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Africa

Liberia's ten years of peace

Liberians are commemorating ten years of peace with church services and prayers. But many believe peace to be at risk if poverty and unemployment are not tackled.

Liberian country (traditional) devil consult with head, August 2013; Copyright: DW/J. Kanuba

Liberia

Since the cessation of hostilities, many Liberians say they are satisfied with the level of peace prevailing in their country. The country now has a stable democracy and growing economy but the poverty rate is still high. Liberians are grateful that peace has held ten years.

“We've been moving here and there without the sounds of guns, so we should celebrate,” Edwin Clarke, a Liberian political commentator, told DW correspondent Julius Kanubah in Monrovia.

Consolidating the peace

L(Foto:Larry Downing, Pool/AP/dapd)

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been criticised for not tackling corruption properly in Liberia

In a peace agreement signed in Ghana in 2003, Liberia brought to an end one of the world's most brutal civil wars, which had lasted for fourteen years and claimed the lives of 250,000 people. In the meantime, the country has moved on. It has conducted democratic elections with the Nobel Peace Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf winning two terms in office as president.

She has been praised for consolidating peace, attracting foreign investment and securing debt relief. But critics say her government's development projects have not improved the lives of ordinary Liberians and take issue with large-scale agricultural and forestry concessions that have dispossessed some of the rural poor. Some Liberians think this may hinder the peace and stability the country now enjoys.

“We are not peaceful completely in the sense that the issue of job creation is something serious,” Clarke said.

Poverty still a problem

As one of the world's most underdeveloped countries, Liberia is still grappling with poverty. Jobs are scarce, especially among young people, who were once both perpetrators and victims of the violence that occurred during the war.

Liberianische Frauen sammeln für den Frieden Ereignis, August 2013; Copyright: DW/J. Kanuba

Women still suffer from rape and domestic violence in post-war Liberia

In the capital Monrovia, women joined the commemoration of ten years of peace. Even though Liberia has a female president, women still remain vulnerable. During the civil war, women and girls were exposed to a high level of sexual violence perpetrated by rebel fighters.

Violence against women

Even after the war, this has not stopped. There are reports that rape is on the increase. Nancy Zoemoh, is a women's rights activist from Lofa County Northern Liberia, one of the worst hit by the civil unrest.

"The men are still beating us, our daughters are still being raped and justice is not for the women in Lofa," Zoemoh told DW. She added that teenage pregnancy, too, is a problem in the region.

August 2013; Copyright: DW/J. Kanuba

There is still a high rate of youth unemployment in Liberia

Aleem Siddique is the spokesperson for the United Nations mission in Liberia (UNMIL). He said there has been tremendous progress, and there is tremendous hope, but much remains to be done. "There can be no peace in Liberia without justice,” he told DW, adding that only justice could turn the page on the country's dark past.

President Sirleaf delivered a message of thanks to the Economic Community of West African Sates (ECOWAS), the international community and Liberians for their help in ending the bloodshed and restoring democracy.

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