Critical Lessons in Post-Conflict Security in Africa

The Case of Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Ozonnia Ojielo
Pages: 23
Dimensions: 297 x 210 mm
Date of publication: 2010
ISBN: 978-1-920219-19-2



It has become a globally accepted axiom that democracy is the best form of government. It may not be perfect but in an imperfect world, it is seen as the best form of government available. Democracy is also seen as unique in its capacity to manage conflict. As a system for managing difference without recourse to violence, democracy enables processes through which differences could be brought out, acknowledged and dealt with in ways satisfactory to all the actors, and without threatening the system. Liberia was a democratic state that had existed for close to 200 years. Like all democracies, it was expected to have developed the institutions and processes that would manage grievance and difference. It had never been conquered or colonised by any other power. To many scholars of West African history, it was surprising that such a state could collapse and degenerate into lawlessness and disorder. Beneath the facade of democracy in Liberia however, the state was characterised by authoritarianism. When the state imploded in 1989, it might have surprised members of the international community, but not the people of Liberia. Decades of misrule had been marked by violent forms of oppression and egregious human rights violations, ultimately plunging the country into civil war.

In the post-war era, the challenge facing Liberia is how to come to terms with its recent history of violence, ethnic targeting, collapse of institutions and massive violations and abuses of human rights. Given the inconclusive nature of the civil wars in which no clear victor emerged (especially in the second civil war, 1999-2003), there was no consensus within the country or among the international community as to the best ways to move forward.

This paper reviews the causes of the conflict, the political settlement that was eventually arrived at in order to bring the conflict to an end as well as the nature of the major transitional justice mechanism that was implemented along with its implications for sustainable peace in Liberia. Because of prolonged instability in Liberia, this study is important in determining how transitional justice has contributed to developing and sustaining a security architecture for the country, that will ensure lasting peace and stability. More importantly, as the subregion and the continent grapple with violence and insecurity, the discourse on appropriate and effective justice and security architectures becomes very important. While there are interesting experiences across the continent, different approaches have prevailed. The experience of Liberia presents important comparative knowledge that could contribute to this quest for effective justice and security mechanisms.


  • Introduction
  • Background to the conflict and the violations
  • Accountability for human rights violations
  • The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Contending issues
  • The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • Conclusion