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The Institute for Domestic and International Affairs, Inc.

Economic Commission for Africa West Africa Director: Janelle Gendrano

Š 2006 Institute for Domestic & International Affairs, Inc. (IDIA) This document is solely for use in preparation for Philadelphia Model United Nations 2007. Use for other purposes is not permitted without the express written consent of IDIA. For more information, please write us at

Introduction _________________________________________________________________ 1 Background _________________________________________________________________ 2 Case Study One: Western Sahara ____________________________________________________ 6 Background _____________________________________________________________________________6

Current Status _______________________________________________________________ 9 Economic Repercussions of Status Quo ______________________________________________ 11 Case Study Two: Liberia __________________________________________________________ 12 Background ____________________________________________________________________________12 Effect on the Region as a Whole____________________________________________________________15 Current Status and Economic Repercussions of the Conflict ______________________________________16

Actions Taken by the ECA ________________________________________________________ 17 New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) ___________________________________________17 West African Investment Forum ____________________________________________________________18

Key Positions _______________________________________________________________ 20 West African States______________________________________________________________________20 Other African States _____________________________________________________________________20

Summary___________________________________________________________________ 22 Discussion Questions _________________________________________________________ 23 Works Cited ________________________________________________________________ 24

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Introduction West Africa is a conflicted region grappling with the continuing effects of European colonialism, dictatorial regimes, and European-dependent economic structures. Because West Africa was divided primarily between Great Britain, France, and Portugal during the colonial period, West African states retain many cultural and ideological norms from their prior colonial power. These differences, along with seemingly inherent instability, economic issues, and power struggles, give rise to a highly volatile region with interconnected conflicts unable to develop economically. Two particular West African conflicts that will be examined in depth in this brief are Western Sahara and Liberia. Western Sahara, a disputed territory since 1975, is home to hundreds of thousands of Saharawi indigenous people as well as millions of Moroccan settlers.

Morocco and the Saharawi Arab Democratic

Republic both make claims to the Western Sahara, but attempts at negotiation have failed.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor

Liberia, racially

stratified since its formation, has been involved in widespread military and ethnic conflict for the past two decades as a result of the despotic actions of warlordturned-president Charles Taylor and the violent rebellions against him. While Taylor is no longer in power and is under indictment by United Nations tribunals as well as from Sierra Leonean and Liberian courts, the economic and humanitarian aftermath of the conflict is evident. Instability and conflict in West Africa region is particularly problematic because instability leads to a lack of foreign direct investment into Foreign Direct Investment: Investment made by a foreign individual or company in productive capacity of another country.

West African businesses and industries.

Conflict and

instability are liabilities with which many companies do not want to concern themselves, and without foreign investors,

West African states may never have a chance to fully develop their industries and markets. The region is also rich in natural resources, ranging from phosphate deposits in

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Western Sahara to extensive diamond mines in Sierra Leone and other states. Much conflict in West Africa is a result of a power struggle over the control of these resources. The nature of West African conflicts, including domestic concerns, often leads to the involvement of surrounding nations, especially disconcerting as the stability of the region is capricious as it is. The




Figure 1: West Africa

conflicts in West Africa have a notable effect on both the immediate region and the economic development of the entire African continent.


West African states are rich in resources yet often lack the ability to efficiently use or market them, the economic potential of West Africa is hobbled.





infrastructure, political stability, and human lives are major hindrances to the successful development of the West African economy.

Background According to the United Nations, the region of West Africa includes the following states: Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Western Sahara.1 Niger is often included when describing West Africa due to its geographic proximity and cultural ties to the region, and for that reason, will be included for the purposes of this analysis.2 Of the sixteen states of the sub-region, France colonized nine, known as Francophone states, England colonized five, known as Anglophone states, and the 1

“Western Africa,” United Nations Relief Web, (accessed 23 October 2006) 2 Olu Adeniji, “Mechanisms for Conflict Management in West Africa: The Politics of Harmonization,” Journal of Humanitarian Assistance, 3 June 2000,

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Portuguese colonized two Lusophone states.3 The colonial legacies of these states have tremendously impacted their relations with each other as well as the economic integration of West Africa. The language barrier caused by colonialist countries slowed regional cooperation. Former imperial powers upheld the economically and politically dependent nature of their former colonies; this relationship came at the expense of the African states building strong relationships with each other. These obstacles discouraged meaningful relations across the Anglophone-Francophone-Lusophone divides, providing the foundation for many West African conflicts. There are also clear ideological divides as a result of the colonial histories of West African states.

