The Role of the Economic Community of West African States in Counterinsurgency and Conflict Resolution

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 4-1-2019



From 1991 to 2002, the Sierra Leone government and the Revolutionary United Front waged war against each other, subjecting Sierra Leone to a civil war. This war devastated the nation and resulted in many human casualties. Although many researchers have investigated the role of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in counterinsurgency and conflict resolution, few studies have been conducted on the specific role of strategic processing tools used by ECOWAS during the Sierra Leone war to sustain a durable peace resolution in the country. Using Galula’s conceptualization of counterinsurgency and conflict resolution as a guide, the purpose of this qualitative, I used an explanatory case study to determine the elements that made strategic processing tools effective. Data were collected through open ended interviews with 10 Sierra Leoneans that experienced the conflict, publicly available documents, and mass media reports related to the Sierra Leone civil war. All data were manually coded and then subjected to constant comparative analytic procedures. The key finding of this study was that conflict resolution was successful because intervention by ECOWAS was largely viewed by Sierra Leoneans favorably and legitimate. The ECOWAS use of force was vital for the peace process. However, there were occurrences of human rights violations that were not fully resolved through the procedural mechanisms in place at the time. The positive social change implications stemming from this study includes recommendations to ECOWAS to establish a disciplinary unit to oversee violations of international humanitarian law and other serious abuses by ECOWAS troops. These actions may advance peace among religions, political parties, and ethnic groups in the region.

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