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Chapter One


Background to the Study

The idea of peacekeeping was first mooted in international politics in the 1820s by the great powers. The motive was to forestall the resurgence of imperialist ambitions of some statesmen of Europe after the experience with Napoleon Bonaparte of France. With the Treaty of Chaumont in 1814, Austria, England, Prussia and Russia, were brought to a great alliance. The purpose was to use international force to overthrow Napoleon, prevent his dynasty from returning to power in France and to guarantee the territorial settlement proposed by the concert of powers. Consequently, in the 1815 Quadruple Alliance, the four great powers resolved to pursue and maintain the arrangements of Chaumont, Vienna and Paris by armed force for a period of 20 years. This, it was said, was to ensure international peace and control Wiseberg, (1973) The Quadruple Alliance therefore contained a clause that supported the use of an international armed force to restore peace and order in the troubled nations of Europe Opubo, (1986).

However, when in 1818, Alexander of Russia floated the Treaty of Holy Alliance, demanding a general union of sovereigns or kings against revolutions, and when he wanted other kings to send allied forces to help the Spanish King subdue his revolting colonies in America, other powers led by Britain strongly opposed the project.  These powers then “prevailed on the congress to disclaim the use of force in any such attempt”. 

Castlereagh, the British representative at the Congress, diplomatically remarked that the Spanish revolution was an internal affair and should not be viewed as dangerous to other countries. England, he further explained, owed her present dynasty and constitution to an internal revolution. Castlereagh declared that Britain should not therefore, deny to other countries the same rights of changing their form of Government. By this declaration, Castlereagh had laid the basic foundation of British foreign policy in the 19th century Temperly, and Penson, (1938). Parliamentary European states, like Britain and France, objected to the idea of a union of sovereigns for general intervention on the ground that, it was masterminded by absolute and despotic Kings for selfish purposes. Small nations equally opposed it because it was mainly directed against them. 

Objections to the use of a general intervention force to suppress internal revolutions led to the early abandonment of the idea.  Similar disagreements amongst the Allies also led to the collapse of future congresses. The demise of congressional government, i.e. government by alliance, gave rise to the creation of an international organization that metamorphosed into the League of Nations (in 1919) as machinery for prevention of war and aggressions Onyia , (1993). But the League lacked the necessary executive powers to compel its members to cooperate. Collective security could not therefore succeed as a method of preventing wars unless there existed international armed force acting under an international authority capable of exacting compliance from members. 

Fortunately, the inter-war period (1918-1938) provided relative peace and the idea of a peacekeeping force apparently lapsed into oblivion. The idea, however, resurfaced following World War II in 1939 when the Allied Forces employed it as a strategy to check undemocratic tendencies in new colonies. When peace-keeping was used on Japan in 1943, the then Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Douglas MacArthur, argued that the emphasis was on democratization so that:

(a)         Japan would not again constitute a danger to world peace,  

(b)        a new Japanese Government would guard against the violation of individual rights and, 

(c)         Japan would be assisted to develop goods oriented economy that would be adequate for peace time The New Encyclopedia Britannica, (1991)

From World War II to the formation of the United Nations Organization (UNO) in 1945, security and conflict control took the form of coalition, mediation and delegation of responsibility to the UN Secretary General. Peace was only discussed at round table conferences, and the idea of a peacekeeping force was rather seen as an ambitious project. The idea was neither mentioned nor described in the UN Charter as one of the measures to preserve world peace. This left a deep gulf between theory and practice and between the principles and objectives of the UN charter and political realities of the time. According to Javier Perez de Cuellar, an ex- UN Secretary General, “the effort to bridge the gulf has been the main theme of the first forty (40) years of the UN”(UN, 1985)

In any case, the concept of peace-keeping and its use gained greater popularity and force between 1953 and 1961 when the term was first used by Dag Hammarskjold, an ex-UN-Secretary General and prime mover of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF). This was a UN agency established by the General Assembly under a Uniting for Peace Resolution over the Suez Canal, which had been occupied by an Anglo-French force to interpose between Egypt and Israel(UN, 1985). 

Between 1953 and 1960, few African countries, like Nigeria, may have participated in peacekeeping operations such as in Congo, Somalia, Angola, Lebanon, Niger, Chad etc. However, no crisis in the sub region reached such a magnitude as to warrant the creation and deployment of an international force led by a hegemonic power like Nigeria. Neither Togo’s nor Ghana’s coup d’etat of 1963 and 1966 respectively, nor even the Nigerian civil crisis of same year called for outside intervention force. As Ben Johnson noted, “peace-keeping operations in the West African subregion, involving the deployment of sub regional troops had been unheard of prior to the Liberian civil war; and despite the high rate of crises which had occurred and is still occurring on the African continent, it is quite paradoxical that the body for conflict resolution had not been (formally) established before the Liberian crisis”.

