Background

West Africa Center for Peace Studies (WACPS)

People in West and East Africa have and continue to face catastrophic consequences directly attributed to insecurity of life and property.

The political landscape of the region is pockmarked with violent conflict. While these are mostly civil wars, they invariably spill over borders and adversely impact on neighbouring countries. Almost every country in the region has experienced some form of conflict since independence in the 1960s.

Currently there are four main conflict areas in the Western region – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, which comprise the Mano River Union (MRU); Ivory Coast; Senegal and Guinea-Bissau; and the internecine conflicts in Nigeria.

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These conflicts, which have devastated local communities, have largely been marked by extreme cruelty, senseless atrocities and the widespread use of sexual violence and child soldiers along with a great deal of impunity. Schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, water and other public infrastructure have also been destroyed. The conflicts in both Sierra Leone and Liberia have since been ended through peace agreements in 2002 and 2003 respectively but armed conflict continues in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, and Guinea remains seriously unstable.

The region faces many challenges to achieving lasting peace. International military and humanitarian interventions are leaving behind complex and difficult legacies. These measures, alongside international transitional justice processes, have largely failed to improve most people’s lives. Traumatised conflict-affected communities are struggling to recover. The level of poverty is acute poverty, unemployment is high among young people and the culture of impunity and violence remain serious threats to the fragile peace in Sierra Leone and Liberia.