UJ Institute for the Future of Knowledge

Why West African states do not go to war with each other: ‘Pan-West Africanism’ and constructivist international relations

African Security Review

Realism and liberalism theories have had the most significant influence on the analyses for international relations. While the theories have proven useful in enriching understanding of complex situations at the regional level, both are insufficient in explaining the absence of violent inter-state conflicts in West Africa. This article argues that realism and liberalism cannot explain the absence of inter-state conflicts in West Africa. Instead, constructivism offers a more useful explanation by focusing on the values that define state relations. The principle of non-aggression and peaceful settlement of disputes appear more pronounced among the states and define their relations. Adherence to these norms has led to the emergence of a collective identity and a security community among the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) states. The common identity and non-violent approach of the states towards each other is founded on the values of ‘Pan-West Africanism’ that advocates West African unity, brotherliness and solidarity. Pan-West Africanism reinforces a consciousness of a commonly shared colonial history and the construction of a post-colonial victim identity and oppressed members of the international community that requires mutual cooperation devoid of violence.

Abubakar Abubakar Usman & Hakeem Onapajo
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