In that report, the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission provided a detailed analysis on potential violence in regions and actors that could instigate violence based on historical and current factors.
According to the study 71.8% of 1,500 respondents and nearly 50 key informants believe political leaders will instigate violence while 58.2% said unemployed youth could spark off violence as the country gears toward presidential and legislative elections. Interestingly, the study showed Nimba, Grand Gedeh, and Montserrado as the main flashpoint counties for violence because of both historical and current factors.
The JPC reports also indicated that 79.3% of Rivercess County inhabitants have the potential to instigate violence due to the denial of justice during the civil war, while Nimba, Grand Kru and Grand Cape Mount counties remain violence prone areas at 74.9%, 74.4% and 74.2% respectively.
The JPC report also asserted that politically driven attempts made by some Liberians to declare Liberia a Christian state was seen as destabilizing effort to instigate violence in the country.
The JPC report says Liberians still believe that despite the 13 years of uninterrupted peace, the peace is still fragile and volatile as issues which led to war have not been adequately addressed.
But Taa Wongbe, who runs one of the largest research and evaluation firms in Liberia, believes the report lacks empirical foundation, and its publishers have a hidden agenda.
“I went to check out the report and after reading it, I quickly concluded that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) had an agenda and it was not to “advance justice and positive peace” as stated in the report – it was about fear mongering and attempting to undermine our peace,” Taa retorted in a rapid fire rebuttal to the JPC report.
“The reasons for my conclusion rest in how this study was designed. From bias in the way the questions were constructed, wrong context analysis on Liberia, apparent lack of rigor in the data collection process, bad sampling design and study methodology, to lack of national representation of the study and more, and any good researcher could tear up this research at first glance so I am very concerned that CRS chose to publish this report knowing the gross limitations and the potential impact it has on Liberia,” Taa said.
Emmanuel Comehn, Area Manager at Danish Refuge Council, too strongly supports Taa’s argument that the report is skewed to discredit the gains of peace. “It is a pity that organization like CRS will allow its aim of fund raising to influence the production of such negative report that they hope will capture the attention of potential donors. Thanks once more Taa for unearthing this gross misrepresentation of Liberia,” Comehn said.
While many continue to side with Mr. Wongbe against the JPC report on Liberia’s peace, a Liberian journalist resident in the United States believes the report should not be swept under the carpet.
“There are serious concerns raised in the report that ought to be taken seriously. We live in denial when our country is on edge and about to self destruct. The factors for sustaining peace at this point in Liberia continues to be undermined by the current leadership. We are sitting on a ticking time-bomb, if we do not put our house in order it's going to explode. Let's stop this denial and fix what needs to be fixed to keep our peace. Many Liberians are very worried about the current situation and as you very well know, they could not bear the simple thought of watching UN peacekeepers completely pull out. Our peace is not guaranteed and could crack if care is not taken,” says Wade Williams.
When contacted to give his views on the public backlash, acting JPC National Director Pilate Johnson said, as far as the study shows, the methodology used to determine the findings was empirical.
“It is a good thing that the citizens are about talking the report, because it means we have touched some nerves. It is not about stirring up emotions to justify funding as some are saying. The findings in the survey justify some of the major concerns raised in the recent UN Security Council report on Liberia. The good thing is that the report came up with sound recommendations. We call on all stakeholders to work in implementing those recommendations,” the JPC acting National Director said.