Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 05/2009

West Africa: Governance and Security in a Changing Region

Abdel-Fatau Musah

February 2009

International Peace Institute


This paper addresses the challenges to human and regional security in the territory covered by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).1 It examines causal factors and their effects, profiles the actors shaping the security environment, and describes the nature and impacts of their interventions. Finally, it projects possible future scenarios based on the current security dynamics. The paper examines the geopolitical environment of West Africa, with emphasis on the strategic importance of the region and the vulnerabilities emanating from its location. Within this context, it discusses the roles of local, regional, and international actors in the evolving regional security architecture, sifting through their actions, motivations, and interventions. It analyzes the attempts by national, regional, and international institutions to transform the security environment, highlighting their roles, strengths, and weaknesses; and it projects various security scenarios, proposing policy options to meet the challenges that these scenarios present.