Residual rebel and militia groups from the first civil war (1989–96) created a precarious security context in the years preceding the outbreak of the second civil war, which began when the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) launched attacks in Lofa County, north-west Liberia in 1999. In early 2002, then President Charles Taylor imposed a state of emergency as LURD fighters moved closer to the capital. Although government forces regained territory in 2002, the following year witnessed the opening of a second front as a new rebel group, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), emerged in the south-east.
The Accra Peace Agreement in 2003 marked the end of the Taylor government and UN peacekeeping forces were able to secure the Liberian state relatively quickly: there was a dramatic drop in the recorded incidence of conflict events between 2003 and 2004 (see Graph 1). Several non-rebel groups were also active in Liberia’s conflict. Political supporters of the Unity Party and the Congress for Democratic Change participated in violent clashes throughout the war. Ethnic militia violence primarily involving Gio and Mano ethnic groups spiked in 2003, linked for reasons to do with their traditional support for Taylor’s government.
At the peak of the war in 2003, over 240 violent events were recorded across Liberia. Since the official cessation of hostilities, violence has continued at a much lower level. Post-settlement, Liberia has experienced an average of 19 violent conflict events per year (2004–10), generally following pro- and anti-Taylor stances.
Levels of violence were highest in 1998 due to continued activity by the rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who were allied to the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC). The signing of the Lomé Peace Agreement and the establishment of the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) in 1999 had a limited impact on violence. But the implementation of the peace agreement and international military support led to a sharp decrease in fighting in mid-2001. The civil war was officially declared over in January 2002.
Several political groups also engaged in violence through political militia activity throughout the recorded period, including the All People’s Congress, the Sierra Leone People’s Party and the People’s Movement for Democratic Change. Violence increased in 2002–03, and again in 2007–08, corresponding with national and local elections, respectively. Violence remained relatively high for peacetime through 2008 and 2009 (see Graph 2). Local council elections may have provided opportunities for political militia attacks on opponents.