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Executive Summary

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Liberia’s war between 1989 and 2003 left hundreds of thousands dead, and many more affected by the extreme violence that ravaged the country. Peacebuilding and reconstruction have been daunting challenges for a country that was divided and impoverished even before the war. The conflict destroyed or damaged almost all structures and institutions of the state, the economy, and everyday life. Much progress has been made since President Sirleaf’s government assumed office in 2006, but enormous challenges remain. As the second presidential election since the end of the war nears, Liberia is once again at an important juncture on the path to its peaceful reconstruction.

This study was undertaken to contribute to a deeper understanding of: (1) the population’s priorities for peacebuilding, (2) Liberians’ perceptions of their post-war security, and (3) existing disputes and dispute resolution mechanisms. The study is based on extensive consultations with local organizations, interviews with key informants, and a nationwide survey of 4,501 respondents randomly selected in each of the counties to represent the views of the adult population in Liberia. The survey was implemented in November and December 2010. Results are representative of the population at the county level and for the Greater Monrovia district.


Key findings of the study are:

  • There is a high degree of socio-economic inequality between Greater Monrovia and the rest of the country. Compared to residents in the capital region, respondents outside of Greater Monrovia were two to three times more likely to have no education and belong to the poorest asset group. Women were more likely to have no education (45%) and be poorer (29% in poorest asset quintile) than men (respectively 25% and 18%).
  • Access to information has improved since the end of the war for a majority of the population (66%), but respondents in the southeastern part of the country continue to rely predominantly on informal sources of information (e.g., friends, family) due to poor access to media. Elsewhere, radio is the main source of information. Women are more likely to rely on informal sources of information compared to men.
  • Education, health, and employment were mentioned most frequently by the respondents as their main priorities as well as priorities on which the government should focus. Respondents further suggested the government should prioritize poverty reduction. There are regional differences, with roads being the most frequently cited concern in the southeast. Two-thirds of the respondents were not satisfied with their access to social services and job opportunities. Forty-two percent said no one helped improve living conditions in their community.
  • The 14-year civil war period affected almost everyone in Liberia. Nearly four out of five respondents (78%) considered themselves a victim of the civil wars. A majority of respondents were severely affected by war-related violence, including displacement (77%), destruction of their house (61%), or looting and destruction of their crops (60%). Physical violence was also frequent, with 35% of the respondents reporting experience of a direct attack with a weapon, and 30% reporting being beaten by combatants. In addition, 8% of the respondents reported having experienced sexual violence committed by combatants; among women, the prevalence rate was 12%. One in five respondents (20%) said they had been abducted or kidnapped during the wars. A majority (64%) held the view that greed and corruption were the causes of the conflict while 40% mentioned identity and tribal divisions, 30% mentioned poverty, and 27% mentioned inequalities. Former president Charles Taylor was named as a cause of the conflict by 45% of the adult Liberians.
  • A majority of respondents is willing to forgive those who were responsible for the violence. They proposed financial compensation (65%), housing (45%), and education (45%) as measures for victims.
  • Most Liberians are positive about the country’s prospect for peace. The surveyed adult Liberians most frequently stated that in order to build peace, it was necessary to unite the tribes of Liberia (74%), educate the youth (57%), reduce poverty (46%), provide social services (40%), unite religious groups (26%), and/or address land ownership issues (25%).
  • Considering Liberia’s stable but fragile security situation, most respondents felt safe and reported improvements in security during the year prior to the survey. Nationally, two-thirds of Liberian adults (65%) reported no safety issues. Where a sense of insecurity existed, it was mostly associated with witchcraft, local crimes, and/or robberies. When asked what should be done to improve security, however, most respondents mentioned educating the youth (56%), as well as improving the capacity of the police (52%), reducing poverty (45%), providing social services to the community (36%), and uniting the people of Liberia (32%). One in three respondents (34%) stated that nobody provides security in their locality; another third (33%) listed the police as one of the actors providing protection. A majority of the population (74%) reported knowing how to contact the police if needed, and 84% said they would know where the nearest police station was.
  • Although 49% of the respondents identified ethnicity and ethnic divisions as one of the causes of the civil wars, few respondents (4%) identified ethnic divisions or tribal violence as current factors of insecurity. However, 8% of the population reported experiencing problems along ethnic lines. Such problems were most frequently reported in Lofa (16%) and Grand Gedeh (10%).
  • One in four adults had a land dispute during or after the conflict, the most common form of dispute among the population. The report explores various types of disputes and their impact. The results reiterate the prominent role of village and town chiefs in resolving disputes, in particular over land: 39% of those who had experienced land-grabbing since the war had consulted village or town chiefs to resolve the dispute. However, disputes over land were found to be far less likely to be resolved than other controversies, with just half the farm land-grabbing cases solved (53%) compared to a large majority (83%) of the non-land- related disputes. Most respondents acknowledged having either no (50%) or little (41%) knowledge of the formal court system. Just 28% described their access to the court system as easy.
  • Domestic violence is a common occurrence, and 36% of the women and 16% of the men reported having experienced this during their lives. Many of them, 24% of the women and 10% of the men, experienced domestic violence in the year prior to the survey.
  • Almost all (95%) respondents plan to vote in the upcoming presidential elections.


In the report the above results are expanded and additional data provided in greater detail, with statistics presented at the county level, and for Greater Monrovia. Based on these findings, the following steps are recommended to the government of Liberia, the civil society, and the international community:

  • Develop specific measures reflecting the respondents’ priorities under the Poverty Reduction Strategy framework to eliminate the chronic socio-economic disparities–especially among women and in rural areas–and promote investment in rural infrastructure, including roads, health centers, and schools.
  • Support the development of an information network, which includes community and regional radio as well as cell phone connectivity, especially in the underserved southeast, so that the population can become informed participants in the reconstruction process, rather than be mere bystanders.
  • Strengthen and professionalize the security sector, especially the Liberian National Police (LNP) so that they can effectively serve and address the main security threats at the community level. This may include, but should not be limited to, increasing accountability and transparency in LNP activities, including the implementation of existing operation guidelines and the vetting of any individual responsible for misconduct.
  • Increase access to and quality of the formal justice system and strengthen existing dispute resolution mechanisms at the local level.
  • Ensure that the electoral process takes place in an orderly and transparent fashion and that the security sector is deployed and able to mitigate and de-escalate potential crises.
  • Continue to support a nationwide dialogue over the events that unfolded during the war and the root causes of the conflicts. This support should include additional outreach to ensure that the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee are made available to the public and that there is continuation of an inter-ethnic dialogue.