Exchange of Researchers and Practitioners on Regional Security Challenges in West Africa

ZEI, WAI, CEISR and LU/UQAM organized an International Symposium in Accra, Ghana

 

Group 1Key questions about peace and security and the creation of a West African Peace and Security Research Network were the two main issues addressed during the International Symposium organized by ZEI, WAI, CEISR and LU/UQAM at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Centre (KAIPTC) of Accra, Ghana, 28-30 April 2015.

The event brought together researchers and practitioners from Africa, Europe and North America in order to discuss current challenges to peace and security in West Africa. Among others, the Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, H.E. Dr. Toga Gayewea McIntosh, the Director for Political Affairs of the ECOWAS Commission and UN representatives attended the Symposium. The thematic debate focused on the situation in Mali, on the problems of the MINUSMA operation, on maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, on the role of France in West Africa and on the coordination of different organizations in the process of conflict resolution.

The general objective of the Symposium was to find out the origin of the various conflicts that have emerged in West Africa in the post-colonial time and to debate over the efficiency, the effectiveness and the motivation behind peace operations and conflict resolution initiatives.

Sal conf 1Nowadays the African continent is facing plagues such as religious persecution, xenophobia, various forms of intolerance, drug traffic, terrorism, maritime insecurity etc. In addition, the weakness of democratic institutions, the increasing gap between poor and rich, the progression of social inequity regarding rights like access to education, water and basic social services, youth unemployment, illegal migration, the inequalities between women and men as well as the indifference of the citizen towards the tragedy of the most disadvantaged social classes are aggravating factors of risk for conflicts and insecurity.

The West African region in particular is characterized by the increasing level of harmful conflicts that have emerged in the post-colonial period, but having their main roots in the pre-colonial and colonial time.

The Cold War between East and West impacted on the whole African continent and was already visible during the Inauguration Summit of the Organization of the African Unity in 1963 in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) with the emerging of the Casablanca and the Monrovia Groups.

The creation of ECOWAS in May 28th, 1975, has allowed to develop the concept and the implementation of peacekeeping operations (creation of ECOMOG in 1990 with interventions for a cease-fire in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau) and conflict resolution through diplomatic channels. Another West African Organization, the Mano River Union, an Intergovernmental Institution comprising of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire, was created on October 3th, 1973 in order «to strengthen the capacity of Member States to integrate their economies and coordinate development programs in the areas of peace building, as a prerequisite to any development, trade promotion, development of industry, energy, agriculture, natural resources, transport and telecommunications, monetary and financial affairs in short, all aspects of economic and social life of the Member States».

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989 pointing out the official end of the Cold War, the hostility between the Western and Eastern Blocks was intensified in some countries of the Middle East, the African continent, Latin America and Asia.

A more or less recent source of conflict in West Africa is the strong demand by the civil society for more democracy, good governance, full multiparty, state of law, fundamental freedoms etc. Hence the need to develop the concept of "Conflict Prevention" in order to avoid the death of too many innocent victims, the majority being women and children.

Sal conf 2However, the prevention of conflicts requires their deeper understanding. Therefore, a better communication and cooperation between practitioners from regional and international institutions and civil servants from national governments and researchers are needed to strengthen this understanding and use it in an effective way. This was one of many constructive contributions of the participants of the Symposium on the Regional Dynamics of Peace and Security in West Africa. Also it became obvious during the discussions, that in-depth knowledge about the causes and dynamics of conflicts and about the behavior of key actors is crucial to facilitate a more effective conflict management.

Against this background, the idea of a research network was presented, which could provide this in-depth knowledge for decision-makers and convey the research results in specialized formats of exchange. To make the existing research results available to a wider public, the establishment of an internet blog is planned to disseminate the contributions to the Symposium.

During the opening ceremony, one minute of silence has been observed in the memory of all the victims of terrorism, armed conflicts, intolerance and natural catastrophes.

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