Johan Gatlung’s Peace and Violence Concept context of Liberian Civil War

Human beings live in a society that has developed certain norms and standards on the basis of consensus of community. These standards are based on values and cultural sensitivity of community that have been in vogue for years. Ordinary members of society abide by normal standards of society. Sometimes social structure is not impervious to breakdown and may embrace individual or collective violence in the form of rebellion, riot or revolution or civil war.


Violence & Peace at a glance:



The World Health Organization (WHO) defines violence as “intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation”.

According to Council of Europe ‘An expanded understanding of violence includes not only direct “behavioral” violence, but also structural violence, which is often unconscious. Structural violence results from unjust and inequitable social and economic structures and manifesting itself in for example, poverty and deprivation of all kinds.’



Peace as absence of violence is called the traditional notion of peace.

According to Myers S. McDougal, “peace is the least application of violence and coercion to the individual and to freedom of access of the individual to cherished values.”

Johan Galtung defined two aspects of peace. Negative peace means that there is no war, no violent conflict between states or within states. Positive peace means no war or violent conflict combined with a situation where there is equity, justice and development.

Here is Johan Galtung’s expanded concept of peace and violence:

In this part of our discussion we are going to focus on the Liberian Civil war on the basis of Johan Galtung’s expanded concept of peace and violence.

read Peace Making Mission in the East of Ukraine


Case Study: Liberia

There are so many conflicts in the world. Here we are focusing on Africa’s oldest republic Liberia’s civil war. This countries conflict and violence story is interesting than other civil war conflicts. Here we can see two times civil war approach and peace process. 1st civil war took place in 1989-1996 and the second ones time period is 1999-2003. Another uniqueness of the war is the participation of women’s for peace and definitely they won.

Here we are going to discuss Liberia’s civil war on the basis of Johan Galtung’s conflict and violence model.



For Liberians, 2003 marked the fourteenth year of an unyielding and bloody civil war. President Charles Taylor coming to the power after a coup invasion in 1989 and he struggled to keep control over the country. In the course of the inter-ethnic struggle both the rebels and the Taylor’s dictatorial regime expose severe harassment and violence on the people of Liberia. And by 2000 over 200,000 people died, one third of the country’s populations were displaced.


Direct and Indirect Violence:

During the civil war no law and order was there and women bore the brunt of the suffering.  The armed attackers were almost entirely male, that’s why women and girls regularly faced sexual assault and rape. Many of them were seized, abused as forced laborers and they are also forced to marry the rebels. Those women who escaped such a fate were left with the burden of caring for children and the elderly in the face of awful circumstances. Human rights abuses include: mob killing, harassment, harsh prison conditions, police abuse, and intimidation of detainees, irrational arrest, judicial inefficiency and corruption, sexual violence against children etc continued.


Negative and Positive Peace process:

In this part of the discussion, we are going to focus on UN and The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding – WANEP’s contribution regarding the peace process in Liberia. It represents the negative and positive peace processes. During this period we can see personal and structural violence is reduced.

United Nations:

In November 1997, the United Nations mission in Liberia (UNMIL) established the  Peace-building Support Office in Liberia. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan endorsed formation of the peacekeeping mission, the United Nations Mission in Liberia on September 11, 2003, and approved on 19 September 2003 by The UN Security Council. Nigeria sent in peacekeepers as part of the intermediate ECOMIL Economic Community of West African States force. Including both military and civilian troops there was about more than 15,000 personnel in UNMIL. Political counselor and humanitarian aid workers were also included in UNMIL. The first peacekeepers changed their berets on October 1 and many more troops are allocated. By November 2003, UN built up its forces in the country and worked to disarm the various factions. However, instability in neighboring countries, a partial disarmament process, and general regret threatened Liberia’s weak peace.


The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), a regional peacebuilding association based in Ghana, played a vital role in the peace process as they realized the levity of the situation. They helped to improve the status of women in Liberia. WANEP entrenched the Women in Peacebuilding Network (WIPNET) In 2001. WIPNET continues to peace build and to proponent against sexual and gender-based violence. Their aim is based on the idea of “never again”: never again should Liberians allow manipulation, prejudice, or abuse from their government.


From the beginning of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended the 1989-2003 civil wars, the UN Mission in Liberia and the UN international police have had primary liability for maintaining security. Efforts to train a work force for the Liberia National Police and Armed Forces of Liberia continued. While security forces reported to nonmilitant authority, there were examples in which elements of the security forces acted independently. The country democratically elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first female president of an African country. This is one of the UN’s successful missions fully funded by UN system. America’s investment in UN peacekeeping is comparably small and augmented by sharing the burden of promoting peace with 191 other countries.

read Global Peace vs Global Conflict


Conflict Analysis:


In this part of the discussion, we are going to analyze the Liberian civil war. Two times civil war happens here. The major causes of the first civil war were ethnic reasons, elite pathology, political crisis, institutional pathology. And the second civil war happens because of the spillover effects from the army and the military junta. The second civil war happens because of the political and economic interest’s conflict among the groups. Different types of actors are involved in providing as well as threatening the security of the country. The Principle domestic actors were political parties, personalities, and business group. Principle security actors were the armed forces of Liberia, the Liberian Police, they are actually formal security actor. The informal security actors include community watch team, a vigilante group, local defense group, individual citizens. The civil society organizations played a vital role. In 2011 Interagency Conflict Assessment Framework interviewed 1000 people across the Liberia and found that there is an overall peaceful atmosphere in Liberia. And there is no real risk of a return to the civil war. But the post-conflict situation is still there and the peacebuilding process is going on.



So we can say that there are few examples of recent conflict events in Liberia, however, there are many extents of violence between citizens. Recent examples of conflict in Liberia measure comparatively few, and there has been no large-scale violence since the end of the war in 2003.  Several Liberians suppose the country has created progress with reference to security. However, there are unmet expectations concerning progress on development indicators. The Inter agency Conflict Assessment Frameworks Conflict analysis concludes that the paths for increasing levels of violence are in place, as several of the grievances and root causes of the wars haven’t been addressed.



Alma Siddqua Rothi

MSS student, Center for South Asian Studies, Pondicherry University, India.

studied, International Relations, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh.




World Health Organization:

Council of Europe:

Myers S.McDougal, Approached to peace,1991.p.139.

Johan Galtung’s Positive and Negative Peace- By Baljit Sing Griwal

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