n African Journal on Conflict Resolution - Peace agreements and the termination of civil wars : lessons from Liberia

Volume 11, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1562-6997


On Christmas Eve in 1989, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), a rebel group led by Charles Taylor, a former official of the Doe regime, launched a military attack against the north-central region of Liberia from a base in neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire. Understandably, the Doe regime launched a counter-offensive. The resultant 'tugs and pulls' degenerated into Liberia's first civil war (1989-1996).

Concerned about the adverse impact of the war on sub-regional security, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the sub-regional organisation, intervened in the conflict using, among others, a peacemaking approach that revolved around various peace accords. However, the initial sixteen peace accords failed to end the war. Finally, the Abuja II Peace Accord ended the blood-bath. What factors accounted for these outcomes? The initial sixteen peace agreements were deficient in terms of one or more of the elements that that have to be dealt with for the successful implementation of a peace accord - ranging from the 'spoiler phenomenon' to the lack of enforcement. In contradistinction, the success of the Abuja II Peace Agreement was anchored in the fact that the requisite steps were taken to ensure the effective operationalisation of the battery of elements required for success. For example, the Taylor-led NPFL's perennial role as the 'spoiler' was addressed by the unwillingness of Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire, the warlordist militia's two major supporters, to continue to acquiesce in the warring faction's obstruction of the peacemaking process. Also, ECOWAS developed the political will to enforce the agreement, including the threat of establishing a war crime tribunal.

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