A Case Study of Post-Civil War Peace Building Efforts in Liberia

by Kathryn B. Koziol

Less than 100 freed African slaves and freeborn African-Americans originally founded the Republic of Liberia. With the support of the Quaker run American Colonization Society (ACS), these emancipated slaves and freemen traveled by ship to the west coast of Africa, where they established a settlement, which later became the capital of Monrovia, in 1816. By 1847, nineteen thousand ex-slave and freeborn African Americans had settled in Monrovia and the surrounding coastal areas, often appropriating land from the indigenous people already occupying the area. [1]

These settlers and their ancestors referred to themselves as Americo-Liberians, setting themselves above the other African people in the region, thus creating a socio-economic caste like culture. With the continued support of the American Colonization Society (ACS), these Americo-Liberians built up Monrovia, constructing schools, roads, churches, plantations and creating southern style mansions. They continued to speak English, which became the national language of Liberia, discarding the other ethnic languages spoken by the African tribes in the area. The goal was in part to impose western culture and Christian ideals on the uncivilized indigenous population and to force the less powerful tribes under their control. For this reason there has been long held ethnic tension between the elite class of Americo- Liberians and those belonging to the multitude of indigenous less powerful tribes in the area. [2]

In 1847, The Republic of Liberia held democratic elections for the first time. An Americo-Liberian became the first President of The Republic of Liberia.  President Joseph J. Roberts was an American born freeman, from the state of Virginia who immigrated to Liberia with the help of the ACS. For the next several decades, Liberia enjoyed prosperous trading with Europe, the United States and regional countries. The plentiful natural resources were harvested and traded. However, soon the economy began to suffer from the corrupt practices of some elite members and the government was forced to seek monetary security with the American and British governments. American companies were given land and resource rights for pennies on the dollar in order to arrange for a government bailout. These companies, such as the Ford Motor Company, would exploit the countries natural resources and pay off politicians and elite members of the Americo-Liberian society in order to secure their corporate interests. [3]

In the 1930s and 1940’s Liberia participated in World War II on the side of the allied nations of the United States and Britain. With the election of President William Tubman, Liberia entered into a new age of economic prosperity. Progress was made towards the integration of the indigenous African population, blending them into the social fabric of the country by allowing indigenous men to vote in elections or the first time. During this time, Liberia also became one of the founding countries of the United Nations.  Despite an economic uptick and subsequent modernization of the more affluent coastal areas, the economic divide between the poor indigenous people and the elite Americo-Liberians continued to grow. [4]

President Tubman became so corrupted by affluence and power, that he became more like a dictator than a democratic leader. He was given financial backing by American companies, which he then used to influence the democratic process in Liberia to his favor. He was accused of corruption so he silenced the free press that had existed, arresting and terrorizing any opposition to his governance. He stifled dissent forcefully and ensured that he would hold on to power until he died in 1971. [5]

He was succeeded by his then Vice-President William Tolbert, who initially tried to calm the rising unrest among the impoverished Liberians with economic and political reforms. Many ethnically indigenous Liberians were dissatisfied with the corruption of the elite run government and ignored President Tolbert’s attempts at liberal reforms. Liberia soon began to destabilize. In 1979, after a new tax proposal to increase the price of rice was introduced a deadly protest erupted against the government. Soon thereafter in 1980, a young indigenous military leader named Samuel K. Doe led a squad of Liberian Army Soldiers into the Presidential Mansion and executed President Tolbert, setting off a military coup for control of Liberia. [6]

After the successful coup, Samuel K. Doe, and his supporters set up a government known as the People’s Redemption Council (PRC). Many government officials were executed without trial and other workers in government positions were imprisoned, tortured and kept for months, or eventually killed as well. It was not long until, self-proclaimed, President Doe, eliminated all other members of the council, favoring instead to rule as Liberia’s sole figurehead. Many Liberian’s hopes for an indigenous led democratic government were dashed. [7]

