By: Andrews Bonsu, John Oteng-Nyame, Maame Kyerewaa Antwi, Aaron Ayamga, Henrrietta Ama Dzisi, Dorcas Tamatey, Joseph Amo Nti
The Liberian civil war has been one of Africa’s bloodiest in recent history. It tore the country apart and displaced several to seek refuge in neighboring countries. It roped in countries and military forces both from within and without the sub-region. It occurred in two parts; the first civil war and the second civil war.
The first civil war of Liberia basically span within a time frame of about 7 years (1989-1996). There were several causes of this war. Some of these stemmed mainly from the country’s unresolved ethnic and political differences and personal vendetta. Mr. Samuel Doe, a Liberian Army Master sergeant, led a bloody coup d’état in 1980 that overthrew the then elected president of Liberia, President Tolbert. In his attempt to seize power, Doe assassinated President Tolbert and executed thirteen of his cabinet members. Doe appointed (among other people) the then rarely known Charles Taylor as one of his cabinet members. Eventually, Taylor was dismissed from his post over an alleged embezzlement of state funds.
The political factors that aggravated the first war revolved around Samuel Doe. The Doe government was fraught with corruption, despotism and gross mismanagement of national resources. Doe’s antics and the methods by which he exercised power and authority left his people despondent. Indeed, at a point in time, Liberia was almost bankrupt. As a result of this, the USA threatened to seize sending aid to Liberia. He seized freedom of press and the atmosphere in the country was extremely tensed. Not only was he personally doing more harm than good to Liberia; his hordes of ministerial appointees were the human equivalent of blood sucking vampires. They were sucking the economy dry of its life source through their corruption, apathy and incompetence. This led to extremely pitiable economic conditions in the country.
Furthermore, Doe’s preferential treatment to people of his own ethnic group, the Krahn, fueled ethnic tensions and hatred in Liberia. There was a massive appointment of Krahn men and women into high ranked government offices such as the public services and the security services leaving little or no room for non-Krahns. Again, Doe used a Krahn dominated military to stage several attacks against the Gio and the Mano ethnic groups which forced most of them (including ex-soldiers) to flee into Cote d’Ivoire. Feeling cheated and persecuted, the Gio and Mano ex-soldiers gave their support and allegiance to Charles Taylor to revolt against Doe’s government. This caused disturbances in the country which eventually led to a civil war.
Nevertheless, several attempts were made in a bid to resolve the conflict both by international bodies and through local efforts. On 7th August 1990, the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) Standing Mediation Committee established the ECOWAS Military Observer Group (ECOMOG) to help resolve the armed internal conflict which had broken out in Liberia. In 1993, the Organization of African Union (OAU), the warring parties, ECOWAS and the United Nations agreed to a new peace plan which called for the disarming and demobilization of the warring parties as well as the establishment of an interim government in a nation-wide poll.
One reason which made the war difficult to resolve was the fact prior to the war, the justice system in Liberia was manipulated by powerful individuals who used security structures for their personal benefits. Almost all Liberian security forces were involved in the war and thus faced difficulty in being seen as neutral or objective. Consequently, the prospects for stability and peacebuilding required attention to improve the state of security in Liberia to enable security forces to effectively manage the war.
Progress made by the United States, United Nations, Organization of African Unity and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led to special elections on 19 July 1997 with Charles Taylor and his National Patriotic Party emerging victorious. Though the elections were administratively free and transparent, most voters believed that Taylor’s forces would have resumed fighting if he had lost. During the period before the election, many Liberians had fled to surrounding countries Sierra Leone and Guinea.
After Taylor’s election, several groups were formed to oust him; the main ones being the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia. Their attempts to unseat him led to many insurgents in Liberia causing havoc and distraction as Taylor had his own armies fighting the opposition. In a bid to bring about peace, there were two conferences held in Accra to quell the disputes and even the United States and the British tried to intervene by imposing sanctions on Liberia. American troops were sent in for peace keeping purposes as the insurgence had reduced Taylor’s control to just a third of the country. His refusal to step down led to the displacement of over 220,000 Liberians. As the pressure on Taylor increased, the Nigerians offered him asylum which he refused on July 2nd 2003. After fighting intensified in Monrovia, Charles Taylor was reported to have accepted the offer on the 6th of July, leaving the country and ending the civil war the civil war that had gone on since 1997.