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Wednesday, February 11, 1998 Published at 18:00 GMT

World: Africa

ECOMOG: peacekeeper or participant?
image: [ It was the anarchy in Liberia that led to the setting up of ECOMOG ]
It was the anarchy in Liberia that led to the setting up of ECOMOG

The West African peacekeeping mission -- known by the acronym ECOMOG -- was first deployed in Liberia in 1990 to halt factional fighting in the capital, Monrovia.

[ image: Nigerian troops dominated the force]
Nigerian troops dominated the force
It was set up under the auspices of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who were concerned at the threat of instability in the region. Western countries had refused to intervene in Liberia and Nigeria, the regional giant, felt something had to be done.

The ECOMOG force was initially made up of some 4,000 troops from Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Gambia.

ECOMOG's role was at times controversial when it effectively became a faction itself in the war, stopping warlord Charles Taylor's forces from entering the capital.

[ image: Charles Taylor is now President]
Charles Taylor is now President
This policy was changed, however, and the Nigerian commanders began cooperating with Taylor when it was clear he was the major force in the country.

Last month, more than seven years after its initial deployment, ceremonies were held in Monrovia to mark the end of ECOMOG's peacekeeping mission.

ECOMOG had been instrumental in ensuring security during elections which were won by Charles Taylor.

Involvement in Sierra Leone

On May 25 1997, Major Johnny Paul Koroma led a military coup against the democratically-elected government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. The President fled into exile in Guinea.

[ image: The fighting between ECOMOG and military forces in Freetown has led to a flood of refugees into Guinea.]
The fighting between ECOMOG and military forces in Freetown has led to a flood of refugees into Guinea.
Nigeria sent 700 troops and two naval vessels which had been part of the ECOMOG operation in Liberia to bolster Nigerian forces already based in Sierra Leone.

Intervention by the ECOMOG forces failed to remove Koroma from power, but at the time their action was supported by the UN and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

On October 8 1997, the United Nations Security Council adopted a Resolution on Sierra Leone which introduced sanctions against the military government in Sierra Leone.

Fighting broke out on several fronts around Freetown, between ECOMOG forces and troops loyal to the military government.

The BBC correspondent said the Nigerians -- backed by the militia loyal to the ousted President -- appeared to have run out of patience with the military government's explanations about why an agreed peace plan for Sierra Leone could not be implemented.

The ECOMOG commander, Maj-Gen Timothy Shelpidi, was quoted as saying in early February that negotiations had "failed" and he was determined to capture Freetown.

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