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The Second Phase of the Civil War: 1999–2003

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Following Taylor’s election, the international community supported a disarmament program and West African peacekeepers withdrew. Leaders from former antagonists’ groups, such as ULIMO, were given important government posts in return for dissolving their rebel factions. However, within two years the tensions between ethnic groups and Taylor’s continuation of old practices of corruption, repression of dissent, exploitation of ethnic divisions, and abject poverty for most Liberians, led to renewed conflict.[1]

The second phase of the Civil War comprised challenges to Taylor’s rule by two rebel armies, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) from its base in Guinea across the northern border, and later the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) who attacked in the east from Cote d’Ivoire. At least initially, the LURD forces were primarily Mandingo and many of its members were also previously active in the Mandingo faction of ULIMO.[2] By 2003 they had taken control of much of west and northwest Liberia, with the backing of Guinea, Sierra Leone, and to some extent the United States[3]. They were highly disorganized, however, and continued the extremely violent tactics widespread in the years prior.[4] MODEL, considered a descendant of the Krahn-based ULIMO faction, joined the battle in early 2003. It was supported by the Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo.[5]

Despite ongoing peace talks, in mid-2003 Monrovia was under siege by both groups, and the city was becoming a humanitarian catastrophe. Under increasing international pressure, Taylor finally resigned on August 11, 2003, and voluntarily went into exile in Nigeria, leaving Vice President Moses Blah to negotiate on behalf of the government. On August 18, 2003, Taylor’s Government signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) with LURD, MODEL, and with civil society representatives in Accra, Ghana, that formally ended the conflict.[6]

[1] Kieh Jr, George Klay (2009). ‘The roots of the second Liberian civil war’. International Journal on World Peace, 2009(1)..

[2] International Crisis Group/ICG (2003). Liberia: Security Challenges. Retrieved from, p. 10.

[3] Brabazon, James (2010). My Friend the Mercenary. Edinburgh: Canongate Books; ICG, 2003, p. 14.

[4] For a detailed insight on the nature of the LURD campaign as witnessed from within, see James Brabazon (2010).

[5]ICG, 2003, pp. 10-1.

[6] Peace Agreement Between The Government Of Liberia (GOL), The Liberians United For Reconciliation And Democracy (LURD), The Movement For Democracy In Liberia (MODEL) and The Political Parties, Accra, Ghana, August 18, 2003.