The Mano River basin area has become a conflict zone, in which state failure and violence in Liberia has spread to Sierra Leone and the forest region of Guinea. This article traces the origins of the conflicts to governance failures in all three states, and analyses their incorporation into a single conflict system, orchestrated especially through the entrepreneurial abilities and ambitions of Charles Taylor. Peace settlements negotiated to end the violence in Liberia and Sierra Leone failed, both because of the misconceived power-sharing formula that they embodied, and because they failed to take account of the complex linkages between conflicts across the basin area. The way forward lies in a multilevel basin-wide approach, which seeks to move beyond the failed formula of attempting to reconstitute state power, in favour of constructing institutions of accountable democratic governance at multiple levels from the local level to the regional level and beyond.
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