Stemming from a survey of more than 1,400 ex-combatants in Liberia's 14-year civil war, this report explores the reasons behind renewed fighting, including poverty, unemployment, peer and family pressure, gender and tribal tensions.

Special Report: Would You Fight Again?: Understanding Liberian Ex-Combatant Reintegration

Summary

  • The potential for renewed fighting is closely linked to poverty and hardship. Liberian ex-combatants most commonly cited reasons for considering a return to combat include poverty and economic disadvantage, followed by a lack of jobs, benefits, or training.
  • Unemployment plays a role in the potential return to combat, especially for those who were previously employed. As expected, a greater percentage of unemployed than employed respondents can envision returning to war. However, one population that is significantly more likely to return to combat is ex-combatants who held a job before the war but are now unemployed.
  • Problems in gaining acceptance by family and community are also closely linked to willingness to consider fighting again. Respondents who have had difficulty reintegrating into their home communities and who perceive bias against ex-combatants seem more inclined to return to combat.
  • Women may be especially prone to fight again to find relief from poverty. There were comparatively few women fighters and, therefore, relatively few women in the sample, but results suggest that women, particularly those without families, might be more likely than men to fight if it becomes financially necessary.
  • Tribal tensions still exist and could lead to outbreaks of violence. There are still feelings, especially among members of certain ethnic groups, that ex-combatants from their tribe are not accorded full citizen status by members of other tribes.

About the Report

In countries emerging from conflict, the reintegration of ex-combatants into society is a challenging task—for the nation, aid organizations, and, most of all, the former fighters themselves. This report stems from a survey conducted by CHF International, in collaboration with the National Ex-combatant Peacebuilding Initiative, involving more than 1,400 ex-combatants from the fourteen-year civil war in Liberia. The respondents give their views on how well they are assimilating into peacetime society: the challenges, their hopes and dreams, and what, if anything, might prompt them to take up arms once more.

Richard Hill is the senior director for transitional states at the Research Triangle Institute. He also directed CHF International’s Office of Strategic and Technical Support, as well as Intertect Relief and Reconstruction. He has designed, directed, or evaluated post-conflict programs in thirty-one countries over twenty years and taught on post-conflict issues at Harvard University. Gwendolyn Taylor has done extensive fieldwork in Liberia and Burundi and has been a consultant for the International Refugee Committee, CHF International, and the National Ex-Combatant Peacebuilding Initiative of Liberia. Jonathan Temin, a regional program development officer for CHF International and a former Fulbright fellow, has designed and supported peacebuilding and stability programs around the globe. He is also an adjunct professor at Webster University.

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