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Building Peace

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Most Liberians were optimistic about the possibility of a peaceful future for their country. When asked to explain their understanding of “peace,” a majority defined it as the absence of violence (61%), and many others mentioned wider concepts such as a sense of cohesion and reconciliation among the people of Liberia (34%), general freedom (35%), and overall development (18%). A large majority (89%) believed peace is possible, and three out of four respondents believed the current peace is permanent.[1] The others either believed peace was only temporary (16%), or were unsure (8%). In other words, nine out of ten Liberians think lasting peace is possible in their country, but one in six Liberians believe the current peace will not hold. Those who did not believe peace was possible generally cited the deep ethnic, religious or tribal conflicts (4%), longstanding discrimination and unfair treatment (3%), and the deep historical roots of the conflicts (3%). There was little or no difference between counties in terms of overall perception of peace.[2]

Table 17: Building Peace

Table 17 - Building Peace

Figure 14: Is Peace Possible? If Not, Why Not?

 Is Peace Possible? If Not, Why Not?

Nationally, when asked to describe what measures would build lasting peace in an open-ended question, the surveyed adult Liberians most frequently stated 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%). The pattern of responses somewhat reflects what Liberians saw as the root causes of conflict, with many blaming divisions along ethnic or religious lines (40%), poverty (30%), or inequalities (27%). None of the responses focused directly on addressing greed and corruption, although they were the most frequently cited root causes of the two civil wars among the population.

This may reflect the population’s uncertainty about how to address the problem, the view that bringing unity and reducing poverty would also address corruption, or that corruption is currently viewed as less prevalent. 

The responses also highlight the importance of ethnic divisions on perceptions of peace. Although most respondents viewed their relations with other ethnic groups positively (89% said it was good or very good) and few reported ongoing tensions or disputes based on ethnicity (8%), uniting the tribes of Liberia was the most frequent answer as the measure necessary to ensure peace. The proportion of respondents who identified the need to unite tribes and religious groups was highest in Lofa, Margibi, and Nimba (84%, 80% and 79%, respectively). Lofa and Nimba are among the counties where tensions between ethnic groups were the most often reported.

Figure 15: Measures for a Lasting Peace

 Measures for a Lasting Peace

[1] In comparison, and in a different context, only 44% of the adult population in northern Uganda believed peace to be permanent, according to a 2010 survey. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a notoriously brutal rebel group, withdrew its forces from northern Uganda in 2005, but no peace agreement has been signed. See Pham PN, Vinck P, (2010). Transitioning to Peace: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Social Reconstruction and Justice in Northern Uganda. Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley.

[2] One exception is Lofa, where 8% of adult Liberians stated that lasting peace was not possible due to deep historical roots. Especially considering the existing conflicts along ethnic divisions in that county (see “Inter-Ethnic Relations” above), this pessimism among this segment of the population underscores the potential for such conflicts to lead to another war.