Clarence R. Pearson, Sr.
Liberia is a classic error of negotiated peace through power sharing gone wrong. The withdrawal of UNMIL by the end of 2016, and the transition from a “protective regime” to the unknown in 2017, will be a defining moment for the nation unless AU and UN act swiftly while there is still time.
Throughout the Liberian civil crisis, power sharing was the centerpiece of the conflict resolution strategy employed by mediators to the conflict. Now, don’t get me wrong, power sharing is not a bad strategy, though the issue of its legality is still debated among scholars. It has remained a popular model of conflict management for the past three decades. In the case of Liberia, it was a good strategy that produced bad results. The scholars Kendra and Julian (2008) noted: “The Liberian case demonstrates that while the need to accommodate pivotal decision-makers in negotiated peace processes cannot be neglected, if what the pivotal decision-makers want is diametrically opposed to what is desirable, appeasement of faction leaders is a strategy that will likely backfire. Rather, efforts have to be made to be made to change the incentives of faction leaders. This can be done through effective third-party intervention and/or by economic sanctions that negatively affect the war economy and any underlying patrimonial system.”
It is not surprising, then, that though the facts show that grave atrocities were committed in 14 years of civil conflict, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) process was preferred to a Special AU or UN backed Criminal Court. Perpetrators are consolidating themselves in political power and amassing illicit wealth at the detriment of the impoverished people of Liberia. Everything about accountability is politicized, leaving impunity to thrive as victims of the crisis cover their grief and desire for revenge, undoubtedly waiting for the right opportunity to get even.
Liberia has an opportunity to start anew and build a democracy that sets the basis for the birth of a new nation. Unfortunately, Liberia’s peace has been premised on undue compensation to perpetrators in exchange for cessation of hostilities. The only African nation to never be colonised by a western nation has reached a crossroads in accountability, where justice and peace are at odds.