/ 14 October 2008

Liberia report warns of threat to peace

Disputes over land ownership and property boundaries are threatening to undermine Liberia’s fragile peace, according to findings from a six-month survey released on Monday.

The Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the European Union warned in a presentation that ”there will remain a strong likelihood of reversion to violence” if such conflicts are not addressed.

Civil war and a series of coups between 1989 and 2003 left about 200 000 people dead in Liberia and displaced half the country’s population of three million. Nearly 12 000 United Nations peacekeepers help maintain order in the West African country.

Boundary disputes were ”the main source of conflict” cited by about 6 000 people interviewed across 46 of Liberia’s 64 electoral districts, according to the summary of the survey findings presented to journalists in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia.

”People complained about how their lands had been encroached upon; they talked about the issue of boundary demarcation, resale of lands,” said Eddie Mulbah, who worked on the survey as a consultant for the European Commission.

The report also identified a range of other hurdles to long-term stability in the country, including scant communication between the government and citizens, lack of accountability and transparency in resource management and large numbers of unemployed former combatants.

The summary document recommended that the government set up community development teams to work out disputes with civil authorities.

”The task may seem enormous, but the cost of failure could be equally greater,” the summary said.

Government spokesperson Laurence Bropleh said Liberia’s president was already taking steps to address the issue, including plans to appoint a land-reform commission.

”We welcome the report because it enhances what we are trying to do as a government,” Bropleh said. — Sapa-AP