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Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and the ECOMOG experience

White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing. (public domain)
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Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and the ECOMOG experience

The saying goes that “physical force has solved more conflicts than any other single factor in human history”. This is often the case whereby diplomacy has seized to be an option in achieving the required result. The ongoing crisis in Cote d’Ivoire is a growing cause of concern not just because of the decision of the incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo to hold on to power against the wishes of the electorate, but because of the resolution of ECOWAS Heads of State ‘to use legitimate force’ to get Gbagbo to step down for challenger and former Prime Minister Alssane Quattara the declared winner of the second round of the November 28 Presidential election (having secured 54.1 percent of the vote). Should ECOWAS leaders follow through with the threat then it would no doubt lead to the dispatch of a contingent of her troops under the auspices of the ECOWAS authorized intervention force known as the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).But this is exactly where the problem lies. Nigeria has once again found herself in a very uncomfortable spot, not only because President Goodluck Jonathan is the ECOWAS Chairman, but also because ECOMOG has always been accepted by many as more of a Nigerian initiative. But worrisome however is the cost previous operations have had on the county’s resources both financial and material (most of which could have been avoided if adequate preparations were made).Though the circumstances in Cote d’Ivoire are much different, it is still yet to be seen if Nigeria has truly learnt from the mistakes of the past ECOMOG operations in Liberia (Operation Liberty) in 1990 and Sierra Leone (Operation Sandstorm) in 1997. A look at these two operations should raise some questions

To recall, Nigeria paid a bitter price for her involvement in both the Liberian and Sierra Leone crises. The image of Nigeria loomed large in terms of military and civilian personnel, materials and funding for the operations. Opposition to the military adventure domestically grew more intense after news of mounting casualties on the part of Nigeria started coming in. They asked for a recall of Nigerian troops, many had already perished by their hundreds in unspecified instances. Nigeria lost more troops in Liberia and Sierra Leone than in any other peace-keeping operation she had engaged in. In Liberia, it is estimated that Nigeria lost 500 peacekeeping troops most under unspecified circumstances, considering the fact that the number of deaths, the causes of deaths and the figures were often hidden from even the victim’s families. Other sources have however put the figure a bit higher. The Nigerian Armed Forces also lost hundreds of its troops during the Sierra Leone operation. During the 6 January, 1999 rebel invasion of Freetown Sierra Leone It is estimated that about 100 Nigerian soldiers died while another 100 were missing in action, and 170 killed in road accidents and other non combat-related incidents (e.g. illness mysterious deaths etc ). Another 200 were also reported injured due to land mines. Unexploded shells were also responsible for a lot of injuries and even deaths suffered by Nigerian troops. The then British Foreign

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