A clear example of this is Ghana, an

Anglophone on the radical left, and Côte d’Ivoire and most other Francophone states on the conservative right. This ideological split caused tension and open distrust in the region and even accusations of Ghana instigating subversive activities in other states.4 Guinea-Bissau’s independence from Portugal in 1974 marked the official end to West African colonization,5 although Western Sahara, a divided territory with the majority of its land controlled by both the Kingdom of Morocco and a small portion controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), remains on the United Nation’s list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.6

Unfortunately, autonomy did not

guarantee stability, as civil wars and regional instability have plagued the region for decades. Currently, civil wars in the region have come to an end, with the exception of Côte d’Ivoire, where a tense truce holds between the government forces and rebels in control of the northern part of the country.7 Cyril Obi, coordinator of the research program titled “Post-Conflict Transition in African States: The State and Civil Society” at


Ibid Ibid 5 “Country Profile:Guinea-Bissau,” BBC News Online, 17 October 2006, (accessed 23 October 2006) 6 Salih Booker and Bill Fletcher, “Joint Letter to U.S. Department of State on Western Sahara Africa Action and TransAfrica,” Africa Action, (accessed 23 October 2006) 7 Cyril Obi, “Conflict and Peace in West Africa,” The Nordic Africa Institute, 30 March 2006, (accessed 23 October 2006) 4

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the Nordic Africa Institute, comments, “Although there are no longer civil wars, West Africa




challenge of winning the




From a historical and political perspective, West



problems came as a result of



infrastructure by





Colonialism failed to build strong local institutions, establish


government structures, or develop


control.9 Other structural problems relate to the dependent



colonial economies and the way in which this relationship


upheld until today.

been The

Non-Self-Governing Territories: as listed by the General Assembly in 2002 Administration Area Population 1 (

AFRICA Western Sahara 2 266,000 3 ATLANTIC AND CARIBBEAN Anguilla United Kingdom 96 11,960 Bermuda United Kingdom 53 6,997 British Virgin Islands United Kingdom 153 23,000 Cayman Islands United Kingdom 260 39,410 Falkland Islands (Malvinas) United Kingdom 11,961 2,391 Montserrat United Kingdom 98 5,000 St. Helena United Kingdom 122 6,000 Turks and Caicos Islands United Kingdom 430 24,000 United States Virgin Islands United States 340 108,612 EUROPE Gibraltar United Kingdom 6 26,703 PACIFIC AND INDIAN OCEANS American Samoa United States 197 57,291 Guam United States 549 154,805 New Caledonia 4 France 35,853 215,904 Pitcairn United Kingdom 5 46 Tokelau New Zealand 10 1,518 1. From estimates or censuses cited in United Nations documents issued in 2002. 2. On 26 February 1976, Spain informed the Secretary-General that as of that date it had terminated its presence in the Territory of the Sahara and deemed it necessary to place on record that Spain considered itself thenceforth exempt from any responsibility of any international nature in connection with the administration of the Territory, in view of the cessation of its participation in the temporary administration established for the Territory. In 1990, the General Assembly reaffirmed that the question of Western Sahara was a question of decolonization which remained to be completed by the people of Western Sahara. 3. Not available. 4. On 2 December 1986, the General Assembly determined that New Caledonia was a Non-Self-Governing Territory. Source:

dependent nature of African markets is a significant hindrance to economic autonomy and development in the region.


Colonial powers also established an authoritarian

Ibid Chandra Lekha Sriram and Zoe Nielsen, Exploring Subregional Conflict: Opportunities for Conflict Prevention, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder: 2004, 96 9

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political culture that survived even after independence, fueling dictatorships and the politics of exclusion in many countries of the region.10 The socio-economic factors crucial to West African conflicts are inextricably linked to the exclusion of the majority of the West African populace from politics and governance as well as a continual denial of access to resources and power. Attempts made to protest this exclusion were typically met with brutal repression by state security forces.11 The failure of many governments to live up to professed standards of governance contributed to the denial of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights; as a result, governments have been challenged by various social forces and armed groups. This can been seen in states such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Côte d’Ivoire.12 Economic crisis in the 1980s was a key impetus for conflict in West Africa. Falling prices of West Africa’s traditional exports resulted in economic shocks that had far-reaching social implications in the region. These factors led to increased pressures from the citizens for access to resources and the abandonment of authoritarian government. Governments, fearing a loss of control, sought to repress these demands by using force. In Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Mali, Gambia, Burkina Faso, and Senegal, the socio-economic crisis led to the masses challenging military regimes or one-party states, leading to violent conflict. Military coup d’etats and insurgency






mounting social unrest in both Liberia and Sierra

Coup d’etat: A sudden and decisive act in politics, usually bringing about a change in government unlawfully and by force

Leone.13 The condition of accumulating African debt and interest payments of external lenders and structural adjustment programs that inflicted more hardship on the middle class and the poor caused unparalleled tensions, struggles for democracy, and ultimately resulted in civil war.14 10

Obi Ibid 12 “Africa: Regional Overview 2003,” Amnesty International, 2004, (accessed 23 October 2006) 13 Obi 14 “The Burden of Debt,” Online News Hour, PBS, July 2003, (accessed 23 October 2006) 11

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Another more theoretical approach to understanding the root of West African conflict is the theory of war economies, a theory that explains conflicts in relation to greed rather than grievance. War economies encourage people to engage in conflict for the profit they will make from taking advantage of opportunities to use national resources.

