West Africa has been victim to successive waves of conflict for more than 15 years. Civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone displaced up to 80% of the populations of those countries at the height of the violence. Separatist rebels in Senegal's Casamance region contested government troops over more than 20 years, displacing tens of thousands.
While peace is taking hold in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and a historic peace accord was signed between the Senegalese government and Casamance separatists in 2004, the situation in Cote d'Ivoire remains tense and Guinea continues to hover on the brink of violent conflict.
In an effort to hold accountable those most responsible for the grave crimes committed during the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the United Nations partnered with the government of Sierra Leone to create the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which was mandated to prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the nation’s 1991-2001 civil war. The Special Court indicted the then sitting President of Liberia, Charles Taylor, in a warrant that was unsealed in 2003. Following the indictment Taylor was offered asylum in Nigeria in exchange for exiting power, but the grant of asylum was challenged by a coalition of NGOs, including IRRI. Taylor has since been handed over to the Special Court and is standing trial in the Hague. The government of Cote d'Ivoire has also, although it is not a state party, accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court over crimes committed in the course of its civil conflict. It is unclear whether or not the Prosecutor's office will open an investigation.
Since its inception, the International Refugee Rights Initiative has supported a network of refugee organisations in the region, WARIPNET, the West African Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Network.
Publications of the International Refugee Rights Initiative related to Western Africa:
"Refugee Protests Derailed in Ghana," Refugee Rights News, Volume 4, Issue 2
"By the Grace of God: Insecurity and Empowerment in a West African Refugee Camp," by Jennifer Rumbach (IRRI intern - Spring 2007), May 15, 2007.
"Prosecuting a Warlord: Charles Taylor facing justice at last," Refugee Rights News, Volume 3, Issue 2, July 2006.
"Charles Taylor: One Step Closer to Justice," Refugee Rights News, Volume 2, Issue 4, November 2005.
"Liberian Elections Exclude IDPs," Refugee Rights News, Volume 2, Issue 4, November 2005.
"Liberian Elections and President Charles Taylor," September 1, 2005.
"Is Charles Taylor's Time Up?" Refugee Rights News, Volume 2, Issue 2, July 2005.