In 1985, Liberia held presidential elections, which were being monitored by several watchdog groups backed by the United Nations General Assembly. President Doe declared victory after a decisive loss and consolidated power by force. Dissent was not tolerated, political rivals were executed without trials, and repression of certain ethnic groups became a tactic to further divide the Liberian people in an attempt to destabilize any chance of a unified uprising. Many civilians were brutally attacked, raped, and murdered. The Liberian Army, loyal to President Doe committed many atrocities, especially against tribes in northern Liberia forcing thousands to flee as refugees across the border to L’Cote D’Ivore (The Ivory Coast). [8]

President Doe’s former Minister of Finance, Charles Taylor, recruited many young men and boys displaced by these attacks. Charles Taylor was a young charismatic political leader, once in the good graces of President Doe. He had fled to Cote D’Ivore to escape execution by Doe, allegedly for embezzlement but more likely for becoming too popular with Liberians, thus making him a political threat to President Doe. From across the border, Taylor formed the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) with over one hundred soldiers, consisting of young displaced Liberians and boys as young as eight years old. Taylor and his forces invaded Liberia on Christmas Eve 1989. Many of the northern tribes of Liberia who had been discriminated against by president Doe, rushed to join his rebellion. [9]

During this civil war, which lasted from 1989 to 1997, both the Liberian national military, known as the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) the NPFL, as well as, several other rebel groups, committed horrendous atrocities against the Liberian people. Many civilians were targeted based on their culture, ethnic and religious affiliation. Thousands of women and young girls were raped and mutilated; men and young boys were either recruited into service or executed. Systemic ethnic cleansing became a hallmark of the Liberian crisis. Taylor’s use of small boy units, also known as “Taylor’s Boys,” were among the most horrific crimes against humanity committed during the Liberian conflict. Taylor utilized, young boys, who were force-fed a steady supply of alcohol and hard drugs, to conduct the most heinous of war crimes against the Liberian people. They would be instructed to rape, mutilate, murder and plunder whatever from whomever they could. Initiation into Taylor’s Boys often meant that these boys were expected to attack their own villages and to mutilate, rape and murder their own relatives. During this six year struggle, over 150,000 Liberians died and half of the country’s population was displaced, before Taylor and his forces took control of the country.[10]

 In 1990, President Samuel Doe was captured, tortured and executed by a splinter faction of rebels headed by a former commander in Taylor’s rebel army, Prince Johnson. Prince Johnson separated from Taylor’s NPFL and formed another rebel group, called the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL)[11], also vying for control with Taylor and other groups allied with him, including the United Liberation Movement for Liberia for Democracy (ULIMO) led by David Roosevelt Johnson. However, by taking much of the capital of Monrovia, Prince Johnson and his forces claimed control of a large portion of the government’s resources.

Meanwhile, the ULIMO, backed by Charles Taylor began securing the diamond fields of Liberia to fund their army. They subsequently invaded the bordering diamond region of Sierra Leone, with the help of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) from that region, and took control of a lucrative resource, which would help Charles Taylor to continue his fight for control.[12]

In 1991, the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) peacekeeping force, known as ECOMOG, entered Monrovia backed by the remaining members of the national Liberian Army the AFL.[13] ECOMOG set up an interim government and began conducting peace talks between the AFL, Taylor’s NPFL/ULIMO, a Muslim based rebel group headed by Albert Karpeh and Prince Johnson’s INPFL forces.[14] After thirteen separate peace treaties were signed and subsequently broken by one or more of the groups, peace prevailed for a short time between 1995 and late1996. The interim government that was set up with representatives from all of the factions broke up when Taylor’s allied forces tried to arrest and allegedly murder David Roosevelt (the leader of the UMILO)  in order to eliminate him as a rival in the upcoming Presidential election which the International community, had set up for 1997.[15] After Roosevelt was forced to flee, Charles Taylor consolidated political power, just in time for the Presidential elections of 1997. [16]