In order to have a clear perception of the subject matter, as well as address questions raised therein, an effort is made here to explain or define, the concept of peacekeeping. As a complex term, it has been conceived, analyzed, interpreted and used in diverse ways by scholars, critics and people involved in its operations.

The Chambers 20TH Century Dictionary defines peacekeepers as “a military force sent into an area with the task of preventing fight between opposing factions,”12 while the New Webster Dictionary of English Language defines the concept to mean the United Nation’s combat ready force of member nations combined into a military body to maintain peace in an area involved in dispute”13.  Roselyn Higgins defines peace-keeping as “operations in which personnel owing allegiance to the UN are engaged in military or paramilitary duties, and for one carrying weapons for their own defence in the pursuit of duties for the maintenance and restoration of peace.

None of these definitions takes into account some historical antecedents, like the peacekeeping role of the Quadruple Alliance and the Congress System, as earlier discussed.  The writers described peace-keeping only in relation to the United Nations. The congress endorsed early use of international force for conflict resolution and control, which of course worked for a time Grant and Termperly.

Secondly, none of these definitions includes the United State’s use of Allied Forces to check Japanese internal rebellion. Thirdly, and more important, none of these definitions covered later peacekeeping efforts made by such regional and sub-regional bodies as O.A.U and ECOWAS.  Earlier definitions were seemingly limited to UN activities.  In other words, the definitions, were describing what were already in existence at a time, which could not be applied to general peacekeeping efforts. The point being made is that, peacekeeping did not start nor end with the United Nations as an international conflict control strategy. Besides, the above definitions are not inclusive of the involvement and roles of the police, the paramilitary, the civilians and other personnel in peace-keeping operations. 

A definition given by the International Peace Academy is considered here as most apt, operational and all-embracing.  According to this body:  Peace-keeping is conceived as the prevention, containment, moderation and termination of hostilities between or within states through the medium of peaceful third party intervention, organized and directed internationally, using multinational (or unilateral) forcesof soldiers, police and civilians to restore and maintain peace, International Peace Academy, 1970

The above definition takes into account earlier and subsequent incidents giving rise to the use of the concept. It equally raises some critical questions that provide the basic framework necessary for the analysis of Nigeria’s involvement and ECOMOG operations in the Liberian civil war of 1989 to 1997. 

Nigeria’s intervention with ECOMOG in the Liberian crisis was probably the most ambitious foreign adventure she had undertaken to date. It was a huge military adventure considering the number and amount of human and material losses incurred both by the host country and the contributing nations, particularly Nigeria.   It tested the then inviolability of the sacred principle of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states in Africa Skjelsback, (1986).

 The adventure remains hotly debated by critics, scholars and commentators on international affairs.  It was, for instance, the first and a successful attempt by Africans, especially West Africans, to resolve an internal conflict within the sub-region without resort to “extra-power” involvement either from the West or the United States of America, specifically. 

Again, it was a sub-regional initiative by a subregional organization without political, military and logistic support from the parent regional organization, the (OAU). The O.A.U only gave its blessing in the form of diplomatic backing, etc. Surprisingly, no serious attempts have yet been made to examine the reasons, the extent and the consequences of Nigeria’s involvement in so gigantic a venture as the ECOMOG Peace-Keeping in Liberia.

The adventure is all the more intriguing because ECOWAS as a sub-regional organization, wielded only economic power and thus, had no political mandate to perform security -related responsibilities.18 Some ECOWAS stakeholders like Burkina Faso, Cote D’Ivoire, etc, had bitterly complained of inadequate consultations prior to the peace-keeping mission and were therefore, not in support of the project.  Some others contended that there were no convincing reasons for mustering such a “colossal multinational force” into a conflict conceived as an internal matter. 

In his attempt to analyse the outstanding role played by Nigeria in that crisis, Aja-akpuru Aja noted that, “no external power service of Nigeria has generated more contention or debate than the country’s peace initiative and effort in support of the resolution of the Liberian conflicts under the auspices of ECOWAS Peace Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) in the West African sub-region.” Aja-akpuru Aja, 1998 

Nigeria was for instance, accused by some member states and warring factions in the crisis, of spearheading the intervention. Nigeria’s action was seen as an outright and unjustified interference in Liberia’s internal affairs.  The opposing member states saw no reasons for Nigeria championing such a “breach” of the international law and principles if not to project herself as a sub-regional power. There was also an allegation that Nigeria had some personal interests to pursue as demonstrated by Generals, Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha. Nigeria’s action was not even supported by OAU and ECOWAS charters.

