Timeline: A history of ECOWAS military interventions in three decades

The West African bloc has a history of successful military interventions to restore constitutional order within the region.

A Nigerien soldier with ECOMOG, the military arm of the Economic Community of West African States, adjusts a rocket launcher in the village of Lomo Nord, in central Ivory Coast, February 14, 2003 [Issouf Sanogo/AFP]

On July 26, members of Niger’s presidential guard deposed President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup, the fifth successful one in nine attempts in West Africa since 2020.

This has prompted the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to impose sanctions and issue a one-week ultimatum to the interim military government to reinstall Bazoum or face possible use of force.

If it goes ahead, it won’t be the first time the 15-member regional bloc has intervened in crises involving member nations. The Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), the military arm of ECOWAS, was formed in 1990 to regularly intervene in conflicts within the region.


Here is a list of those interventions.

1990: Liberia

In 1989, Charles Taylor led a militia against the Liberian government, leading to the outbreak of civil war there. Consequently, the regional bloc made an unprecedented move to intervene in 1990. The initial 3,000-man ECOMOG contingent was formed with personnel drawn from Nigeria, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, and Sierra Leone with additional soldiers contributed by Mali.

The mission was controversial due to a trail of human rights violations committed by its personnel, especially against women, but it secured peace. The troops were present in the country until 1996 when the war ended.


1997: Sierra Leone

ECOMOG’s next stop was the Sierra Leonean capital, Freetown, in 1997 following the overthrow of the elected civilian government of Ahmed Tejan Kabbah by Major Johnny Paul Koroma in a military coup.

The force, under the command of Nigerian troops, moved part of its personnel from Monrovia, the Liberian capital, to recapture Freetown from the rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF). In February 1998, ECOMOG launched an attack that led to the fall of the military regime and Kabbah was reinstalled as leader of the country.

1999: Guinea Bissau

The next stop for ECOMOG was a ceasefire mission in Guinea Bissau after hostilities broke out following an attempted coup in 1998. The fight was between government forces backed by neighbouring Senegal and Guinea against coup leaders who had control of the armed forces.

The hostilities were resolved after a peace agreement was put in place in November 1998 on the conditions of a national unity government and new elections in 1999 but a new outbreak of conflict in May 1999 scuppered the agreement.

In November, a peace accord was signed in Abuja which, in part, stated the withdrawal of Senegalese and Guinean troops and the deployment of ECOMOG forces to ensure peace.

2003: Côte d’Ivoire

After Ivorian armed forces and rebel groups came to a ceasefire agreement in 2003, ECOWAS deployed troops as ECOWAS forces in Côte d’Ivoire (ECOMICI) to complement the United Nations and French troops.

Senegalese soldiers with ECOMOG stand guard in the village of Lomo Nord in central Ivory Coast, February 14, 2003 [Issouf Sanogo/AFP]

2003: Liberia

The second Liberian civil war also necessitated a return of regional troops. While the first civil war brought Charles Taylor to power, the second civil war between 1999 and 2003 led to his exit.

This time, ECOWAS deployed troops under ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL) with some 3,500 soldiers, with the most coming from Nigeria. They served as an interposition force, keeping the warring parties apart and facilitating the arrival of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

2013: Mali

A 2012 coup in Mali led to a breakdown of order and armed groups immediately took advantage of the coup that followed to overrun the north of the country.


ECOWAS led the Africa-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) to support the Malian government in the fight against rebels in 2013.

The mission was authorised by a UN Security Council resolution and its initial mandate was one year. Nigeria contributed most of the troops, but a host of other West African countries, including Gabon, Ivory Coast, Niger and Burkina Faso, also backed the mission.

AFISMA eventually gave way to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation in Mali (MINUSMA).

2017: The Gambia

Codenamed “Operation Restore Democracy”, an ECOWAS operation led by Senegal sent troops into Banjul to force Yahya Jammel who had refused to concede an election loss to Adama Barrow in the 2016 election.

Barrow was sworn in as president at the Gambian embassy in Dakar and requested an ECOWAS military intervention. The troops ensured the transition within three days.

The name of the mission was later changed to ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia (ECOMIG) and lasted until December 2021.

Source: Al Jazeera