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Gambia, which is the smallest country in mainland Africa, has been confronted with countless challenges of electoral malpractices and corruption among the leaders since its independence. These challenges have resulted in the killings of many journalists and members of the opposition party. Yahya Jammeh, having plundered The Gambia’s state coffers through his numerous corrupt schemes; and rigging elections has enabled him to run the country as his personal property and estate. Thus, this has resulted in his refusal to relinquish power to the winner (Adama Barrow) of the 2016 presidential election. In resolving the Gambian crisis, ECOWAS adopted some of its already established mechanisms such as the ECOWAS mechanism on Conflict Management, Resolution, Security, and Peacekeeping and ECOWAS mechanism on Good Governance and Democracy. The study adopted Bargaining Theory of Coercion in other to understand the coercive mechanism of ECOWAS in resolving the conflict in the Gambia. For the purpose of data collection, the study relied on documentary method. By so doing, data were collected from secondary sources by reviewing various newspapers, journals, textbooks and online sources. The findings of the study reveal that ECOWAS has been very successful in its Conflict Resolution Mechanisms in West Africa as it has resolved several conflicts with/in the region. These countries include Liberia, Sierra-Leone, Cote d’ Ivoire, Togo and recently the country under study (The Gambia). Consequently, this study therefore concludes and recommends that other sub regional bodies should emulate ECOWAS in adopting their conflict resolution mechanism within their sub region. Finally, ECOWAS should also ensure that democratic governance through free, fair and credible elections, rule of law and respect for human rights are fully respected and implemented in her sub region.
1.1 Background to the Study
Africa has been the most vulnerable and most externally threatened region in the world. She has experienced brutal, exploitative and oppressive form of colonialism; and this has left negatively impacting legacy on the African continent. Since the 1990s, the sub region West Africa has become home to some of the bloodiest and deadliest conflict; and represents one of the sub regions that have the potential to become a real threat to International peace and security. Over the years, the sub region has been affected by many cases of political instability, lack of governance and bloody insurgencies. States like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Cote d’ivoire and Nigeria have seen civil wars; and coup d’état have been experienced by countries like The Gambia, Niger, Guinea as well as other ethnic and religious clashes in Benin Republic, Nigeria and Mali.
Conflict is derivable from the possession of, and pursuit of divergent ideas, goals, claims, interests and aspirations by people in their relations (Ugokwe, 2006). Conflicts occur between individuals, within states (civil wars), and between states (International Conflict). According to Ross Stagner (2010) conflict is a situation in which two or more human beings desire goals which they perceive as being obtainable by one or the other, but not both. This means that conflict has been part of mankind since creation, and that it will continue to be so. While resolution consists of all actions taken to sustain the resultant peace from the management of the conflict, and the prevention of a reoccurrence of the conflict. This includes post conflict activities (peace building) such as elections, rebuilding of government and infrastructure, rehabilitation of displaced persons and the establishment of mechanism for conflict prevention. In 2011, Otite asserted that because there is hardly any permanent peace or permanent resolution or transformation of conflict, it might be more
appropriate to speak of conflict management as a means of coping with the process of resolving and transforming conflict. Conflict Resolution is defined as the method and processes involved in facilitating the peaceful end of conflict and retribution.
ECOWAS has adopted some mechanisms in conflict prevention and resolution and on Good governance and Democracy. ECOWAS is the major regional economic unit of the sub Saharan western Africa, the region encompasses 15 nations of which one member is an island state. The Economic Community of West Africa State was established on 28th May 1975 in Lagos, Nigeria. The original fifteen states were Benin Republic, Burkina-Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Cote d’ivoire, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togolese Republic. In 1976 the island nation of Cape Verde joined ECOWAS as its 16th member and Mauritania left the organization in 2002. ECOWAS brought together the 15 West African countries, irrespective of their official language or their colonial past. The objective assigned to the community by this initial treaty were at the beginning essentially economic: to promote cooperation and development in all fields of economic activity, accelerated and sustained economic development of member states through effective economic cooperation and progressive integration of economics.
