The forgotten legacy; The Historical Account of the 14 years’ civil war Experience of the Residents of Vahun

Peace building deals with complex challenges facing communities emerging from conflict and it requires a holistic understanding of needs for security, justice, political stability, and socio-economic recovery. Age, socio-economic and location throughout conflict are critical determinants of impact, as are the direct experiences of young people and women as participants and survivors. Therefore, responding to the needs of people required targeted strategies that address the very different impacts and experiences of conflict by people of different ages and gender.

Though the war is over for more than a decade now, however the scares of the war impacts remained visibly and a challenge for many socially, economically, physically and mentally across Liberia. During the war, many citizens of Vahun experienced the worst situation of violence ranging from rape, sexual abuse, economic exploitation, torture, etc. Women and children rights were abused on a daily basis without concrete actions taken as a deterrent to the inhumane act.

During the war, Vahun served as save heaven for over 25% of Sierra Leonean refugees and experienced the worst war record especially when the jet bomber bombed Vahun Town and it neighboring Village of Seema in 1993 that took away the lives of approximately 80 people and wounded about 100+ people. Two aircraft strafed and bombed starving refugees lining up for rice Thursday at a food distribution center in the jungle, a U.N. official said (Orlando Sentinel September 24, 1993-PLANES STRAFE, BOMB REFUGEES IN LIBERIA). Environmental degradation and natural resources exploitation were also uncontrollable due the large influxes of the Sierra Leonean Refugees and other Internally Displaced People (IDPs).

UNHCR is urgently working to get approval for the move. The situation in northern Liberia is still unstable. The army has commandeered more UNHCR vehicles last week from our office in Vahun. There are 90,000 Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia, around 35,000 of whom were in northern Lofa County before the recent insecurity ( UNHCR Briefing Notes: Sierra Leonean refugees in Liberia October 12, 1999)

Today, I am a half humanbeing because of the injury I received as a result of the airstrike that was carried out by the jet bomber in1993….my two oldest sons got killed, my foot got cut and all my properties especially my houses got burned, explained by one of the survivors. Prior to the airstrike, my husband was killed by the rebel….so some days I can want take poison to die because I think I have no reason to live, the survivor further stressed.

Vahun is one of the 9 administrative districts in Lofa County with the most deplorable road condition. The district shares border with Sierra Leone to the North-West, Gbarpolu County to the South, and Kolahun District to South-East. The district is approximately 105.6 square miles land area and is away from Monrovia the capital city of Liberia with the following approximate distance; Vahun to Monrovia via Tubmanburg-197km and Vahun to Monrovia via Gbarnga—416.6km. The district was created in 1974 and it has over 38000 inhabitants (LISGIS 2008 NPHC) with only one clinic and one Secondary school.

Upto today, the only health center within the district is unable to effectively and efficiently serve the people of the district due logistical and other technical constrained. The majority of the families have an average number of six children per household and they struggle to survive by doing odd jobs. Therefore, all the family incomes are basically oriented to first needs. As a result most of these poor families’ children dropped from schools and get engaged with odd jobs including traditional shifting farming. The only secondary school has no library or opportunities for research, yet these very children are examined together with the rest of the better off children who have access to good schools with all the necessary facilities.

Vahun is endowed with numerous natural resources and a very reach culture compounded with skilled human resources. About 96% of the residents of the district are small-scale agro farmers but their economic situation remains constrained due to bad road network.

Although the United Nation and other international bodies contributed to bringing the state of Liberia to where it’s today, yet there still remain many challenges which encompass corruption, marginalization, and nepotism among others. Additionally, those who greatly contributed and committed atrocity of the war are still freely moving around the country, awarded with state power and other senior government. These among other factors are the believed to be the cause of the increased to the wave of violence across the Liberia today.

Besides, inadequate financing of long term programs that will address a comprehensive judiciary and security sector and improve health and education, there have existed the situation where violence has been considered to be acceptable practice in the minds of many people in today’s Liberia.

Current institutional approaches and arrangements have been inadequate to address the changing nature of conflict and recurring patterns of violence. The governments of Liberia is often unable or unwilling to take responsibility for security, the rule of law, basic services or economic development and have no effective system in place for protecting human rights. “Ordinary citizens of Liberia especially women and children are with the weakest institutional legitimacy and governance are the most vulnerable to violence and instability and the least able to respond to internal and external stresses.”