are more sensitive than is often believed to adverse publicity and the embarrassment of other governments pointing an accusing finger at them, the publishing of defaulting statesafter an opportunity to remedy their default has been givenwould constitute a check on state behaviour. 39 Conversely, institutional inertia, inelegant draftsmanship, and the apparent lack of the necessary political will by the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS to inject life into the dead letters of the law would result in chronic levels of non- compliance, which would in turn undermine the broad objective of conflict prevention.

4.3 Supra-nationality versus Sovereignty

The ECOWAS Strategic Vision 2020 seeks to transform the sub-region from an ―ECOWAS of States‖ into an ―ECOWAS of the Peoples‖. 40 This is a futuristic goal which will progressively transfer the mandate of ECOWAS to the peoples as opposed to states of West Africa, thereby

38 Pursuant to Article 34(1), Supplementary Protocol

39 Needless to say, monitoring compliance has to be matched with each state’s capacity, level of development and peculiar circumstances.

40 § 4, ECPF

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seeking to bypass sovereign national walls to make ECOWAS decisions directly applicable in member states. While this goal has much conceptual appeal, in practical terms, it meets the challenge of state sovereignty and the corollary principle of non-intervention. 41 The ECPF recognizes this challenge by restating a fundamental limitation in the peace and security mandate of ECOWAS: that ECOWAS member states bear primary responsibility for peace and security. However, latitude for future development is provided in the proviso thus: ―the tensions between sovereignty and supra-nationality, and between regime security and human security, shall be progressively resolved in favour of supra-nationality and human security respectively‖. 42

However, this progressive transformation should be embarked upon cautiously to avoid potential friction as it would result in further shrinking the sphere of state sovereignty. Statesnay, regimesin sub-Saharan Africa are not wont to sharing sovereignty. Shrewdly, the Revised Treaty of ECOWAS avoids any mention of state sovereignty in its Fundamental Principles but rather emphasizes inter-dependence and good neighbourliness. 43 The principle of subsidiarity and complementarity in ECOWASrelations with member states seeks to strengthen state capacity rather than supplant state authority. 44 However, as experience with external involvement in fragile states shows, the implementation of such mandate could indeed weaken the very states they are meant to support if it is not sensitive to the political, social and economic context of the states. It appears that for now, intrusive measures beyond harmonization, coordination and facilitation of policies and programmes in member states as envisaged by the Revised Treaty will likely be rejected.

4.4 Top-Down versus Bottom-Up Strategy

Historical factors, cultural patterns, geophysical character, economic considerations and political expediency often reinforce the nature of a state‘s fragility. The obvious implication of this contextual challengewhich is that each case merits sui generis considerationdoes not of course invalidate the search for an overarching sub-regional strategy/framework for the prevention and

41 Article 2(e) & (f), the Mechanism

42 § 4, ECPF

43 Article 4, ECOWAS Revised Treaty

44 § 115, ECPF

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reduction of state fragility. 45 A sub-regional strategy is not a panacea, but offers a systematic way to complement tailor-made national efforts at overcoming the multifarious challenges that beset various states. The ultimate test therefore lies in applying the sub-regional strategy in a way that would be flexible, case-sensitive, and reflective of the needs of each state. Upholding local ownership of initiatives involves making the people part of the process of finding a solution to their problems by adopting a grassroots and inclusive approach, rather than handing down to them proposed solutions to what their problems are believed to be. Such process would engage with local stakeholders both within and outside the institutions of government. By building trust, the process will in the end make any devised formulae credible in the eyes of the people, ensure legitimacy in implementing the policies, and make the people more committed to meeting goals which they were more or less involved in setting.

The Mechanism and the ECPF form a commendable blueprint for addressing the peril of state fragility in West Africa. Hopefully, a meeting point between the top-down sub-regional strategy and a bottom-up local ownership will be the proposed four-year ECOWAS Plan of Action. Implicit in the Plan is the advantage of sustaining the momentum that the ECPF has already gathered in order to prevent implementation fatigue which now affects other equally laudable policies. However, the process of drafting the Plan is bound to be as important as the Plan itself. The ECPF forecasts that the supplementary Plan will catalogue identified priority activities to be undertaken in member states, but remains mute on the procedure for identifying the priorities. 46 As a follow-through to the ECPF, the ECOWAS Directorate of Political Affairs has engaged a committee of expertsmostly of West African originto elaborate a Logical Framework for the Security Governance component of the ECPF. If ECOWAS is to start living up to its goal of becoming ―ECOWAS of the peoples‖ and the overall aim of strengthening human security through conflict prevention, then the proposed Plan of Action presents an opportunity to make a quantum shift from traditional, headquarters-oriented policymaking to grassroots, people- oriented problem-solving.

45 Cf.: Cooper & Pugh (2002), p. 12

46 §29 (f) & 122, ECPF

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REFERENCES

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i LL.B, BL, MA, Research Fellow, Conflict Security & Development Group (CSDG), London.