Although security issues have been a problem in sub region. Then in 1999 in Lome, the Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS adopted the protocol on Conflict management, Resolution, peacekeeping and security. Another similar protocol to this is the protocol on Democracy and Good Governance which falls in line with the declaration of political principles of the Economic Community of West African State which was adopted in Abuja in July 1999, on Freedom, People’s right and Democratization. It is by virtue of this declaration that the revised treaty prescribed the promotion and consolidation of a democratic system of governance in each member state as a
fundamental principle of the community. Concerning election the protocol also prescribes asset of rules prohibiting any substantial modification of electoral laws in the last six months before the election, encouraging maintenance of up-to-date and reliable voters list, mandating that election elections be held at fixed periods, and calling for independent or neutral electoral commissions, acceptance of election results by all parties concern, and election monitoring and ECOWAS assistance.
The year 2015 and 2016 were crucial to the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS from the perspective of its efforts to ensure sustainable peace and stability in the region, through supporting the conduct of peaceful elections and the orderly transfer of power ECOWAS has a rich history of managing political transition and election in the past 18years following the adoption of the 1999 protocol relating to the mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peace-keeping and Security as well as the 2001 supplementary protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. December 2016 to January 2017 showed indeed how effective these mechanisms of ECOWAS were, in the intervening in its member state; The Gambia, for the 22 years of its presidency, its government was variously accused of human rights violation and the emasculation of political opponents. Following the dispute December 2016 presidential election in the Gambia, ECOWAS manages to restore democracy in the country by using the threat of force, but without any use of direct physical violence. It should be noted that scholars have not really done much work on the general applicability of the ECOWAS that Both African union and the United Nations Security Council backed ECOWAS, which gave ECOWAS legitimacy for what was essentially ECOWAS policy, and indeed an African solution to African problems.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Since the decolonization process began in Africa in the mid-1960s several African leaders who were elected have had serious problem with relinquishing their position or allowing an election to take place in their unending quest for power. Such leaders include Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, Jose Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola, Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, Paul Biya of Cameroon, General Idris Deby of Chad, Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea and Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia. A significant debate that has not only engulfed the academic sphere, but also the public space, is how to consolidate democracy. This is perhaps because the attempt at consolidating democracy is a more arduous task than the effort at establishing it (Schedler, 2001). The electoral experience of credible and flawed elections, which have put many countries on contradictory trajectories regarding the consolidation of democracy, further underlies the complexities of this challenge.
In some African countries where democracy have thrived, such as Senegal, Ghana and Benin, there are worrying concerns about the manner in which political elites flagrantly and frequently violate the principles of the rule of law, constitutionalism and liberties (Lynch and Crawford, 2011). In the absence of these principles, elections have been reduced to ‘do-or-die affairs’ or a zero-sum game attached to winning elections. By clinging on to political power, they do not only engage in ‘reckless manipulation, but are also engulfed with the politics of brinkmanship and subversion of democratic rule and procedures’ (Adejumobi, 2000:59).
Within the ECOWAS framework they have observed that this is the problem and as such have issued that all members should adopt the protocol on Good Governance and Democracy and the protocol on Conflict Management, Security and Resolution which is in fact the reason why ECOWAS leaders were mandated to seek resolution of the Post Election crisis in the Gambia.
Hence this study is expected to provide empirical facts on conflict resolution mechanism applied in the Gambian crisis.
1.3 Research Questions
The following questions were posed as a guide to this study:
1. .Did the principle of Non Interference in the ECOWAS treaty weaken early resolution of the Gambia’s post election crisis?
2. Did the deployment of Coercive Diplomacy during the post-election crisis contribute to Democratic Consolidation in The Gambia?
3. Can ECOWAS tactics of Coercive Diplomacy serve as a model to other regional bodies in the Continent?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The general objective of this study aims at evaluating critically the Application of the ECOWAS Conflict Resolution Mechanism. However the specific objectives of this study are as follows:
1. To examine if the Non Interference in the ECOWAS treaty weakened early resolution of the Gambia’s post election crisis.
2. To ascertain critically the deployment of Coercive Diplomacy by ECOWAS in consolidating Democracy in the Gambia.
3. To evaluate if the ECOWAS tactics of Coercive Diplomacy in the Gambia has the possibility of General Applicability in the regional bodies in the continent.
The following hypotheses were formulated in the pursuit of the set objectives:
1. The principle of Non Interference in the ECOWAS treaty weakened early resolution of the Gambia’s post election crisis.
2. The employment of the Coercive Diplomacy by ECOWAS in resolving the post-election crisis contributed to Democracy Consolidation in the Gambia.
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