Accepted paper:

Paying the bill, asserting regional space: ECOWAS and its Standby Force in Guinea-Bissau


Jens Herpolsheimer (Leipzig University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the deployment process and financing of the ECOWAS Standby Force in Guinea-Bissau, placing it in the context of previous conflict interventions by ECOWAS and interactions with other international actors, as well as linking it to ECOWAS’ aspirations to assert “its” regional space.

Paper long abstract:

Since the 1990s, regional organizations have increasingly turned into central actors in dealing with various crises on the African continent. While this development is reflected in a continuously growing body of literature, much more and deeper analysis is required to understand complex dynamics in different local contexts and between different actors involved, especially when it comes to financing operations. Therefore, taking an example that so far has received only scant attention, this paper focuses on the processes around the deployment of the ECOWAS Standby Force in Guinea-Bissau (ECOMIB) in 2012. Based on field research in Addis Ababa, Abuja, Bissau, and Dakar, the paper empirically reconstructs how ECOMIB has been decided, planned, and implemented. Interestingly, ECOWAS initially deployed without any international mandate other than its own, and thus also had to fund the operation by itself. Until today, attempts to secure financial support from international partners/donors have been largely unsuccessful. Consequently, the paper argues that, through ECOMIB, ECOWAS has tried both to take responsibility for regional conflicts (also financially) and to assert primacy in its "own" regional space. However, it also demonstrates how positions adopted and actions taken by ECOWAS relate to other actors (e.g. AU, EU, and the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries) as well as previous interactions and engagements. Moreover, these positions and actions also reflect particular spatial imaginations that guide them. Thus, this paper contributes to a better understanding of the dynamics between different regional organizations in Africa and their role in security affairs.

panel P032
Capital politics: The political economy of African regional organisations