In 1997, a special election was held, formally naming Charles Taylor the new President of Liberia. Prince Johnson and the remaining heads of INPFL along with several other opposition group leaders fled to Nigeria and Sierra Leone. President Charles Taylor would follow in the footsteps of his predecessors, consolidating power, as well as, arresting and murdering dissidents and vocal opposition leaders. Many of his rebel forces replaced the AFL and he created a new anti-terrorism unit, who perpetrated many acts of violence towards any threat to his presidency.  [17]

Much of the infrastructure that once existed in Liberia has been damaged beyond repair. Facilities for the production of rubber, diamond mining, and agricultural productivity were destroyed during the fighting. [18]  Due to the lack of stability and agricultural productivity, food staples such as rice were hard to find in large quantities. Many displaced Liberians clustered in camps and in the capitol city in order to increase their chances of survival through UN and ECOWAS food distribution. Diseases like cholera, typhus and deadly bouts of dysentery plagued these encampments killing hundreds. These bodies were often burred in shallow mass graves, which coincidentally contaminated the water table even further. [19]

Despite the deplorable conditions many Liberians faced in the cities and camps, an unstable peace exists under President Taylor’s oppressive government, but only in the coastal region of Liberia close to the capitol. From 1997 to 2000, there were horrific acts of violence, by small rebel factions, especially in rural areas of the country that lacked the infrastructure for President Taylor’s forces to easily maintain their control without dedicated resources. [20]

In 2000, an anti-Taylor rebel group called Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), a Muslim based insurgent group led by Sekou Conneh, emerged and gained strength quickly, throughout rural Liberia. Despite their name, this group perpetrated similarly heinous acts of ethnic violence against the Liberian people as the other rebel groups and President Taylor’s forces.[21] From 2000 to late 2003, formal hostilities erupted in the second Liberian Civil War. [22]

LURD swept across Liberia, driving thousands of people back into the Internally Displace Person (IDP) camps. In 2003, a splinter faction of LURD called the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) split off from LURD and began seizing towns and villages in southeastern Liberia, killing raping and looting as they went.[23] In 2003, the international community as well as the Interreligious Council of Liberia met and signed a resolution demanding the President Taylor, the leaders of MODEL and LURD cease hostilities and come together for peace negotiations to be held outside of Liberia. President Taylor refused. Concentrated on tightening his grip on power, he delaying the 2003 Presidential elections, stating that his sovereign government would not negotiate with any terrorist group and that any interference from the international community would be seen as direct hostility and a threat to his government.[24] President Taylor also threatened to treat any act of defiance or demonstrations against his rule as hostile and jail those involved.

This is when the heroes of Liberia emerged. Women from both Christian and Muslim communities came together in a spectacular show of strength to demonstrate peacefully for peace. Led by a young woman named Leymah Gbowee and organized by grassroot Liberian women’s groups, women from Monrovia, and form the nearby IDP camps joined together for a Mass Action for Peace. Wearing white and demanding “Peace for Liberia Now!”, these women assembled for weeks, gaining international media attention as they demonstrated, held sit ins, fasted and denied their partners sexual intercourse, all in the name of peace for Liberia.

The demonstrations grew so popular across Liberia and the international community that President Taylor eventually agreed to hear their demands. At a meeting in the Presidential Mansion, Leymah Gbowee and thousands of demonstrating women in white applied pressure to President Taylor as the world watched. President Taylor, seeing no other alternative, agreed to attend peace negotiations with the LURD and MODEL groups in Accra, Ghana. Afterwards, the Women’s Peace Movement sent a delegation of its leadership to negotiate the same promise with the LURD and MODEL leaders. A cease-fire was established and the peace talks began. [25]

The cessation of hostilities between factions did not last very long, spoilers prolonged peace negotiations by refusing to compromise on a multitude of issues. LURD and MODEL as well as regional spoilers such as Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea stalled peace proceedings and the implementation of new policies in efforts to increase their own levels of power in Liberia. All the while, their fighters gained territory in Liberia. President Taylor, flew to Ghana to attend the peace negotiation, but quickly departed when rumors that arrest by the international community, on the charges of war crimes committed by his forces during the first civil war, reached him. Coupled with victories by LURD and MODEL in Liberia, the President’s grip on power became desperately tight. [26]

 In 2003, representatives from the United Nations, other regional powers and a strong internally driven peace effort, (propagated mostly by a united women’s movement) successfully negotiated a peace agreement in Ghana, known as the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (ACPA). After two decades of war, several factions vying for control of the country and the exploitation of its natural resources to fund armed campaigns, Liberia had a renewed hope for peace.

