Liberia Interagency Conflict Assessment
Ph.D., Political Science 2002, University of Virginia, Dissertation:Historical Legacies and Policy Choice: Public Sector Reform in Poland, Egypt, Mexico and the Czech Republic 1991-1992 Fellow at the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad (CASA)
M.A., Political Science 1991, The New York University
Decades of political and economic exclusion, years of violence and insecurity, and a population of displaced and traumatized people are just some of the complex factors that contribute to the intricate political and social dynamics in Liberia.
Drivers and Mitigating Factors: A variety of deep-seated grievances arising from uncertainties relating to claims on and control of land, increasing dependence on international donors and, as a result, serious levels of unmet expectations with regard to the GOL and international donors, and perceptions of unfair and unequal access to assets and opportunities serve as fuel for conflict among numerous tribal groups and between “indigenous” Liberians and Americo-Liberians (descendants from 19th century settlers from the United States). A variety of opinion leaders, from the diaspora, some politicians, trade union heavy-weights, and tribal and religious leaders are able to mobilize their constituencies in support of instability and conflict around these core grievances.
At the same time, many Liberians express the perception that the country has genuinely made progress in important areas such as establishing inter-faith dialogues which are playing a key role in community reconciliation processes, in communities’ ability to handle some disputes on their own, and the desire for self- and community-improvement. Another success has been the establishment of radio stations which disseminate accurate and conflict-mitigating information. Key actors, such as religious leaders, political figures, ratio station owners and operators, and eminent persons continue to mobilize their constituencies in ways that mitigate conflict and strengthen local capacity.
Diagnostic: Current levels of overt conflict in Liberia are relatively low, but the pathways for increasing levels of violence are in place, often used to stimulate minor or small-scale conflict. It is also the case that social networks and relationships supporting Liberian resilience already exist. Events scheduled to occur within two to three years (e.g. the Taylor verdict in The Hague, eviction from their homes of 25,000 people due to a concession agreement between the GOL and a private company, presidential and parliamentary elections, and the withdrawal of the UN mission) will open “windows of uncertainty.” Whether existing pathways for violence and instability or resilience and peace are used during these moments of uncertainty can be influenced by USG and other international donor engagement currently underway.