These opportunities come as a result of collapses in governmental or

economic systems.15 This theory seeks to prove that civil wars will only end when economic opportunities for the combatants no longer exist. This approach has been used to explain the war that ravaged Sierra Leone and Liberia in terms of the quest of warlords for diamonds.16 An outgrowth of so-called war economies is the illegal weapons trade, a trade that corrupt governments profit from on a regular basis.17 Many West African states remain in conflict today. Economic underdevelopment and political turmoil fuel unrest in the region. Ten years after the end of Liberia’s civil war in 1997, the country still faces many development hurdles, such as extreme poverty, humanitarian crises, and a deplorable infrastructure. Resolution of the Western Sahara conflict seems far out of reach, and until the conflict is solved, Moroccan-Algerian relations will never improve and economic development in the region will continue to be severely hindered. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the West Africa subregional office of the ECA, and other organizations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have all made attempts to ameliorate the economic impacts of West African conflicts. Despite their many attempts, West Africa remains one of the most impoverished and economically disadvantaged regions of the world.

Case Study One: Western Sahara Background The Western Sahara is a territory on the north-west coast of Africa bordered by Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria. During the period of European Colonialism, Western 15

Obi Ibid 17 “The Proliferation of Illegal Small Arms and Its Impact on Violence and Security: Subregional Perspectives,” Monograph No 30, September 1998, (accessed 23 October 2006) 16

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7 Sahara was not a particularly valuable territory to own.

Barely hospitable, the Western Sahara was

mostly desert and infertile land and had few known resources at the time of colonization in Africa. This once undesired tract of desert quickly became one of the most desired pieces of land in Africa after an American oil survey in 1963 accidentally discovered the presence of a valuable natural resource: phosphate. Unbeknownst to all, Western Sahara was, and still is, the largest accessible phosphate deposit known to man.18 Until 1975, Spain held Western Sahara as a colonial territory. In December 1965, a United Nations General Assembly Resolution called for Spain to liberate Western Sahara. The United Nations also called for a referendum in the Sahara to ensure selfdetermination for the indigenous population.19 On 23 May 1975, due to international pressure to liberate the Sahara as well as an ongoing civil war in Spain, the Spanish government announced that it was ready to withdraw from Western Sahara. Due to the discovery of immense phosphate deposits, Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania all affirmed their claim to the territory.20 Spain made a secret arrangement with both Morocco and Mauritania, dividing the territory between the two nations without consulting any representatives of the Saharawi, the indigenous people of the Western Sahara.21 This claim was opposed by the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Rio de Oro, otherwise known as Frente Polisario or the Polisario Front.22


Thomas A. Marks, “Spanish Sahara—Background to the Conflict,” African Affairs, Oxford University Press: 1976, 3 (accessed by J-STOR) 19 Marks, 7 20 “Western Sahara—MINURSO Background,” United Nations, 2002, (accessed 23 Octo9ber 2006) 21 See “The Saharawi” insert. 22 “Western Sahara,” United Nations Global Policy Forum, (accessed 23 October 2006)

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The Polisario Front is a Saharawi movement


Western Sahara.


The Saharawi The Saharawi people live in Western Sahara, Mauritania, the Canary Islands and Algeria. The Saharawis are a Semitic people and speak a dialect of Arabic known as Hassaniya . Saharawis live in the desert from the Oued Draa in southern Morocco to the valleys of the Niger and Senegal rivers. Since 1975 approximately 167,000 Saharawi have been living in refugee camps in Algeria to escape the conflict that arose due to the invasion by Morocco.



Saharawi groups held

demonstrations protesting Spanish occupation as early as 1958, prior to the formation of the


Polisario Front. In 1967, the struggle for independence began to take organized form with the creation of the Movement for the Liberation of the Sahara. An intensive campaign to mobilize the Saharawi people on behalf of their independence led to a massive demonstration in 1970 against the efforts by the colonial power to turn Western Sahara into a Spanish province. This demonstration led to what the Saharawis view as a massacre of the demonstrators and the ensuing disbandment of the liberation movement. After deciding that militant action was the best course of action, the Polisario Front was established on 10 May 1973.23 The United Nations has sought peaceful settlement in Western Sahara since the withdrawal of Spain. After Spanish withdrawal, Morocco sought to “reintegrate” the territory, causing armed fighting between Morocco and the Algeria-backed Polisario Front. Algerian President Houari Boumedienne supported the Polisario Front in order to balance the power of King Hassan II of Morocco. Recognizing the political difficulty of the situation, Mauritania renounced all claims to Western Sahara in 1979.24 King Hassan moved aggressively to prevent Spain from holding a self-determination referendum recommended by the International Court of Justice and mandated by the United Nations. War between Moroccan and Polisario forces continued without significant United Nations action until the late 1980s when the United Nations began attempts to enforce the referendum mandate passed in 1965.25 The United Nations began preparations for a referendum on self-determination for the people of the Western Sahara, but Morocco and the Polisario Front held starkly contrasting views on what populations were had ancestral 23

“POLISARIO Front,” Western Sahara Online, (accessed 23 October 2006) “Western Sahara—MINURSO Background” 25 Jacob A. Mundy, “Stubborn Stalemate in Western Sahara,” The Middle East Research and Information Project, 24

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claims to Western Saharan. The United Nations arranged a ceasefire in 1991 between both parties.26 Between 1991 and 2000, the United Nations Mission for a Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO) attempted to verify the legitimacy of more than 200,000 prospective voters, the vast majority of them presented by Morocco.27 The Polisario Front disagreed with the eligibility of thousands of Moroccan settlers introduced into the territory since 1975. The identification process ground to a halt in 1995, effectively hindering the referendum.