After the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement had been signed, several regional partners, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and local actors struggled to lay the groundwork for a reconciliation process to begin. However, over the past fifteen years since the signing of the agreement, the spotlight has moved on from Liberia, which is still struggling to complete its goal of reconciliation and recovery.

In the beginning, after the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, an ECOWAS peacekeeping force, named ECOMIL was deployed to Monrovia, made up of a coalition of regional partners led by Nigerian peacekeeping soldiers. All major offensive operations by the AFL, LURD and MODEL ceased. By October 2003, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) had taken over peacekeeping efforts in Monrovia and expanded into the outlying counties of Liberia to begin the reconciliation process. The UNMIL set forth eight goals to achieve peace and reconciliation. “UNMIL has identified eight implementation goals, namely: peace and security; disarmament and demobilization; rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-combatants; establishment of the rule of law, including judiciary and corrections; establishment of safeguards for human rights; restoration of state authority; provision of factual information through public media campaigns; and coordination of UN agencies for humanitarian assistance.”[27]

These eight goals were thought to encompass the complexities of the Liberian situation. As Leymah Gbowee points out, it was difficult for stakeholders in the conflict, who lived and worked for peace throughout the civil wars, to provide input during the initial planning phase of the Recovery and Resolution process.

“But when it came to the “official” peacekeepers, like those with the UN mission in Liberia (UNMIL), we might as well have been talking to the air. It was hard to swallow their arrogance. UNMIL was supposed to help with tasks like humanitarian assistance and refugee return, but the agency never consulted with anyone from civil society how best to do these things. The result was entirely avoidable disasters. … Another problem was UNMIL’S approach to persuading former fighters—there were maybe forty thousand of them—to turn in their weapons and rejoin society. (The official name for this process is DDR or disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.) We visited “You should involve people with local knowledge of who and what’s involved” I said. No one was interested. “Don’t worry!” we were told. “We’re bringing in experts with a great deal of experience from Kosovo.”[28]

A criticism of the United Nations and its methods of intervening in conflicts and staging peace and recovery efforts is that they have a habit of treating conflicts in different countries with the same methodologies utilizing a cookie cutter approach to solving social and cultural problems. In the case of Liberia, the UN’s peace workers, fresh from the conflict in Kosovo and Bosnia, assumed that the programs that had success in Eastern Europe would have similar impacts on the problems facing Liberians.

“Organizations like the UN do a lot of good, but there are certain basic realities they never seem to grasp. One is that every war is different, even those with surface similarities, because the reasons and the ways countries fight have everything to do with their histories and the way their societies are organized. If conflicts aren’t identical, resolution can never be one-size-fits-all. Maybe the most important truth that eludes these organizations is that it’s insulting when outsiders come in and tell a traumatized people what it will take for them to heal. You cannot go to another country and make a plan for it. The cultural text is so different from what you know that you will not understand much of what you see. I would never come to the US and claim to understand what’s going on, even in African American culture. People who have lived through a terrible conflict may be hungry and desperate, but they’re not stupid. They often have very good ideas about how peace can evolve, and they need to be asked.”[29]

One of the goals outlined by UNMIL was disarmament and demobilization. This became the first phase of the Recovery and Reconciliation (RR) operation for Liberia. The UNMIL began the disarmament and demobilization program for post-conflict Liberia within the first two months of the UN assuming its mandate. This effort, called DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration), was designed to promote demilitarization of rebel groups in Liberia by registering ex-fighters and exchanging weapons, explosive ordnance and ammunition for cash payments. The first days of the program were awash with confusion, and impatience, which erupted in violence throughout Liberia.[30] It taught UNMIL operatives early on in the Liberian RR that it was essential to consult with stakeholders before proceeding with plans, in order to navigate through the complex Liberian social structure. This was the only way that the programs would be successful.

