The study was carried out in March 2016, utilizing both quantitative and quality methods to document opinions, perception and experiences from over 1,500 respondents and nearly 50 keys informants throughout the 15 political subdivisions of Liberia. Although other result studies have assessed the conflict dynamics in Liberia, the “state of peace, Reconciliation and conflict in Liberia” extends and complements these efforts by focusing on pathways to overcome key challenges and to move towards positive peace. This report central aim is to further meaningfully reconciliation and citizens’ engagement within, between and amongst Liberia’s diverse communities. The broad scope of the study also ensured that the views and sentiments of Liberians living in the remotest areas were heard and valued.
The study points to three key findings which include:
1. Liberians believed that despite the 13 years of uninterrupted peace, the peace is still fragile and volatile as issues that led to the war have not been adequately addressed. Liberian perceived the current peace as primarily “negative.” Although the horrors of war and extreme violence are in the past, the positive attributes of peace and social harmony, mutually beneficial inter-ethnic coexistence, trust in institutions and productive citizens-state relations- are still not present. Respondents were evenly split on whether Liberia is still at risk of descending into large-scale violence conflict (50.6% for “high to very risk” and 43.7% for “no to low risk”). Optimistic respondents and interviewees pinned their hopes, conflict fatigue and disillusionment with the uneven outcomes of the war. However, they highlighted that powerful risk factors for renewed violence still persist: systematic public sector corruption, disputes over land ownership and high rate of youth unemployment.
2. Liberians also believe that curbing corruption in public services, resolving divisive land disputes, furthering employment of young people, and conducting free and fair general elections in 2017 are the necessary next steps for advancing positive peace.
3. Liberians strongly acknowledge that strengthening inter-communal relations and fostering meaningful reconciliation are crucial for the country to overcome the deep divisions from the enduring distrust, hurt and hatred sown by the civil war. The vast majority of Liberians believed that the main perpetrators of wartime violence escaped punishment and that the victims of violence were denied justice. More than 80% of respondents felt that people who suffered grave injury during the war did not receive justice through the national Truth and reconciliation Commission. Half of the respondents (49.7%) believed that post-war reconciliation failed to achieve its objectives. Key informants elaborated that the national peace and reconciliation process had the weakest impacts at gross roots level, where efforts were piecemeal and superficial.
For the list of potential actors that instigated violence 71.8% of respondents put political leaders and unemployment youth second with 58.2%. Nimba (74.9%), Grand Gedeh, and Montserrado were cited as the main flashpoint counties, due to both historical and current factors. Inhabitants of Rivercess (79.3%), Nimba (74.9%), Grand Kru (74.4%); and Grand Cape Mount (74.2%) assessed the risk as highest, while respondents in River Gee were the most optimistic. Also the politically driven attempt to declare Liberia as Christian state was seen as destabilizing, with potential to instigate violence.
• Encourage free and fair general elections in 2017 by organizing and administering a nation-wide election observation mission: by carrying out parallel vote tabulation at district and national level; by developing and administering nation-wide civic and voter education campaigns; and by organizing political exchanges between communities and politicians.
• Fostering meaningful and profound reconciliation across Liberia by creating safe spaces where healing and reconciliation can take place; by supporting the use of alternative healing and reconciliation approaches; and by creating opportunities to identify and employ suitable indigenous reconciliation mechanisms.
Medium to long term recommendations
• Promote transparency, stewardship, and accountability in public resource management by supporting initiative that increase transparency and accountability in public resource management; and by establishing and promoting social accountability, including the use of community accountability forums and tools.
• .Promote transparent land management and property dispute resolution by supporting the development of comprehensive land title document process; and by building community and local government capacity for land use negotiations.
• Create opportunity for Liberia’s youth to heal and advance their livelihood by gaining further insight into the land issues and challenges affecting young people by offering opportunity for healing and social reintegration; and by providing capacity building to improve youth employability and job creation, example livelihood and small and medium enterprise (SME) support.
• Institutionalize a Culture of peace through education programs in schools and the community by developing peace education activities focusing on young people and by institutionalizing peace education in schools.
• Promote community dispute resolution mechanism by advocating for the establishment of community-base alternative dispute resolution mechanisms (CAADRMS); by improving the capacity of chiefs to dispense justice and by researching and integrating best practices from the traditional legal system.
• Increase trust and cooperation between Government and citizens by advocating for greater transparency in policy formulation and implementation; and by facilitating community encounters with decision makers.
• Promote intercultural communication and exchanges by identifying and developing cultural connectors for peace and promoting cultural encounters and inter-county migration, especially among young people.
Although the study was commissioned primarily to assist the Catholic Church and its partners in their efforts to strengthen the peace throughout the country, the recommendations are also aimed at Liberia’s civil society and international development partners. Depending on their capacities, experience and mission to engage in one or more peace building subsectors, Liberians CSOs and NGOs are encouraged to join forces with the larger peace building community to implement these recommendations. Due to the civil society focus, the recommendations do not cover concerns regarding security provision by Liberian state bodies or international peacekeepers.