Charles Taylor himself, saw ECOMOG as Nigeria’s device to keep him out of office and therefore, rejected her impartiality. Iweze Cyril and IsholaHe accused Nigeria of using her might under the cover of ECOMOG to suppress the process of change already begun by him in Liberia. Generally, ECOMOG was perceived by Francophone West Africa as an Anglophone force designed to establish Nigeria’s dominance over the region’s politics.  

Then again, Nigeria was implicated for her poor statesmanship in projecting her military power in the sub-region over and above her domestic capabilities and public opinion within the country. Aja-akpuru Aja Many a Nigerian queried the rationale for embarking on such a large scale military venture that consumed a large proportion of the country’s troops and hard earned economic resources.  The argument was that such funds would have been of greater economic value if used in addressing such pressing national problems as poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, poor health, poor transportation and the capacity-building needs of the country. 

It was also argued that, though Nigeria may have had the political will to champion the peacekeeping mission, domestically she neither enjoyed social harmony nor the economic strength to undertake such a herculean task that placed the nation under serious stress. These statements or assumptions, whether valid or mere misrepresentation of facts, are the high point, which this study investigated.  Incidentally, it is observed that most works on the crisis were either done at the commencement of the conflict or as the crisis was still on course.  This led to hurried conclusions, as most of the events had not completely unfolded themselves.

However, the researcher argues that Nigeria-led ECOMOG mission in Liberia was a welcome development and the best that could have happened to the West African Sub-region and indeed, to the entire continent.  It was a resounding success despite huge loses incurred. The problem therefore, is that entire episode has not received a detailed historical analysis.

The Purpose Of Study

The purpose of this study therefore, is to attempt a detailed analysis of the episode, examining the motives, the extent and the consequences of the Nigeria’s-led ECOMOG intervention in Liberia. These are the key elements which are central in assessing the success accomplished.  This is important, as it will also help to throw more light on the outstanding role played by Nigeria to ensure the success of the peacekeeping mission.

Significance Of Study

It is expected that the outcome of this thesis, will considerably present a clearer picture of the situation to remove speculations, doubts and misconceptions that had beclouded the Liberian conflict and motives for Nigeria’s role.  

 The study will provide a wider frontier of knowledge on the incident.  Its findings will help to give some clues to the sub-regional leaders on how to achieve effective conflict management, as well as sustain real peace and security within the sub-region.  The Liberian experience could be applied to future conflict resolutions through peacekeeping operations.  Real peace and security can be pursued by taking the necessary, corrective and precautionary measures, and by making right judgments.   Corrective measures are very important if the mistakes and miscalculations of the past are to be avoided.  In other words, the findings will enable African statesmen and women to see the need to fashion out benign options and analyze the cost-benefits of involving their member states in any envisaged costly adventures. 

 Based on Nigeria’s outstanding roles, other member states could also see the need to repose greater confidence on ‘Nigeria, her leadership ability and position’ in the sub-region.  Relying on Nigeria’s leadership becomes expedient, especially now that the Western Powers and America are more preoccupied with the protection of their global economic and political interests than deploying their resources to resolve African crises.   There is the need also, to close the historical gap created in the study of ECOMOG peacekeeping operations in the West African sub-region with particular reference to the Liberian conflict. 

 Finally, this work will hopefully add to the volume of the existing body of knowledge in the study of international relations, history and political science with particular reference to peace-keeping in Africa.


This study adopts multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches. Relevant analytical tools of  cognate disciplines like political science, are combined with the chronological, descriptive and analytical methods of historical investigation. In this regard, facts were gathered, collated, interpreted and analysed together with oral and written information. The study belongs to contemporary history. Most of the principal actors, observers and records related to the crisis are still within reach and the events still attract commentaries. This makes input-sourcing for the work a bit easier and reliable.   


The Primary sources are official reports and publications, contemporary newspapers, journals, books and oral information. 

The Secondary sources include publications appearing after the terminal date (1997) as well as relevant unpublished Ph.D and Master’s Degree theses, found in the libraries of some Nigerian universities namely, University of Nigeria Nsukka, University of Lagos, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, etc. Some others include seminar papers and unpublished mimeographs. 


 It covers a period of eight years, from 1989 to 1997.