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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published
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Liberia: FOL Report, 1
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Liberia: FOL Report, 1
Date Distributed (ymd): 961223
Document reposted by APIC
This and the following posting contain a summary of Liberia:
Opportunities and Obstacles for Peace, a report by Friends of
Liberia (FOL. The full 43-page report is available by e-mail
by contacting Kevin George at email@example.com. Please
specify whether you would like the report in Word Perfect 6.1
or ASCII (DOS) format. A report on the "Conference on the
Demobilization and Reintegration of Combatants," sponsored by
The New African Research and Development Agengy (NARDA) in
collaboration with Friends of Liberia, is also available from
Liberia: Opportunities and Obstacles for Peace, A Report on
the Abuja II Peace Process -- December 1996
Friends of Liberia, 1616 North Fort Myer Drive, 12th Floor,
Rosslyn, Virginia 22209 (Mailing Address: P.O. Box 28098,
Washington, D.C. 20038). Tel: (703) 528-8345; FAX: (703)
528-7480; e-mail: Liberia@FOL.org
Liberia's seven-year civil war has been characterized in the
media as a macabre battle of bewigged combatants and
power-hungry factional leaders. Lost in the sensationalism and
the shuffle of thirteen broken peace agreements is the nature
of the human tragedy. At least 200,000 civilians, or almost
one-tenth of the population, have died. Fifty thousand
children are dead, 30,000 to 50,000 abandoned or orphaned,
15,000 drugged and forced to carry arms, and another 300,000
uprooted from their homes. A third of the population lives in
refugee camps in neighboring countries and another third lives
as refugees in their own country. A capital city ravaged three
times by competing warlords. Churches, hospitals and schools
burned to the ground. These are the true dimensions of a war
that was never welcomed by the vast majority of Liberians.
Yet, the war has taken the largest toll on the unarmed
The hopes of Liberians for a peaceful future were dashed in
April 1996 when fighting erupted in Monrovia between factions
whose leaders had been entrusted with a role in the
transitional government created by the Abuja Accord of August
1995. The umbrella of security for Monrovia provided by
ECOMOG, the West African peacekeeping force, collapsed. For
the next two months the city lapsed into anarchy. In June,
when the combatants had virtually completed their looting of
Monrovia, ECOMOG began reestablishing a semblance of security.
In April, warring faction leaders seized upon an unchallenged
opportunity to enhance their military and political positions.
Even they appeared surprised by the fury of violence that
ensured. What created this opportunity, however, was the
atrophy of a peace plan because of the failure of the
international community to support it with strong leadership
and the resources for implementation.
Now a new plan, hammered out in August 1996 at Abuja, Nigeria
by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has
produced new, but uncertain, prospects for peace in Liberia.
The hallmarks of the Abuja II plan are a new civilian chairman
of the power- sharing Council of State, an abbreviated
timetable for disarmament and elections, and the threat of
sanctions against faction leaders who obstruct the peace
Does this new peace plan present opportunities that will
prevent it from becoming the next failed peace plan for
Liberia? Are there obstacles that must be overcome if the
Abuja II plan, unlike its predecessor, is to be successfully
implemented? Clarifying the issues surrounding these questions
is the primary focus of this report.
Liberia: The Opportunities and Obstacles For Peace will
concentrate on three critical components of the peace plan:
(1) peacekeeping and security, (2) disarmament, demobilization
and reintegration of combatants, and (3) domestic and
international political support of the process. This analysis
of the opportunities and obstacles for peace under the Abuja
II plan is based on a October 1996 fact- finding mission
organized by Friends of Liberia (FOL) and the ongoing study of
the peace process by FOL's ten-member Working Group for Peace.
The members of the FOL fact-finding team, and the primary
writers of this report, are Kevin George, President of FOL,
and Victor Tanner, a relief and demobilization specialist from
Creative Associates International, Inc., a US-based consulting
firm. The views expressed in this report are those of Friends
In conjunction with the fact-finding process that led to this
report, FOL and the New Africa Research and Development Agency
(NARDA), an umbrella organization for Liberian NGOs, sponsored
a two-day "Conference on the Demobilization and Reintegration
of Combatants." The conference, which took place on October 15
and 16 in Monrovia, was attended by over 120 representatives
of domestic and international NGOs, international
organizations, Liberia's transitional government, and a broad
range of Liberia's religious, ethnic and traditional groups.
