n African Renaissance - Liberia : long and rocky journey to sustainable peace

Volume 4 Number 3-4
  • ISSN : 1744-2532
  • E-ISSN: 2516-5305


Liberia's post-conflict context is faced with complex challenges. The protracted civil war severely disrupted all societal institutions. These include the basic ligaments that sustained communities. Social and political defects growing out of eroded social capital are manifesting themselves in post-war Liberia. Systems collapse also provides no opportunity to address defects. For instance, in the case of Liberia both state and traditional structures were based on exclusion. Liberians seem to be in general agreement on the need for sustainable peace, but what peace and whose peace are the fundamental questions to be addressed. Liberia's forward march to peace, development and nationhood demands serious reconciliation with its past so as to build consensus on the type of state anticipated by the current 'nation-craftsmen'. The international community has made substantial investment in Liberia's peace and return to statehood. However, it must be understood that institution building requires local resources and experiences. Key to this process is local ownership and vibrant leadership.

The country has taken a pioneering approach to national security. After the war, there arose the daunting challenge as to how to realign and structure the role of the national army, while adequately addressing internal and external security needs. Policymakers were reluctant to build a large army, reflecting on the negative role played by military forces in Liberia's past political turmoil. At the close of the civil war, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) reported that it demobilized approximately 100,000 combatants.
Justice and reconciliation has not been sufficiently addressed. Land and Property Disputes, traditional and historical claims to land ownership, ambiguous land tenure system throughout the country, perception that control of land is equal to control of power and local resources, large Presence of Agitated Ex-combatants, recent history of armed violent and subsequent desire to seek revenge through land claims are among the many preconditions on which Liberian conflict feeds. Perhaps the greatest security threat in post-war Liberia is the presence of disgruntled and restive ex-combatant population. Besides the slow RR process, habits picked up from the war years continue to undermine psychosocial recovery both for ex-combatants and their communities. High rate of crime including rape, armed robbery, domestic violence are frequent incidents in most communities with large ex-combatant population.
It is therefore very important that the international community, especially the United States, remain committed to peace in Liberia. Many in Liberia believe that the United States has a unique responsibility to support Liberia's recovery and reconstruction, due to the historical links between the two countries. The international community could further support Liberia's peace-building efforts through the cancellation of its foreign debt - freeing up assets to focus on reconstruction.
Liberia needs international development assistance to succeed, but it also needs peace in West Africa. During the height of Liberia's conflict, Sierra Leone and Guinea were also experiencing political instability and war. Liberia's eastern neighbor, Cote d'Ivoire, has experienced political instability and intermittent fighting since a failed coup in September 2002. Liberia is at a crucial intersection to consolidate its hard won peace. Peace actors must consolidate and create innovative ways and community-supported programs aimed at retrieving outstanding weapons.
Reconciliation efforts must address the divisions in society more directly. In the medium term, work on the overdue issue of land tenure in the country.
The international community needs to expand its support to Liberia in the man-power development needs in key areas of education, health delivery, agriculture, security, and infrastructural development. For certainly, Liberia's march to sustained peace is irreversible.

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