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3 reasons the calm is holding, and one red flag

Joseph Boakai was once sworn in as Liberia’s twenty sixth president on 22 January 2024. Boakai secured a six 12 months time period of place of business after defeating incumbent president George Weah in a keenly contested November 2023 ballot with 50.9% of the votes solid.

The west African nation of 5 million people reached a significant milestone on 17 november 2023, when Weah, of the Congress for Democratic Exchange, conceded defeat to the Harmony Birthday celebration candidate.

Weah scored 49.1% of votes solid and misplaced the tight presidential run-off, which the EU described as “remarkably close and well administered”.

Liberia has loved two decades of peace and relative steadiness because the end of a civil struggle that killed over 250,000 people and displaced Liberians the world over.

All the way through this time, the rustic has made slow however vital growth in restoring the rule of thumb of legislation, securing civil liberties and strengthening state and human capability.

Some of the step forward moments got here in 2018. That 12 months the rustic noticed non violent energy switch from one democratically elected president to the opposite. This was once the first of its type since 1944.

At a time when there were six successful and two attempted coups in west Africa since 2020, Liberia’s transition against a extra strong state seems to be interested by safety reforms and recognize for election effects.

My research specializes in the patterns of post-war reconstruction efforts in sub-Saharan Africa and the way states within the area reply to crises, warfare and statehood.

All the way through my fieldwork in Liberia, I known 3 elements that experience stored the rustic at the trail to peace: army neutrality in home politics; struggle fatigue; and a countrywide pressure against reconciliation.

Army neutrality in home politics

Liberia, like many African countries, has skilled two eras of army dictatorships. One was once underneath Samuel Doe, Liberia’s unelected president, and the opposite underneath Charles Taylor, Liberia’s twenty second president and chief of one among its major rise up teams.

Each males held a good grip over the rustic. They used the army to pressure their political goals.

All the way through their rule, military officials served as ministers, judges, directors and individuals of parliament. They suppressed all sorts of resistance and opposition.

The military’s involvement in Liberia’s sociopolitical and diplomatic affairs undermined the rustic’s building and eroded its growth. It crippled the economic system and despatched the country right into a brutal struggle that lasted 14 years.

The function of the army in home politics, on the other hand, ended with the autumn of Taylor’s executive in August 2003. Since then, the Armed Forces of Liberia has loved independence from the place of business of the president. It has performed reforms inside its establishments of governance and has dedicated itself to protective the charter and the flag of Liberia.

The transition from army dictatorship to civilian rule has enabled Liberia to transport against a strong state. It will possibly dangle loose and honest elections, and voters can take part in governance.

Warfare fatigue

The Liberian civil war, which lasted from 1989 to 2003, had a profound affect. It destroyed over 70% of the rustic’s bodily infrastructure and collapsed the majority of its important establishments.

The warfare claimed over 250,000 lives, displaced multiple million other people, and broke down social and group ties. The horrors introduced by means of the struggle had a chilling impact at the civilian inhabitants.

The peace Liberia enjoys as of late got here at a top value. Survivors of the struggle nonetheless undergo emotional and mental exhaustion that manifests in quite a lot of tactics.

The varied results of the struggle left a stain on Liberia’s economic system and undermined its pre-war growth. Poverty and the scars of struggle are nonetheless visual.

However past the difficulties lies the resilience of the federal government and its other people to rebuild, decided to not hotel to violence to settle variations.

Liberia’s post-war elite not see their ethnic or spiritual identities as assets of warfare however slightly as the root of energy for nationwide prosperity.

Harmony, mixed with the intervention of Liberia’s global companions, has thus far made it tough for people to undermine its democracy.

Reconciliation

Liberia has made growth in selling reconciliation, inter-tribal discussion and transitional justice because the struggle ended. This has performed a task in fighting a relapse into warfare, facilitating therapeutic and fostering harmony.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was once established in 2005 to file the atrocities and violations dedicated throughout the struggle, determine key perpetrators, and make suggestions for therapeutic and reconciliation.

The commission’s report, printed in 2009, really helpful reparations, reforms and prosecution of wrongdoers.

Projects equivalent to mental strengthen, vocational schooling and formality purifications aimed toward reintegrating ex-combatants into society have performed roles in keeping up the peace.

Similarly necessary is the function of truth-telling in Liberia’s restoration adventure. Warlords like “General Butt Naked”, who voluntarily confessed their atrocities, and went from group to group to apologise for his or her crimes, won forgiveness from sufferers (or surviving kin of sufferers) and immunity from prosecution.

Group-based engagement and actions aimed toward addressing grievances on the grassroots stage have additionally contributed to restoring accept as true with and social brotherly love amongst Liberians.

The will for reconciliation was once echoed in Weah’s concession speech:

This night, the CDC has misplaced the election, however Liberia has gained. This can be a time for graciousness in defeat. Allow us to heal the divisions brought about by means of the marketing campaign and are available in combination as one united other people.

What within the election’s result may just threaten the peace?

However there are nonetheless risks, specifically the energy of warlords inside its political house.

Since 2006, warlords and struggle profiteers have performed key roles in opting for the rustic’s presidents. The connection allows warlords to business political strengthen for cover, whilst presidential applicants trade justice for votes.

This may endanger the rustic’s safety. Liberia will have to dangle folks in control of struggle crimes, cope with the foundation reasons of the warfare, and supply reparation to sufferers.

If Liberia is to succeed in sustainable peace, it will have to sparsely believe the relationship between its post-war elites and previous warlords.

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