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The case of Liberia has been selected in order to study trends in similarities and differences between the two phases of conflict and peacebuilding (1989-1994 and 1999-2003) This helps us to ascertain the underlying causes of conflict relapse amidst attempts to negotiate peace settlements outside of established explanations. The case study reveals that ethnicity in conflicts and their role in peace settlements needs to be better analysed in a given context. Ethnicity is often a mobilization tool at the inception of conflicts, however can become less relevant over time as the conflict expands, drawing in more actors and more political and economic interests. Situating the role of ethnic differences vis-à-vis political, structural and economic factors can offer a more balanced narrative of African civil conflicts.

Second, the role of conflict entrepreneurs and political elites in deciding the fate of power-sharing arrangements is well understood in the literature on spoiler violence. This factor however requires a more thorough examination with respect to peace negotiations. The Liberian case reveals that elite compacts reinforce structural conflict drivers that mostly benefit the ‘guys with the guns’ already in positions of privilege and status, to subsequently entrench inequalities that become increasingly difficult to remedy.

Finally, the role of the international community as peace and security guarantors can be particularly important in the context of weak states with low institutional development such as Liberia. Ensuring the neutrality of third party guarantors of peace agreements can be a key factor in avoiding conflict relapse. In particular, the role of regional players in peacemaking while attractive, must be applied with caution. ECOMOG’s role in Liberia offers important lessons in this regard.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationComparing Peace Processes
EditorsAlpaslan Ozerdem, MacGinty Roger
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)978-1138218970
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2019


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