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West African bloc prepares to send troops into Mali and Guinea-Bissau

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Ouattara said that ECOWAS would soon begin negotiations with northern Mali’s rebels.

If ECOWAS does end up intervening, it will be a test of the West African organizations' political will to solve regional problems before they spread across borders. Like the larger continent-wide body, the African Union, ECOWAS has evolved from a mainly trade talk-shop into a venue for conflict-resolution, and its member nations, led primarily by Nigeria, have increasingly shown a willingness to use military force if necessary.

ECOWAS first tested itself in a military intervention in Liberia, during that country’s brutal civil war. Calling itself the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), the West African contingent distinguished itself from the United Nations peacekeeping mission by fighting its way into the conflict against many different factions, and then holding its ground in Monrovia.

But ECOMOG was plagued by divisions among member countries on which Liberian leader to support, as well as the ill behavior of some of its soldiers. After a few years in Liberia, ECOMOG was nicknamed “Every Car or Movable Object Gone,” because of the penchant of ECOMOG soldiers to loot.

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