25 Sep 2015
Preventing Mass Atrocities in West Africa

During the late 1990s and early 2000s populations across several West African countries endured civil war, violence that spilled over borders and mass atrocities perpetrated by both armed rebels and governments. The repercussions of identity-based conflict ensured that inter-communal divisions, socioeconomic instability and weak or corrupt governance remained pervasive throughout the region even after the conflicts had ended. Today, however, actions taken at all levels are changing the pattern of conflict and governance in West Africa and countries that previously experienced mass atrocity crimes are now implementing structural reforms to ensure that such violent conflict does not recur.

This occasional paper from the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect assesses institutions that play a role in mass atrocity prevention at the national, regional and international level in West Africa. From Ghana's National Peace Council to the Early Warning Response Network of the Economic Community of West African States, diverse actors throughout the region are taking critical steps towards safeguarding populations from mass atrocity crimes and upholding the Responsibility to Protect.

Case studies of Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone review preventive mechanisms undertaken after mass atrocities have occurred, addressing the gaps between the need and desire to rebuild and the reality of post-conflict government capacity. This paper is being published at a moment that will serve as a critical test for preventive efforts undertaken by Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire as both countries prepare for October 2015 elections.