Another aspect of the UNMIL’s DDR program that faltered in its implementation was the process by which ex-combatants were identified. UNMIL’s lack of clear guidance and the inflexibility of their plan negatively affected the ability for some individuals to integrate back into society. One such marginalized group were the female ex-combatants. Female ex-combatants served with many of the militia groups and are thought to have been as much as 30% of the entire fighting force within Liberia’s decades long conflict.[31] Manipulation by their commanders and miscommunication about the participatory requirements for reconciliation programs, the majority of these female combatants either were unintentionally excluded or opted themselves out of participating in the reintegration process.[32]

The majority of ex-combatants in the Liberian conflict reported that they either had personally experienced or feared stigmatization by the rest of Liberian society. The bulk of female ex-combatants surveyed explained that the majority of them had returned to their villages and families never revealing that they had participated in violence, fearing abandonment by their relatives. Male ex-combatants were an acknowledged byproduct of war and could be forgiven for their crimes through traditional methods of reconciliation, or the UNMIL’s truth commissions. However, if a female were revealed to have committed acts of violence, voluntarily or otherwise, she would be ostracized by the community and labeled as dysfunctional for the rest of her life.

“The question of stigma, however, is a complex issue depending on a number of contextual factors. Ethnicity, which in general was decisive of what armed group one possibly joined, affected the level of stigma because there were different views within the various ethnic groups on whether or not one fought for a legitimate cause. There were moreover geographical differences, especially between urban and rural areas. Last but not least, the reasons for joining an armed group (Bøås and Hatløy 2008:49) and what role one occupied within the group were of importance. Based on the prevailing traditional view on gender roles in Liberia (cf. chapter 3.3) it seems that the problem of stigma was most severe for the women who for different reasons had joined voluntarily and been fighters (Lincoln 2010 [interview]), even though male ex-combatants clearly also faced stigma. The women, however, had to carry an additional burden of shame for having played roles or carried out acts that were seen as unacceptable for women by their society (Amnesty International 2008:5)”[33]

Some women in these circumstances if discovered would fall victim to brutality by their communities, cursed and disowned by their families.[34] The priority of the UNMIL was to disarm and register ex-combatants, and no policy influencers were even made aware, or didn’t acknowledge that their plan had excluded a large number of vulnerable ex-combatants. This oversight continues to cause negative ramifications on the continued peacebuilding efforts.

Another important observation, which Leymah Gbowee discusses in her memoir, is that many external relief organizations, which come to help war torn regions, exist to provide the wrong kind of recovery or to administer aid that is not a daily priority for those in crisis. She argues that these organizations would be better off if they were able to administer aid that would help those affected by violent crisis to survive their everyday realities. Food, clean water, sanitation and shelter were among the top necessities that these organizations should look at being able to provide. There was a large focus on trauma and psychological assistance, which is helpful but is incapable of helping people survive day to day.

“Some of the pain people were in was psychic, but a good deal was connected to basic reality. A man might say, “I spent all my life working to care for my family and build my house. During the war, my son as killed and the house was burned down.” What is he trying to tell you? “I’m sixty, the son who I hoped would take care of me is gone. I know I cannot get my child back. But can you get me a house?...Most of the institutions that come in to offer help after disaster don’t have the resources to provide concrete help like that. Donor communities invest billions funding peace talks and disarmament. Then they stop. The most important part of postwar help is missing: providing basic social services to people. Not having those resources might have been a reason men went to war in the first place: they crossed the border and joined an armed group because they didn’t have jobs. In Liberia right now, there are hundreds of thousands of unemployed young people, they are ready-made mercenaries for wars in West Africa. You’d think the international community would be sensible enough to know they should work to change this. But they aren’t.”[35]