Funding for this conference was provided by the United Nations
Development Program (UNDP) and FOL.
FOL gratefully acknowledges Creative Associates International
for its valuable contribution of Mr. Tanner's time to the
Liberia fact- finding mission. We also recognize the many
persons in Liberia who cooperated in the fact-finding process.
High ranking government officials and representatives of
international organizations provided opportunities to discuss
complex issues thoroughly. The extraordinary openness of
ordinary Liberians, offering their hospitality and candid
views, added an important dynamic to this report. This project
would not have been possible without the generous financial
support of FOL's membership, and the ongoing commitment to
peace and democracy in Liberia by the members of FOL's Working
Group for Peace.
Summary of Findings and Recommendations
The failure of thirteen peace agreements make Liberians and
the international community skeptical about the country's
latest plan for peace. The anarchy and humanitarian crisis
that followed the collapse of last year's peace plan is a grim
reminder of the consequences of failure. Will the Abuja II
Accord follow suit or will this plan move through the stages
of a successful peace process?
A partial foundation for peace exists in Liberia. There is a
detailed timetable for implementation, provision for sanctions
against those who obstruct the peace, a power sharing
transitional government, a cease-fire that is generally but
not completely holding, a civilian population with an
extremely strong desire for peace and democracy, and a
fledgling peacekeeping force.
It is, however, the similarity of the initial stages of the
Abuja Accord to previous failed peace plans that raises
concern. There is no strong plan, nor the resources to support
it, for comprehensively disarming, demobilizing and
reintegrating combatants. Though the capabilities of ECOMOG
have been lately enhanced, its troop strength and other
internal weaknesses make it unlikely that it can deter
violations of the cease-fire or maintain a level of security
necessary for disarmament or elections. Dragging the entire
process is the failure of the international community to fully
provide resources and leadership. The lack of strong momentum
that threatens the Abuja II process, epitomizes a reoccurring
problem in Liberia: a failure to match planning and resources
with the negotiation of a peace agreement.
Security and Peacekeeping
The minimum standards for success under the Abuja II process
should be that faction leaders relinquish control over
territory and fighters, combatants are demobilized and
reintegrated into society, and an election is held under
conditions that permit it to be judged "free and fair."
Peacekeeping therefore is a vital element of this process
because a stable security situation is a prerequisite to each
of these objectives.
Grave questions must be raised about whether the current
security situation in Liberia is stable enough to permit the
transition from war to peace. ECOMOG, the West African
peacekeeping force, has regained overt control of Monrovia and
Buchanan, the two largest cities in Liberia. However, it is
clear that the extent of this control is tenuous and limited
to these urban areas. There are no guns on the streets of
Monrovia, but combatants roam the city. While a cease-fire is
holding in some areas of the country, fighting continues in
the southeast and northwest. Armed robberies are on the rise
and citizens continue to suffer from organized corruption on
the part of factionalized police and immigration officials.
The security of most areas of the country relies less on the
strength of ECOMOG than on the good faith of the warring
factions not to engage in acts of war.
The material support provided by the Netherlands, Germany and
the United States over the past several months has improved
the logistical capabilities of ECOMOG. A new commanding
general has instilled a fresh assertiveness in the force.
ECOMOG, however, continues to face severe constraints
including unclear objectives, inadequate troop strength and
qualitative deficiencies such as inconsistent pay and
The ultimate objective of ECOMOG, and the donor countries
supporting it, are an important element of the interplay of
security, disarmament, demobilization, and elections. This
objective has not been fully and clearly explained to the
people of Liberia.
It appears that the immediate goal of ECOMOG is to deploy to
the more heavily populated areas of the country and create
"safe havens." These safe havens would serve as launching
points for programs to disarm and demobilize combatants, and
areas in which voting could take place. Motivated by the
apparent desire to withdraw ECOMOG by the end of 1997, ECOWAS
appears to be satisfied with a solution that would leave the
ultimate question of comprehensive security in the hands of an
elected government. Whether conditions exist for an electoral
process that is not significantly flawed, appears to be of
less concern to ECOWAS than the goal of creating a government
in Liberia that has the appearance of legitimacy. This overall
scheme appears to have the support, if not encouragement, of
the United States.
