Guinea's Justified Anger With ECOWAS

The Perspective

February 19, 2001

It seems the decision of West Africa's regional organization ECOWAS, to appoint itself as a lobbying group for Liberia may divide the organization rather than unite it. Guinea, one of the founding members, is accusing ECOWAS of a "conspiracy" against the country. Mali's President Alpha Konare, the main chief of ECOWAS' PR blitz which convinced the UN to delay sanctions for two months, reportedly received cold reception from President Lansana Conte as he attempted to justify ECOWAS' PR for Taylor. Conte, in understood anger, accused ECOWAS of a "conspiracy against Guinea."

Moreover, the Guineans, key participants in ending Liberia's cycle of horrors when Mali and others were absent except for ceremonial roles, feel the UN's reprieve, engineered by ECOWAS, is intended to give Taylor more time to attack them. The mayor of Conakry said ECOWAS' sanctions reprieve is "allowing Liberia to re-arm and regroup to attack us."

It is difficult to dismiss Conakry's claims and fears, and this brings up a number of questions on ECOWAS' decision-making mechanisms. 1) How and why did ECOWAS undertake a PR mission on behalf of Liberia, 2) Why weren't all ECOWAS member states consulted before opting to launch the PR crusade? 3) Why did Konare and his team claim to speak on behalf of ECOWAS when this in fact is not the case as Guinea's, and possibly Sierra Leone's objections now prove? 4) What are the decision-making mechanisms of ECOWAS that commit member states to crucial decisions even if they are NOT consulted as Guinea is indicating with its anger? 5) Who mandated ECOWAS to make such a monumental decision?

We believe these questions need answers to avoid future embarrassment and foster regional cohesion. ECOWAS, based on Western largesse, is on the verge of deploying troops along the Guinea-Liberia-Sierra Leone borders. Such a clear show of camaraderie with Charles Taylor may hinder, instead of strengthen this difficult project and mutual trust in general. Konare and his friends within ECOWAS, known as the Libyan Club, must be careful not to commit member states to decisions that are not discussed and agreed upon, whatever their zealousness to dance to the drums from Tripoli. It is now clear that Guinea, and possibly Sierra Leone, were never consulted when Konare decided to speak for them under the umbrella of ECOWAS.

Guinea's anger and claims of an ECOWAS conspiracy against it is understandable. The country has lost hundreds of lives, millions of dollars worth in property with clear prospects of more horrors to come as Taylor issues new demands for "peace". The best ECOWAS has done is to propose a border force of 1700 men which has yet to take form as regional leaders rely on the West to provide the money for its mandate. Just as the world was beginning to act, the same ECOWAS, minus Guinea and Sierra Leone and possibly other states, launched a campaign to give to save Taylor more time, more time than he has over a decade. Meanwhile, the UNHCR High Commissioner, emerging from a meeting with Taylor, clearly stated that the key to regional peace was in the ex-warlord's hands. Yet, for no clear reasons, ECOWAS, again meaning Konare and his Libyan friends, intensified their campaign in the opposite direction as refugees pour and homes are destroyed.

Integrity, objectivity and honesty are key in the success of regional peace. ECOWAS must learn from its Liberian compromises, compromises now sending the sub-region into flames, if it is to survive. This is a test, and we hope that Taylor's success will not be ECOWAS' failure. The consequences will be too great if suspicions overtake trust.

For subscription information, go to:
or send e-mail to: