II Challenging Conventions of Explaining and Situating Violent Conflict

Grand Narratives of Crisis: Customary Conflicts as a Factor in the Liberian Civil War and Implications for Policy

David Brown


The main legacy of a civil war, as noted by Collier, is an increased risk of further civil war (Collier 2010, 129; Collier et al. 2009, 14). This alone is enough to justify academic interest in the phenomenon. In the case of Liberia, though 13 years of destructive conflict ended in 2003, the peace remains fragile, and for most of the population, its benefits—beyond the obvious—are still few and far between. The presence of United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has helped to guarantee the peace, but the drawdown is already well underway.1 Meanwhile, the extractive economy is back on track. The timber and mining sectors are being revived, and oil exploration is also in prospect. If natural resource dependence is a curse, then it will soon be revisited on the country.

This chapter considers some of the explanatory models which have been offered to understand the origins and course of the war and assesses their implications for development policy. There are two major challenges:

D. Brown (H)

School of Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK © The Author(s) 2017

C.K. H0jbjerg et al. (eds.), Politics and Policies in Upper Guinea Coast Societies, DOI 10.1057/978-1-349-95013-3_6

identifying the policy changes which might help to prevent recurrence of conflict and doing so in ways that favor socially and economically progressive development.

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