The international community does not have a history of
providing strong support to ECOMOG. At times it has branded
ECOMOG as part of the problem rather than the solution, yet,
international humanitarian assistance providers deploy mostly
in ECOMOG- controlled areas and rely on ECOMOG escorts. At a
higher level, western policy-makers are content to consider
ECOMOG as the appropriate solution for Liberia, but are not
willing to fully commit resources to the peace-keeping effort.
Some consider ECOMOG a black hole and a foregone failure, yet
their lack of support makes this a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The options are fairly clear. Either the international donors
fully support the needs of peacekeeping through ECOMOG or a
new peacekeeping force is created to wade through the rubble
of another failed peace plan. The following actions are
recommended as a means to improve the existing peacekeeping
force and undergird security.
Expand the objective of ECOMOG: The objective of ECOMOG must
include a deployment strategy that is broader than the
creation of safe havens. Deployment must deter violations of
the cease-fire and promote an atmosphere for the disarmament,
demobilization and reintegration of all combatants.
Increase troop strength: Resources should be provided for
transporting and equipping the additional 5,500 troops pledged
by ECOWAS nations.
Supplemental salary for peacekeepers: International donors
should consider underwriting a supplemental salary for ECOMOG
troops, administered by a third party such as the U.N., as a
way to improve morale, avert corruption, motivate increased
participation by governments in the region, and increase
international leverage over ECOMOG.
Credible police force: A credible national police force is an
important part of Liberia's transition from war to peace.
International assistance for developing this force should be
conditioned on Liberia's Council of State completely
disbanding both the existing factionalized police force and
the "so-called" national army (AFL).
Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DD&R)
The demobilization and reintegration of combatants is critical
to any peace process. This may be even more true in Liberia
where the violence has engulfed society. Yet, the nature of
the war (numerous factions, no standing armies, "casual"
fighters, porous borders, external support) and the nature of
the peace (no clear winner, a weak peace accord coupled with
an unrealistic schedule, regional meddling, international
skepticism) make Liberia a difficult candidate for a
successful DD&R process. Not only is Liberia a difficult
environment for DD&R, but the international community's lack
of engagement further undermines the prospects for a
meaningful DD&R process. The danger is that a failure now of
this process would definitively kill in the minds of donors
the concept of disarming the fighters, and with it the very
idea of peace.
The level of planning for DD&R is frighteningly inadequate.
The peace agreement negotiated in Abuja, only four pages in
length, makes no substantive reference to the modalities of
DD&R or the requirement for post-agreement negotiation of
these details. Its only reference to DD&R is a schedule that
requires completion of the process by January 31, 1997.
The implementation of DD&R has been left to several unprepared
agencies of the United Nations that lack both resources and
expertise. Just weeks before the Nov. 22 start date there was
no comprehensive plan for disarming, demobilizing and
reintegrating combatants. The lack of planning, coupled with
a void in international leadership and meager resources, make
the completion of a comprehensive DD&R process by the Jan. 31
deadline an impossible proposition.
Disarmament operations began in five weapon-collection sites
on Nov. 22, in keeping with the Abuja II schedule. The
exercise consists of a 12-hour process that amounts to little
more than registration and initial screening. Initial reports
indicate that organization is poor, numbers are low and that
many of the weapons handed-in are old or unserviceable. Given
the logistical and security constraints to the implementation
of programs in Liberia, it is unlikely that the reintegration
process will begin in the short term. In the absence of
political will to measure DD&R in the strictest terms, it is
feared that external actors and warring faction leaders will
claim a successful completion of DD&R even though large number
of fighters remain outside the process.
The prospects for a successful DD&R process in Liberia are
regrettably not very promising. This lack of promise, however,
should not become a reason for the international community to
disengage. To the contrary, anything short of a thorough and
successful DD&R process will allow the factions to resume
their struggle for power and keep Liberia's citizens dependent
on costly international humanitarian assistance. This outcome
can be avoided if there is immediate and sustained corrective
action that increases the likelihood of a successful DD&R
(continued in part 2)
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational
affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary
objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States
around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by
concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant
information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and