The purpose of the thesis is to look at a safe haven as a diplomatic arrangement aimed to give protection towards a leader in a country for the purpose of terminating a crisis. It will focus on the case of Charles Taylor, the president of Liberia, who was transported to a safe haven in Nigeria. In an attempt to bring peace to Liberia, a safe haven arrangement was provided by Nigeria’s president. The reason for this diplomatic arrangement date back to the Accra peace talks in June 2003 which was sponsored by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). At that time, the peace talks had reached a deadlock and the possibility of a complete breakdown of the peace process was high. It was within this context that the safe haven arrangement for Taylor was prepared as it was believed Taylor’s exit would break the deadlock and bring peace to Liberia.
The thesis explores the political dimension of the diplomacy that generated the safe haven option. Thus, the research questions which will guide the study are as follows: (1) what were the factors behind the decision by West African heads of state and the international community in deciding that Charles Taylor’s exit was a necessary measure for ending the Liberian civil war, (2) how was the diplomacy in West Africa conducted with regard to Taylor’s exit, and (3) what political factor(s) explain the character of diplomacy in West Africa towards the adoption of a ‘safe haven’ as a strategy of conflict settlement in Liberia.
The starting point is that Taylor’s exit was necessary to end the conflict in Liberia. His departure was seen as the pre-requisite for transition and lasting peace. Thus, the humanitarian rationale was a direct concern in the strategy which facilitated Taylor’s exit. In the making this diplomatic arrangement, personal roles of West African states’ leaders were very much present in. The decision to offer a safe haven to Taylor was not only a pragmatic solution to an emerging humanitarian crisis, it was also conducted and implemented in an ad hoc manner.
In an attempt to explain this important event in West African diplomacy, I will look at both aspects of personal rule in African politics (Chabal & Daloz, 1999) and the ideas about the distribution of power in the debate on regional security (Buzan & Wæver, 2003). I am thereby posing the question whether the involvement of West African leaders in the political process and the unipolarity of power in West African regional security may offer us insights into the political dimension of West African diplomacy. With regards to the methodology of this thesis, I have reviewed the chronological texts of the peace process on the Liberian conflict and tried to interpret them according to the theoretical framework that was established.