Current Status The Western Sahara, a territory that has both immense economic potential and geographic importance, is still occupied by both Moroccan soldiers and Polisario forces. Because the Polisario’s victory in Western Sahara would guarantee Algeria access to the Atlantic Ocean as well as a stake in the extremely profitable phosphorous and oil deposits, Algeria’s support of the Polisario front has rarely wavered. Algeria does appear to want to improve relations with the Moroccan government, but as long as they continue to campaign for recognition of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic and financially support the Polisario Front, improved relations are unlikely.28 In 2001, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan named James Baker, former United States Secretary of State as his personal envoy to work with both Moroccan and Algerian governments to resolve the conflict in Western Sahara. After the failure of a number of restarted initiatives, including the voter registration program and diplomatic talks, Baker presented a compromise in 2003 that “does not require the consent of both parties at each and every step of implementation.”29 The plan called for a referendum in four to five years, and the three options to choose from were integration into Morocco, autonomy, or independence. Under this plan, the United Nations would 26

Carol Migdalovitz, “Western Sahara: Status of Settlement Efforts,” CRS Report for Congress, 24 February 2005, (accessed 24 October 2006) 27 Ibid 28 Ibid 29 “Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation Concerning the Western Sahara,” United Nations Press Release, May 23, 2003.

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choose who qualifies as voters with no appeal from either the Moroccan government or Algeria and the Polisario Front. Morocco objected to this proposal, insulted by the use of the term “independence” in the referendum options instead of the less controversial term “self-determination,” and outraged at the prospect of the Saharawi minority possibly determining the future of a territory that Morocco believe is more populated by Moroccan people.30 Morocco announced on 9 April 2004 that the only solution they would accept is autonomy for Western Sahara, and that a final agreement should be reached through bilateral talks and not by public referendum.31 Morocco no longer wanted the United Nations to interfere and saw the Western Sahara dispute a purely nation-to-nation ordeal. Algeria, on the other hand, accepted the Baker Proposal and rejected any proposal that was not overseen by the United Nations. The Polisario Front rejects the solution of autonomy and continues to push for a referendum for self-determination. With Morocco calling for autonomy and for less United Nations intervention and Algeria and the Polisario Front rejecting autonomy in favor of a referendum and insisting that the United Nations be involved in negotiations, yet another impasse has been reached. Currently, the Polisario Front is no longer using violence and terrorist tactics against Moroccan troops and people, though repeated threats are made to once again resort to these tactics. It is unlikely that the Polisario Front will carry out attacks without the aid and approval of Algeria. Algeria, while maintaining political support of the Polisario Front, has lessened its economic contributions to the cause and has encouraged the use of non-violent behaviors in order strengthen Algeria’s relations with the United States, France, and Spain. Algeria has also been focusing on its own economy, indicating it would like to normalize relations with Morocco, but the Moroccan government refuses, believing doing so would appear to be ignoring the Western Sahara conflict.32 The impasse and upholding of the status quo in Western Sahara prevents the tremendous resources located in the territory from being used in a beneficial manner. 30

Migdalovitz “Reply of the Kingdom of Morocco to Mr. Baker’s proposal entitled ‘Peace Plan for the Self-Determination of Western Sahara,” 32 Migdalovitz 31

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The resources of the area have largely remained untouched in order to prevent violent conflict from erupting over the appearance of theft by one side or the other.


Moroccan government continues to spend millions of dollars on maintaining troops in the region, while neighboring governments, especially Algeria, are burdened with the cost of refugee Saharawi people driven out of their land by Moroccan troops. As long as the territory of Western Sahara remains in its current state, the region will continue to be unstable and diplomatic and economic ties will be severely strained. Western Sahara is not a member of the Economic Commission for Africa, although Morocco and Algeria are both members.

The ECA has not formally acknowledged the existence of the

Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.

Economic Repercussions of Status Quo The Moroccan government, the Algerian government, and the Polisario Front continue to spend money on efforts geared towards asserting their claims on the Western Sahara. Strained relations between Morocco and Algeria prove to be a major obstacle to Western African economic integration. So long as the disagreement over the status of the Western Sahara exists, a lack of economic cooperation between Morocco and Algeria will continue. Western Sahara’s natural resources, including coastal fishing areas, rich phosphate deposits, and the speculated existence of oil fields off the coast of Western Sahara remain untapped and unable to benefit the surrounding community and West African region. At the same time, these resources are vulnerable to exploitation by either side, with both Morocco and the Polisario Front issuing contracts to surveyors.33 Pressure from the United Nations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and corporate groups caused potential prospectors to withdraw from their contracts, leaving the Western Saharan region without foreign investment and from the eventual profit from its resources.


"Letter dated 29 January 2002 from the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, the Legal Counsel, addressed to the President of the Security Council," United Nations Security Council, S/2002/161, 12 February 2002, (accessed 17 November 2006)

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Even with investors in the region, it is unclear as to who will truly profit from any contracts granting access to Western Saharan’s resources.