One of the most fundamental issues for Liberians, especially young Liberians, who had grown up during wartime, was to have a future. One of the programs of UNMIL that had achieved moderate success initially was registering ex-fighters and establishing programs to provide them with educational opportunities, vocational training or finding them employment. This future building program gave many young Liberians hope that they would have opportunities for a life and future outside of violence, which they had not expected to have. This hope brought them into society and off the streets.  “Of the 85,629 ex-combatants who are expected to go through the RR programme, about 41% (35,287) opted for formal education, 4% (2,986) for agriculture and 0.65% (562) for employment, while slightly over 47% opted for various vocational training programmes ranging from auto mechanics to tie-and-dye.”[36]

Unfortunately, of those ex-combatants who registered with UNMIL personnel during the first two phases of the RR program, only a small percentage would go on to receive additional education, despite that being the most popular option for young Liberians. Many who signed up initially failed to register for specific education programs during phase two and the funding for the Liberian Recovery and Reconciliation effort had already begun to disappear before phase three had even started.

“Poor planning for phase 3 implementation of the RR program made it impossible for the UN to follow through with their promised actions, despite the fact that only one third of combatants had been registered with their desired rehabilitation program… One of the underlying reasons for the apparent DD–RR disconnect is the slow inflow of pledged funds. For instance, out of a budget of $13.5 million for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) DDRR Trust Fund, as of July 2004 $10.2 million had been allocated to phases I and II DD aspects. This left only $3.2 million for phase III of the DD programme and the entire RR programme covering the more than 85,629 former combatants who have been projected to go through the RR programme.”[37]

Despite setbacks and poor fund management, overall the UNMIL’s implementation of programs steadily made progress. Part of the approach agreed upon by stakeholders and UN peace workers was the need to expand and rebuild infrastructure in rural areas of Liberia as well as the urban centers. This development would coax back people still living in the IDP camps, and had been there for years, fearing to leave security and familiarity for the unknown of the rural areas. By rebuilding roads, bridges and factories outside of the cities, agricultural programs began to become more popular and more Liberians were comfortable leaving the relative safety of the IDP camps. The more people who occupied towns and villages in rural areas, the more demand for social structures became pronounced. Religious organizations began to provide resources to build and rebuild mosques or churches and Liberian social life began to re-emerge. Religious organizations had been and continued to play a large role in the peacebuilding efforts in Liberia. A strong interfaith relationship had been developed among peace protesters during the second civil upheaval and with the help of several stakeholders and Liberian based organizations like WIPNET, religiously affiliated groups continued to play a large role in the reconciliation process.

In 2005, the government of Liberia held its first democratic free and fair elections. Liberia became the first African nation to elect a woman as their government’s leader. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf made the peace and reconciliation of Liberia the main objective of her government. In 2012, President Johnson-Sirleaf along with UNMIL and other Liberian organizations saw the need to establish longer-term goals solidifying a united vision of a reconciled Liberian community. Similar to Elise Boulding’s Reconciliation Visioning Exercise, the Sirleaf administration outlined what their vision was for Liberia in 2030. 

“To further consolidate peace and move the country forward, in 2012 Liberia formulated its Vision 2030 through a highly participatory and inclusive process that was launched by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The development of the roadmap was driven by two national frameworks – the Agenda for Transformation (AFT) (2012−17) and the Strategic Roadmap for National Peacebuilding, Healing and Reconciliation (2012−30). Both plans reinforce each other and support efforts to achieve lasting peace and reconciliation, enhance security, and uphold the rule of law. As a result of these interventions, Liberia’s economy gradually grew and public services were decentralized from the capital, Monrovia, to cover other parts of the country. In particular, 11 projects 9 designed from the Strategic Roadmap for National Peacebuilding, Healing and Reconciliation valued at over $15 million (USD) over three years (2014−16) were implemented with financial support from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund (UN PBF), in conjunction with the UN Peacebuilding Commission (UN PBC) and the UN Country Team, as well as UNMIL and civil society organizations (CSOs).” [38]

