Ending the armed conflict in Liberia

Summary

After 14 years of armed conflict and instability, the war in Liberia was finally ended by the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement on 18 August 2003.

The war in Liberia began in 1989, when a former government official, Charles Taylor, launched an insurgency against government security forces. By August 1990, the Liberian armed forces had largely been defeated and Taylor’s troops were besieging the capital, Monrovia.1 In August 1990, governments in the region agreed to deploy the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) in an effort to contain the crisis.2 They were later supported by UN observers, however the fighting continued until, after more than a dozen failed attempts to forge a peace, the 1996 Abuja II Agreement succeeded in halting the fighting.3 The following year, elections were held, resulting in a resounding victory for Taylor, whose forces controlled most of the country.4 Although much of Liberia enjoyed some semblance of peace following the election, fighting continued in parts of the country throughout the period and in 2001, the country descended into war once again.

In June 2003, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the International Contact Group on Liberia (which included the African Union, ECOWAS, World Bank, and UN along with a range of national governments) hosted negotiations in Accra, Ghana. Following his indictment by the Special Court in Sierra Leone, Taylor fled back to his stronghold in Monrovia.5 Representatives of the Government of Liberia remained, however, and the talks continued.6 A wide range of civil society actors, such as the Mano River Women Peace Network, the Women in Peacebuilding Program, the Liberian Bar Association, and the Inter-Religious Council for Liberia, took part in the 76-day process at Accra and ultimately helped to shape the post-conflict transition.7 By June 2003, an array of armed groups had pushed Taylor’s forces back to Monrovia. Taylor relinquished power on 11 August, fleeing to Nigeria. Within a week, what remained of his administration negotiated an end to the conflict during negotiations hosted by ECOWAS in Ghana, culminating on 18 August with the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement.8 In addition to ending the conflict, the Agreement created the framework for a two-year transitional government which was tasked with administering the country until nationwide elections could be held in October 2005. Over 200,000 people (approximately ten percent of the entire Liberian population) were killed during the war.9



1 UCDP. Liberia: Government. (UCDP: 2020) Available at: https://ucdp.uu.se/conflict/341 (Accessed 14/12/2020)

2 Human Rights Watch. “Waging War to Keep the Peace: The ECOMOG Intervention and Human Rights.” HRW Reports, Vol. 5, No. 6. (1993)

3 Supplement to the Abuja Accord, 1996. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/liberia-supplementabuja96 (Accessed 25/10/2020)

4 Lansana Gberie. “Liberia’s War and Peace process: A Historical Overview.” in Festus Aboagye and Alhaji M S Bah, eds. A Tortuous Road to Peace: The Dynamics of Regional, UN, and International Humanitarian Interventions in Liberia. (Pretoria: Institute for Security Studies, 2005) p.61

5 Paul Welsh. “Liberian leader’s strange day in Ghana.” BCC News. (2003) Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2965110.stm (Accessed 25/10/2020)

6 Priscilla Hayner. “Negotiating peace in Liberia: Preserving the possibility for Justice.” Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue November Report. (2007)

7 Desirée Nilsson. Crafting a Secure Peace – Evaluating Liberia’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement 2003. (Uppsala University and the UN Mediation Support Unit, 2009) p.22

8 Peace Agreement between the Government of Liberia, the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), the Movement of Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) and the Political Parties, 2003. Available at: https://peacemaker.un.org/liberia-peaceagreementlurdmodel2003 (Accessed 25/10/2020)

9 Gberie. “Liberia’s War and Peace process.” p.51

Start Year

2003

End Year

Present

Location

Liberia

UN Regional Group

Africa

Type of Conflict

Vertical (state-based) intrastate conflict with foreign involvement

Type of Initiative

Mediation of a peace agreement

Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Economic Community of West African States and the International Contact Group on Liberia

Impact

Lasting

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