On 15 May 2006, the

European Union (EU) signed a fisheries agreement with Morocco over the fishing resources off of the coast of Morocco and possibly the Western Sahara. The agreement fails to specify the southern limit of its operation, thereby allowing Morocco to define the extent of its territory. Potentially, European boats could be authorized by the Moroccan government to fish in the territorial waters of Western Sahara, which is illegal under international law, and arguably grants a de facto claim over this territory, recognized by the EU.34 While the economic effects of this agreement are as yet unknown, one can safely assume that it will not be beneficial to the indigenous Saharawis. At the same time, Morocco suffers from substantial economic disadvantages as a result of its continued occupation of Western Sahara. Calpers, the largest investment fund in the world, announced that because of the fund’s introduction of new criteria for investing in emerging markets, such as respect for human rights, political risk, transparency, and justice, Morocco had been excluded from the list of countries eligible for investment.35 Human rights violations on both sides of the conflict may negatively affect investor interest in the region as a whole, hurting the overall economy of West Africa.

Case Study Two: Liberia Background Liberia is one of two states that successfully defended itself against European occupation during the Colonial era (the other is Ethiopia). While the state of Liberia was founded by freed American and Caribbean slaves, ninety-five per cent of the population is comprised of indigenous Africans. Until the 1980s, Liberia remained relatively quiet


John Hilary, “The Betrayal of a Forgotten People,” The Guardian: Comment is Free, 17 May 2006, (accessed 17 November 2006) 35 “Western Sahara Weekly News,” Western Sahara Sahara Occidental, 25 February 2002, (accessed 17 November 2006)

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on the global scene, although a stagnant economy caused it to fall into massive debt and become vulnerable to domestic unrest.36 Since Liberia’s founding in 1847 by freed American slaves, Americo-Liberians Liberia

had dominated the nation’s political life.


domination of politics has led to less access to resources for the indigenous Liberians.


economic and social disparity between the ancestors of the Americans and the native people of Africa created feelings of resentment amongst Liberians that contributed to the murder of Americo-Liberian President William Tolbert during a military coup in 1980. Samuel K. Doe, the leader of the coup, declared himself the first indigenous president of Liberia. Ensuing conflict between Americo-Liberians and indigenous Liberians resulted in many deaths in the following months.37 Doe appointed Charles Taylor, who is half Americo-Liberian and half indigenous Liberian, to head the General Services Agency of Liberia. Taylor directed the purchases of the Liberian government. In May 1983, Taylor was ousted from his position after being accused of embezzling over USD $900,000 into a private account. Taylor then fled to the United States and was arrested and on the verge of being extradited when he escaped from a correctional facility and slipped into hiding. Taylor’s activities between 1983 and 1989 are uncertain.38 Taylor reemerged on 24 December 1989 as the leader of a guerilla force of up to 500 men that called themselves the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL). For the next seven months, the NPFL gained recruits and emerged victorious in battles with the 36

“Country Profile: Liberia,” BBC News Online, 17 October 2006, (accessed 24 October 2006) 37 Terence Burlij, “Liberia’s Uneasy Peace,” PBS Online News Hour, (accessed 24 October 2006). 38 Mark Doyle, “Charles Taylor—Preacher, Warlord, President,” BBC News Online, 24 March 2006, (accessed 24 October 2006).

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severely weakened government. In July 1990, the NPFL entered the capital city of Monrovia and split into two factions, one headed by Taylor and another headed by faction leader Prince Johnson. By September, both factions declared war over Doe’s regime, and the Johnson-led faction secured Monrovia and executed Doe.39 An internal power struggled led to the formal break in the NPFL, and Prince Johnson’s group renamed themselves the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL). Civil war between the Taylor and Johnson factions ensued for the next five years.

The war escalated into an ethnic conflict, with several groups vying for

government power and Liberia’s natural resources. Casualties of the civil war numbered some 250,000. A peace agreement was signed in 1995, and in what was deemed a fair and democratic election, Taylor was elected as the president of Liberia with over seventyfive per cent of the vote.40 The United Nations Security Council imposed bans on Liberian diamond exports in 2001 and timber exports in 2003, claiming that the resources were being used to fuel war in the region.41 In order for the bans to be lifted, the Liberian government must demonstrate that it has full authority over the timber and diamond sectors. The Liberian government must also ensure proper accountability on revenues.42 Sanctions on Liberian diamonds, dubbed “blood diamonds,” were imposed after investigations by the British government reported that former Liberian president Charles Taylor was trading the precious stones out of neighboring Sierra Leone in exchange for arms for rebel groups. In order to gain the credibility needed for the sanctions to be lifted, Liberia's first elected post-war government issued an executive order in early February 2006 canceling all forest concession agreements previous regimes had entered into with private companies. This executive order was announced within weeks of taking office. The government-owned Forestry Development Authority estimates that the forestry sector 39

Burlij Ibid 41 “Liberia: End of Diamond and Timber Sanctions Closer,” UN Integrated Regional Information Network via Global Policy Forum, 10 April 2006, (accessed 6 November 2006) 42 Ibid 40

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could generate between USD $15 million to $20 million a year and some 7,000 new and much needed jobs.43

