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Africa Today 50.4 (2004) 112-114

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Adebajo, Adekeye. 2002. Building Peace In West Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone, And Guinea-Bissau. Boulder and London: Lynne Rienner. 192 pp. $14.95 (paper).

In recent decades, there has been widespread literature on conflict and crises management by some social scientists. One such attempt is undertaken by Adebajo, who sought to address this issue in the context of the political crises facing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In Building Peace in West Africa, he presents an analytical perspective on some of the main problems that the ECOWAS Cease-Fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) faced in its international interventions in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau, and how to avoid such problems in its future operations. The book ranks among the most comprehensive texts on the Liberian, Sierra Leonean, and Guinea-Bissauan crises, and ECOWAS' initiatives in conflict resolution that I have encountered.

The book starts with a comprehensive introductory chapter, which gives a detailed analysis of the background to the subsequent chapters, with some key questions that are critical for the success of future conflict-resolution efforts in West Africa. Adebajo makes substantial and useful analysis of the Liberian, Sierra Leonean, and Bissau-Guinean conflicts, and leads the reader through an extensive background of the three case studies. The introductory chapter is followed by an in-depth discussion of the historical background of West Africa's postindependence experiences and the formation of ECOWAS in 1975 (in the second chapter). The book contains well written and richly supported arguments that portray in-depth analysis of the three case studies and the main interconnected issues that have plagued the subregion since independence—issues that contributed to the resurgence of civil wars in the subregion and other parts of Africa. Among the factors highlighted in the book are the creation of one-party states and authoritarian enclaves by most postcolonial leaders, lack of equity and social justice, and the flames of ethnicity, which have been conveniently fanned by self-serving powerseekers in the subregion. Adebajo's analysis of these conflicts makes the book even more interesting to read as the events unfold.

Besides the important role of ECOMOG in the peace missions, the book highlights the wrangling, mistrust, and disunity among the ECOWAS leaders. The discussion of the skepticism by the francophone leaders regarding Nigeria's claim to hegemony1 in the subregion, and its leadership roles in the Liberian and Sierra Leonean peace missions, demonstrates an apparent [End Page 112] problem of divisive tendencies among the ECOWAS leaders—tendencies that have impeded the progress of the union and countries in the subregion. Adebajo's account of the failures of the numerous peace accords signed to restore peace in Liberia demonstrates the rebel groups' lack of trust and confidence in the ECOWAS leaders. This, in turn, vividly portrays the lack of commitment on the part of the ECOWAS leaders to these accords, as each leader tried to seize the opportunity to enhance his personal image locally, regionally, and internationally. This led to ECOWAS's failure to reach a consensus on how to manage the conflicts effectively.

The open rivalry and competition for "glory" among the ECOWAS leaders prolonged the achievement of peace in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Adebajo devotes the concluding chapter to the practical implications of the continued disunity among the ECOWAS leaders and makes a critical analysis of the issues raised in the preceding chapters. He suggests some strategies to help ECOWAS resolve future conflicts in the subregion.

The book also highlights the marginalization of the subregion and Africa as a whole, and the lukewarm attitude by Western countries toward Africa's problems—an attitude that confirms that the continent is of minor significance to the West, especially the United States. The roles played by Britain and France in these conflicts were meager, and were geared toward achieving their self-serving goals. Without doubt, France sought to use these peace missions to assert her influence in West Africa for future economic gains, and Britain used its handful of peacekeepers in...


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