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  • The Journal of Modern African Studies, Volume 42, Issue 3
  • September 2004, pp. 437-463

Violent conflicts and governance challenges in West Africa: the case of the Mano River basin area

  • Amos Sawyer (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 September 2004

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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The original draft of this paper was presented at the Spring 2003 colloquium of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University. I thank Vincent Ostrom, Elinor Ostrom, Michael McGinnis, Sheldon Gellar and Anjali Bhat of the Workshop, Gerhard Glomm and other colloquium participants, Peter Schwab of SUNY (Purchase), Amy Poteete of the University of New Orleans, for valuable comments on previous drafts. I also thank Tiawan Gongloe and three anonymous reviewers for very helpful suggestions, and Laura Wisen of the Workshop's library for her assistance. This paper is part of a book project supported by the Workshop and a generous grant (USIP-030-01S) from the United States Institute of Peace. I am deeply grateful to both organisations.
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The Journal of Modern African Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-278X
  • EISSN: 1469-7777
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-modern-african-studies
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