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Sustaining Peace: Reflections On Transitional Justice Approaches In West Africa

For several decades, West Africa has faced different and varying degrees of
violent conflict, authoritarian and repressive undemocratic governments.
The region has witnessed civil wars, political conflicts, insurgencies, inter-communal conflicts and the “not so new” trend of violent extremism. Liberia experienced more than 14 years of civil unrest and conflict.

The country had two distinct civil wars from 1989 to 2003. The first war (1989- 1996), generally attributed to the repressive regime of Samuel Doe’s
government and campaign to oust him from power by Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) were considered as one of Africa’s bloodiest. It claimed the lives of over 250,000 with 1 million displaced and at least 25,000 raped.

Three years after the first civil war in 1996, Liberia was again plunged into another civil war, when a rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), with the support of the government of neighbouring Guinea, began a military offensive to topple the government of President Charles Taylor.

The conflict in Liberia spilled over the border into neighbouring Sierra Leone. The war in Sierra Leone was also driven by the attempts to overthrow the government of President Joseph Saidu Momoh, oust corrupt politicians, and redistribute the country’s resources of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF).

The RUF supported by Liberian rebel leader Charles Taylor and the NFPL was a small band of well-armed and funded guerrilla rebels, who rushed into villages in the eastern countryside and quickly gained momentum and territory.