Effect on the Region as a Whole Aspects of the Liberian conflict spilled across borders and into neighboring countries, including Sierra Leone and Guinea. In 1991, Foday Sankoh, head of the Sierra Leone rebel faction Revolutionary United Front (RUF), began a revolutionary campaign in Sierra Leone near the Liberian border. Taylor




Sankoh and



relationship after both were trained under Libyan

Conflict Diamonds (Blood diamonds): Conflict diamonds are diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention to the decisions of the Security Council.

leader Muammar Qaddafi in the 1980s and were joined in their opposition of what they saw as “pro-western regimes.”44 Both Taylor and Sankoh financed and profited from conflicts in their respective nations thanks to an arrangement in which they bartered conflict diamonds from Sierra Leone in exchange for Liberian guns and weaponry.45 The inability of the Leonean government to regulate the diamond trade through official channels allowed Taylor and Sankoh to fuel their conflicts with arms while making substantial economic gains for themselves by smuggling diamonds through Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire.46 Today, conflict diamonds continue to fuel African conflicts and detrimentally affect impacted economies. Guinea, north of Liberia, is severely impacted by


the continuous fighting along its borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Surrounding conflict, compounded with

refugee movements and Guinea’s own political instability, have led to significant economic disruptions that have caused significant impediments to investor confidence and 43

Ibid John L. Hirsch, Sierra Leone: Diamonds and the Struggle for Democracy. Boulder, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001, 15 45 See insert 46 Hirsch, 15-16 44

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an overall decline in foreign direct investments in the country.47

Foreign mining

companies have reduced expatriate staff, while panic-buying has caused food shortages and inflation and caused riots in local markets.

Current Status and Economic Repercussions of the Conflict Anti-government activity in Liberia began again in 1999, and while it was a domestic conflict, the issue caused much regional tension. President Taylor accused Guinea of supporting the rebellion in Liberia. At the same time, Ghana, Nigeria, and other states accused Taylor of backing rebels in Sierra Leone and of being a major player in the ongoing civil war in Sierra Leone.48 In 2003, Taylor, heavily pressured to resign, left office and was exiled to Nigeria. While the civil war in Liberia is technically over, widespread social and political unrest remains.

Corruption is ubiquitous in both

government and business, and unemployment and illiteracy are endemic. The civil war and its aftermath left the country in economic ruin and overrun with illegal weapons. Today, most of the capital city of Monrovia is without electricity or running water.49 The fourteen-year-long civil war left disastrous effects on Liberia’s politics, infrastructure, and overall development. In 2000, 480,000 Liberian refugees were living in neighboring countries and Liberia had 700,000 internally displaced persons. Eightyfive per cent of Liberians are without jobs due to the collapse of the Liberian economy.50 Seventy-six per cent of the population is living below the poverty line of USD $1 per day, and fifty-two per cent of those living in absolute poverty, at just USD $0.50 per day.51 Further, Liberia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has declined by thirty per cent since 2003.52 The bleak economic outlook in the state has also resulted in an increase in the price of essential goods, thus decreasing the population’s access to basic necessities. 47

“Guinea: 2006 Index for Economic Freedom,” The Heritage Foundation, (accessed 20 November 2006) 48 Doyle 49 Ibid 50 “West African Region,” The United Nations System, 2002, (accessed 4 November 2006). 51 Ibid 52 Report on Post-Conflict Economic Situation and Prospects for January - June 2004, International Monetary Fund, March 2004, (accessed 5 November 2006)

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This economic vulnerability and the current insecurity in the nation could negatively impact the food security of the country because the planting seasons are being severely disrupted. UN sanctions on Liberia, imposed as an attempt to control despotic leader Charles Taylor’s power, further aggravate the economic crises for Liberian people.53 In order to stabilize the overall economy of Liberia, experts agree that its infrastructure must be strengthened and modernized. In a recent report, Director Josué Dioné of the Sustainable Development Division of the ECA, explains the necessity of technology in indebted and developing states such as Liberia.

Dioné calls for

“‘democratization’ and ‘popularization’ of science and technology” in an effort to broaden science and technology policy to reach the masses instead of only the privileged elite of the state.54

Science and technology policies must be better integrated into

development policy on the whole. Dioné believes that children must be given the same chances of being empowered through science and technology as the elite in order to combat illiteracy.

Dioné strongly advocates the establishment of a program that

addresses institutional capacity gaps for science and technology policy formulation and implementation in states such as Liberia.

Actions Taken by the ECA New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) In July 2001, the African Union adopted an economic program called the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). The NEPAD was a compromise and conglomeration of a number of proposed economic development plans. Among these were the Millennium Partnership for the African Recovery Programme (MAP), led by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, and Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria; the OMEGA Plan for Africa developed by President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal; and various proposals by the United Nations Millennium 53

“Diamonds, War Add up to Sanctions for Liberia,” CNN News, 7 May 2001, (accessed 4 November 2006) 54 Josué Dioné, “Science and Technology Policies for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Global Inclusion,” Economic Commission for Africa, 11 November 2002.