These plans allowed for the Liberian government and people to measure their progress and hold agencies accountable for not meeting their outlined objectives. Liberia began to see measured improvements to their economy in 2009. The stability that existed due to the UNMIL programs was steadily improving the opportunities of Liberians in a way that gave many people hope for a stable future. However, in 2014, Liberia was hit with yet another crisis that stagnated their steady economic progress. The Ebola outbreak in 2014 killed over four thousand Liberians and caused the government to temporarily shut down and UNMIL to suspend their programs until the disease was contained. The unfortunate circumstance nearly devastated the newly established Liberian economy.

“The outbreak affected peacebuilding activities, led to declines in economic growth and undermined foreign direct investment as a result of slow-down in, and termination of some, economic operations. At the same time, while existing tensions and conflicts in the country were exacerbated, new ones also threatened to emerge… As a result of the Ebola outbreak, much of the progress made in consolidating peace in Liberia came to a halt while focus was placed on addressing the health crisis. Now that, as of May 2015, Liberia is Ebola-free the country faces the challenge of reigniting past measures to consolidate peace, and to address the new challenges it is faced with.”[39]

Despite the economic stagnation, Liberia has been able to fight its way back to the level of progress that it had achieved before the Ebola outbreak. Thanks in most part to President Sirleaf’s government’s swift and serious response to the outbreak when it began. Liberia became the first West African country to become Ebola free after they had declared a state of emergency.  Despite this, some Liberians criticize the handling of the crisis, saying that there was not enough communication form the government on how individuals were to respond to the crisis. As the reconciliation process continues where it left off before the Ebola outbreak, there are new calls for a more comprehensive plan of action for Liberian health development to be included in peacebuilding programs in order to combat similar crises in the future. Liberians have also expressed a need to incorporate a memorialization of those killed by the disease as victims of the civil wars.

In closing, the Liberian peace process is far from completed. The future vision and subsequent plans of action established in 2012 are still being actively implemented by the Liberian government and UNMIL. It is clear that as peacebuilders, we can learn from what went right during the implementation of UNMIL’s programs, especially when it comes to consulting stakeholders and finding allies among actors. The plan for peace in Liberia went from being primarily externally driven aid to a more collaborative aid approach.

The most successful method of peacebuilding in Liberia ended up resembling a three-tiered process similar to Lederach’s Pyramid Model of peace building. Lederach explains that peace in the case of ethnic and cultural strife require peace builders to focus their efforts on three levels: local level, involving input from grass roots leaders, intermediate level, involving middle level leaders and national level involving participation from top leaders in order to achieve lasting reconciliation. In this way, all peacebuilding efforts touch all levels of society, and in Liberia’s case, it allowed the peacebuilding process to be as inclusive as possible so that programs implemented had an opportunity to be successful.


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[1] Duva

[2] Duva

[3] Duva

[4] Duva

[5] Duva

[6] Duva

[7] Duva

[8] Duva

[9] Duva

[10] Gbowee p90

[11] Gbowee p23

[12] Gbowee p51

[13] BBC

[14] Gbowee p37

[15] BBC

[16] Gbowee p54

[17] Gbowee p64

[18] Gbowee p67

[19] Gbowee p87

[20] Gbowee p117

[21] Hodge

[22] BBC

[23] Gbowee p130

[24] Gbowee p133

[25] Gbowee p134-149

[26] Gbowee p150-158

[27] Aboagye pg. 6

[28] Gbowee pg. 169

[29] Gbowee pg. 171

[30] Nilsson

[31] Christoffersen

[32] Christoffersen

[33] Christoffersen (p56)

[34] Christoffersen

[35] Gbowee pg. 174

[36] Aboagye pg. 9

[37] Aboagye pg. 9

[38] Connolly pg. 2

[39] Connolly pg. 2-3