Half of Liberians fear country could plunge back into war: charity

 06 Jan 2017 - 19:48

Half of Liberians fear country could plunge back into war: charity
A chlorinated water bucket to help curb the spread of Ebola virus is placed on a street corner in downtown Monrovia, Liberia, April 1, 2016 (EPA / AHMED JALLANZO)

Thomson Reuters Foundation

DAKAR: Half of all Liberians think their West African nation could plunge back into conflict more than a decade after civil war ended, due to widespread corruption and rows over land, an aid agency said on Thursday.

Systemic corruption in the public sector, disputes over land ownership and high rates of youth unemployment were cited by Liberians as the three main factors that could incite violence in a survey carried out by the Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

“Liberians are telling the world that the causes of the long civil wars are still there and they have genuine fears of their country returning to violence,” Jennifer Overton, regional director for CRS in West Africa, said in a statement.

The country is still recovering from two brutal civil wars, which spanned 14 years before ending in 2003, and an Ebola outbreak which killed some 4,800 people between 2014 and 2016.

The survey was published as Liberia gears up for presidential elections in October to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, in what would be the first democratic transfer of power since the 1970s.

Political leaders were considered most likely to instigate renewed violence by 72 percent of respondents in the survey of more than 1,500 Liberians across the nation’s 15 counties.

Around 60 percent believed unemployed youths were most likely to spark violence.

More than four in five of the respondents said they felt that victims of wartime violence did not receive justice through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up in 2005 to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Both the Liberian government and the international community cannot afford to be complacent about peace in Liberia,” said Pilate Johnson, acting director for the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in Liberia.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission that was sent to Liberia in 2003 to restore order after the conflict withdrew last June, beginning a new phase of self-reliance for the country.

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Katie Nguyen)