Monrovia - It’s been 13 years since the guns went silent in Liberia, and Liberians are now enjoying a relatively peaceful country.
Liberians are upholding the peace, thanks to the help of foreign partners that have contributed to the peace.
UNMIL presence is gradually vanishing in the country although the UN Security Council has extended the mission in the country until March 2018.
As the 2017 Presidential and legislative elections near, there are deep concerns over the slow pace of post-war socio-economic recovery in Liberia. On the same note, there are also growing concerns about the risk of renewed conflict in the country, according to a report.
A survey conducted by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (JPC) in March 2016 shows that Liberians believe that despite the 13 years of uninterrupted peace, the peace is still fragile and volatile as issues that led to war have not been adequately addressed.
The survey also shows that Liberians perceive the current peace as primarily “negative”.
Pilate Johnson, Acting National Director of the JPC, told reporters the survey was conducted utilizing both quantitative and qualitative methods to document opinions, perceptions and experience from 1,500 respondents and nearly 50 key informants throughout the 15 political subdivision of Liberia.
“Although the horrors of war and extreme violence are in the past, the positive attributes of peace and social harmony, mutually beneficial inter-ethnic coexistence, trust in institutions, and harmony, mutually beneficial inter-ethnic coexistence are still not present,” the report states.
The report stated possible risk factors that could lead to renewed violence which include systemic public sector corruption, disputes over land ownership and high rate of youth unemployment.
The Catholic JPC report states that “Liberians believe that curbing corruption in public services, resolving divisive land disputes, furthering employment of young people, and conducting free and fair general elections in 2017 are necessary steps for advancing positive peace.”
In a list of percentage of potential factors that can instigate violence, the report puts 71.8% of respondents saying that political leaders and unemployed youth are most likely to instigate violence in the country.
The report also named Nimba, Grand Gedeh and Montserrado Counties as ‘flashpoint counties’ that fragile, after 58.2% of respondents said these counties are potential places for sparking renewed violence - due to both historical and current factors.
The report shows that inhabitants of Nimba, Grand Kru, and Grand Cape Mount Counties concurred that the aforementioned counties have the highest risk of potential violence, while respondents in River Gee were the most optimistic.
Generally, respondents also pointed to the politically driven attempt to declare Liberia as Christian state, saying it is a “destabilizing factor, with a potential to instigate violence”.
In its recommendation, the report encouraged the conduct of free and fair general elections in 2017.
It calls the administering of a nation-wide election observation mission that includes carrying out parallel vote tabulation at district and national level.
The report is also recommending the fostering of meaningful and profound reconciliation across Liberia by creating safe space where healing and reconciliation take place; by supporting the use of alternative healing and reconciliation approaches.
“Promote transparency, stewardship, and accountability in Public resource management by supporting initiative that increase transparency and accountability in public resource management; and by establishing and promoting social accountability, including the use of community accountability forum and tools,” the JPC report recommends.
The report also stressed the significance of ensuring the resolution of land disputes through effective legal framework.
“Promote transparent land management and property dispute resolution by supporting the development of comprehensive land title documentation processes; and by building community and local government capacity for land use negotiations,” the report recommended.
In furthered recommendations the report is also calling for the institutionalization of a culture of peace through education programs in school and the community by developing peace and education activities focused on young people, and promote community dispute resolution mechanism by advocating for the establishment of community based alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and increased trust and cooperation between government and citizens.