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18 NEPAD is a multifaceted program that attempts to

enhance the state of African development by improving many aspects of government and infrastructure. Concerning African conflicts, NEPAD recognizes that ensuring peace and stability in the region is one of the most crucial aspects of sustainable development. In fact, NEPAD lists the need for peace and security, democracy, and good political, economic and corporate governance in Africa as first on its list of priorities.56 In August 2006, the African Union and the ECA agreed on a broad framework to guide future collaboration between the two groups in a more structured and systematic manner.57 Both organizations planned for the framework to be guided by the pursuit of a common African vision through the implementation of the NEPAD agenda.


organization recognized the other’s comparative advantage in advancing the NEPAD agenda, with the African Union being able to hold African nations more politically accountable and call for diplomatic talks whereas the Economic Commission for Africa is able to better formulate and implement economic reforms. The ECA agreed to align its programs to suit NEPAD and in doing so would help consolidate NEPAD objectives. Because the framework has not been expanded to be a full and comprehensive agreement, the ECA and African Union will work together in the future to further develop their cooperative agreement.

West African Investment Forum In February 2006, the ECA held the West African Investment Forum in Bamako, Mali. According to the ECA, “the Forum is not intended to be just another meeting or media event… it is meant to contribute positively to the process and ensure that words are translated into concrete action.”58 The objectives of the forum were to:


“NEPAD in Brief,” NEPAD, (accessed 7 November 2006) Ibid 57 “ECA and NEPAD Secretariat agree on a Framework for Collaboration,” United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 8 August 2006, (accessed 7 November 2006) 58 “Forum on Investments in West Africa,: Essential Requirements for the Emergence of Small and Medium Enterprises,” Economic Commission for Africa, 56

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a. facilitate dialogue between public and private think tanks representing business circles and investment promotion institutions in the fifteen West African countries and between national and foreign investors and potential investors; b. promote exchange of information and experiences between private sector operations; facilitate or strengthen formal and informal ties between private sector operators in Africa; foster networking of sub-regional private sector operators from outside the sub-region, particularly North Africa and Asia; c. examine and evaluate the problems to be overcome in order to pen up the regional space in order to attract investments to West Africa, with a view to boosting trade in agro-allied food products.59

These objectives directly correlate to the aftermath often left by conflicts that ravage West African states. Because of political unrest and little promise for improvement, many businesses and investors have pulled out of West African states, leaving them without the capital to strengthen their own infrastructures or deal with the repercussions of the conflicts in their states. Facilitating dialogue among business circles, investors, and governments is a step in the right direction, indicating that businesses and investors will have a significant role in the state’s development. In “strengthen[ing] formal and informal ties between private sector operators in Africa,” the ECA seeks to legitimize what were once informal but acceptable business agreements and to encourage cooperation between businesses. The Forum found that supporting entrepreneurship of small and medium sized businesses is critical to the development of West African economies. Small and medium sized businesses can provide greater access to necessities and resources that many people from post-conflict West African states lack. Support of entrepreneurship would also encourage less dependence on international markets for goods.

At the same time,

promoting agro-industry was also a major theme of the Forum. The Forum seeks to change the West African economy from a largely subsistence agricultural economy to an agro-industrial economy capable of processing and preserving products for consumption and export.

The Forum recommends identifying and establishing strategies for the

development of “buoyant sectors,” such as rice, other grains, cotton, and livestock, so that (accessed 7 November 2006) 59 Ibid

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these sectors can survive even in times of future conflict or environmental instability.60 Introducing more technologically advanced ways of farming and harvesting crops is also crucial to the industrialization of agriculture in Africa, and the introduction of these technologies will make Africa much more competitive in the global agricultural markets.61

Key Positions West African States West African states have already made strides to collectively strengthen their economies and stop conflict in the region. The formation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a sub-regional group of which all fifteen West African nations are members, is aimed at economic integration and conflict resolution. Despite their efforts, certain regions of West Africa, particularly Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, are known for political instability and military conflict and continue to have United Nations peacekeeping missions operating within their borders. West African states recognize that on a purely economic front, everything that can be done to integrate West African markets must be done, including making especially successful markets, such as diamond mining, more transparent. West African states recognize their own national sovereignty as well as the dichotomous relationship between security and economic stability. West African states want to work with the African Union in order to address both aspects of this relationship in crafting effective policy solutions.

Other African States The volatile nature of the West African region, along with its abundance of natural resources, makes the region extremely valuable to the welfare of the rest of the continent. So long as military and ethnic conflict plague the region, it will remain without the crucial natural resources needed to bolster the economies and markets of the continent. Legitimately utilizing such resources, along with economic integration throughout the 60


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continent, would be a major step towards the independence of African markets from Western influence. Stability in West Africa is necessary to the economic success in the region, and because of this, the rest of the continent is willing to address the economic impact of conflicts in West Africa in an attempt to prevent future economic and violent situations from arising in the region.

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Summary The economic impacts of conflicts in West Africa are vast and often immeasurable. The loss of human lives directly correlates with the loss of able-bodied workers to support West African industry. Out-of-control military spending to finance conflicts takes away from infrastructure development needed to sustain commerce in certain West African states such as Morocco.

