The Questioned Legality of Foreign Military Intervention in Members’ state in the Economic Community of West African States!

  • Emmanuel Saffa Abdulai


A military coup in the Republic of Mali, a West African nation, leading to the resignation, arrest and detention of the democratically elected sitting president in August, 2020. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent an envoy demanding for restoration of constitutionally order and democracy. It was in the same direction that, on the 19th January 2017, ECOWAS, launched operation ‘Restore Democracy in Gambia’ and mobilized a standby force - from six nations - to militarily intervene in a member state, if diplomacy failed to persuade former President Yayah Jammeh to step down and accept presidential elections result. This is not the first time that ECOWAS has intervened in a member country to restore democracy and provide humanitarian protection for civilians. In 1999, led by Nigeria, ECOWAS restored the democratically elected government of ex-President Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, who had been illegally toppled by his military. This article looks at whether there is any legal basis in international law for such military intervention. Is ECOWAS acting in accordance with the African Union (AU) Treaty and its Peace and Security Protocol to restore peace and avoid grave consequences? If not, is then ECOWAS undertaking pre-emptive self-defense to avoid a spill of conflict in the region? Or yet, is ECOWAS tired of waiting for the United Nations’ (UN) permission and intervention, taking its own business seriously by enforcing democratic change of government? This article points out the very convoluted maize of international law on military intervention, rights to self-defense, humanitarian interventions and the principles of sovereignty in the wake of enforcement of the rules of jus cogens.


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