Armed violence, both threatened and actual, continues to pose a significant threat to security, stability and hence sustainable development in Liberia. Although recovery from the direct impacts of the Liberian conflict have been positive, a marked absence of rule of law and limited capacities in the security and justice sectors (particularly in remote rural areas) result in high potential for social instability, use of weapons in community-level disputes, and risk of re-recruitment of youth (young men in particular) to wider regional conflicts.
The lack of economic opportunities in rural areas continues to cause large scale migration to urban centres in search of employment. The continuing lack of employment opportunities nationwide has resulted in the creation and growth of a sizeable underclass of unemployed Liberians in rural and newly urbanised areas. This creates significant risk factors for armed violence. In urban areas, Monrovia (the capital) is hardest hit by this problem although the trend is now evident in county capitals, particularly those close to natural resources.
A baseline assessment of armed violence in Monrovia, conducted in 2010 by the UK-based NGO, Action on Armed Violence, found that of the 960 households surveyed, one in four (23%) had experienced crime in the last year, with half of these victimised multiple times. In more than 60% of these incidents ,weapons were used.
Small arms and light weapons (SALW) are a commonly used worldwide in acts of armed violence. When it comes to SALW and other forms of conventional weapons, states have the opportunity to implement laws and regulations, both at national and international levels, to either ban or regulate the ownership and use of weapons to reduce armed violence.
However, according to AOAV’s baseline assessment of armed violence and the data collected by the Liberia Armed Violence Observatory (LAVO), firearms and other forms of SALW are not the most commonly used weapons in Liberia. Instead, rocks, sticks, bladed weapons and agricultural tools are used in the vast majority of cases (ca 80%). As such, these types of instruments cannot be subject to the same kind of preventive responses, making it even more essential to address the root causes of violence.