Military and political standoffs in

phosphate-rich, strategically located Western Africa are a boon to the development of the potential phosphate mining industry in the area, an industry that could bring billions into the region. Conflicts in West Africa cause many of the negative economic impacts in the region, but one must not forget that economic inequality and dissatisfaction with poverty and oppression is a critical impetus for these conflicts and the rebellions that challenge despotic leaders. While addressing the immediate security issues may seem to be more pertinent, the economic ramifications of conflicts are just as, if not more, important, for long term stability in West Africa. The Economic Commission for Africa must examine West Africa as a whole and find ways to adequately address the economic concerns of conflicted states; if these concerns go unaddressed, the economic and political situation in West Africa will likely remain unchanged.

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Discussion Questions • What can the ECA do within its jurisdiction to integrate the economies of West Africa? Should the ECA focus on integration as a primary way to improve the conflict-affected economies of West Africa, or are there other options? • What role do West Africa’s natural resources play in the conflicts in West Africa? • Should the ECA advocate transparency between West African economies? To what degree should the ECA try to directly involve itself in the actions of sovereign West African states? • What is NEPAD, and how can the ECA work with the African Union to better facilitate the program? • What are the long term affects of keeping the conflict-affected economies of West Africa at status quo? • What should the ECA’s position be on the usage of natural resources in West Africa? Should the resources be used and distributed internally or exported to other states? • How do conflicts in West Africa affect the economies and investments of other African states from different regions? • How can other regions of Africa help improve the conflict-affected economies of West Africa? How is your nations’ economy affected by economies of West African states?

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Works Cited Adeniji, Olu. “Mechanisms for Conflict Management in West Africa: The Politics of Harmonization.” Journal of Humanitarian Assistance. 3 June 2000. “Africa: Regional Overview 2003.” Amnesty International. 2004. Booker, Salih and Fletcher, Bill. “Joint Letter to U.S. Department of State on Western Sahara Africa Action and TransAfrica.” Africa Action. Burlij, Terence. “Liberia’s Uneasy Peace,” PBS Online News Hour, “Country Profile: Guinea-Bissau.” BBC News Online. 17 October 2006. “Country Profile: Liberia.” BBC News Online. 17 October 2006. “Diamonds, War Add up to Sanctions for Liberia.” CNN News Online. 7 May 2001. Dioné, Josué. “Science and Technology Policies for Sustainable Development and Africa’s Global Inclusion.” Economic Commission for Africa. 11 November 2002. Doyle, Mark. “Charles Taylor—Preacher, Warlord, President.” BBC News Online. 24 March 2006, “ECA and NEPAD Secretariat agree on a Framework for Collaboration.” United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. 8 August 2006. AD.htm “Forum on Investments in West Africa: Essential Requirements for the Emergence of Small and Medium Enterprises.” Economic Commission for Africa. .htm

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“Guinea: 2006 Index for Economic Freedom.” The Heritage Foundation. Hilary, John. “The Betrayal of a Forgotten People.” The Guardian: Comment is Free. 17 May 2006. l (accessed 17 November 2006) Hirsch, John L. Sierra Leone: Diamonds and the Struggle for Democracy. Boulder, Lynne Rienner Publishers. 2001. "Letter dated 29 January 2002 from the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, the Legal Counsel, addressed to the President of the Security Council." United Nations Security Council, S/2002/161. 12 February 2002. “Liberia: End of Diamond and Timber Sanctions Closer.” UN Integrated Regional Information Network via Global Policy Forum. 10 April 2006. Marks, Thomas A. “Spanish Sahara—Background to the Conflict.” African Affairs, Oxford University Press: 1976 Migdalovitz, Carol. “Western Sahara: Status of Settlement Efforts.” CRS Report for Congress. 24 February 2005. Mundy, Jacob A. “Stubborn Stalemate in Western Sahara.” The Middle East Research and Information Project. “NEPAD in Brief.” NEPAD. Obi, Cyril. “Conflict and Peace in West Africa.” The Nordic Africa Institute. 30 March 2006. “POLISARIO Front.” Western Sahara Online. “Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation Concerning the Western Sahara.” United Nations Press Release. May 23, 2003.

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“Report on Post-Conflict Economic Situation and Prospects for January - June 2004.” International Monetary Fund. March 2004. Sriram, Chandra Lekha and Nielsen, Zoe. Exploring Subregional Conflict: Opportunities for Conflict Prevention. Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder: 2004 “The Burden of Debt.” Online News Hour. PBS. July 2003. “The Proliferation of Illegal Small Arms and Its Impact on Violence and Security: Subregional Perspectives.” Monograph No 30. September 1998. “West African Region.” The United Nations System. 2002. “Western Africa.” United Nations Relief Web. “Western Sahara—MINURSO Background.” United Nations. 2002. “Western Sahara.” United Nations Global Policy Forum. “Western Sahara Weekly News.” Western Sahara Occidental. 25 February 2002.


West Africa Director: Janelle Gendrano The Institute for Domestic and International Affairs, Inc. © 2006 Institute for Domestic & Intern...


West Africa Director: Janelle Gendrano The Institute for Domestic and International Affairs, Inc. © 2006 Institute for Domestic & Intern...