Community at odds in Liberia

What kind of third party do you think would be best suited to resolve the conflict you have mapped in Voinjama, Liberia? Do you think the organizations we used in our in-class exercise were the best? Why was one better than the others? Can you think of some other organizations or individuals who likely could have been more effective in managing or resolving the conflict?


Contribution to understanding of the conflict

At the dawn of 21st century, it is apparent that world affairs are drifting towards the understanding that religion is the epicenter of strife around the world. Religion is a very contentious matter which if not well-addressed breeds into hatred, conflict and violence. Religion is an essential component since, as a central element defining personal identity, a threat to one’s belief could compromise one’s own being. From the case of Voinjama, Liberia, I understand conflict as being mostly religiously or ethnically instigated. The relationship between religion affiliation and conflict is indeed a complex topic. From the interviews carried out by different individuals in Voinjama, Liberia reveals some aspects of religion in making it a potential source of conflict. Lofa County has both the Loma people most of whom are Christians and the Mandingo, who are Muslims. Each of these religions has some accepted dogma that followers are bound to follow or accept with any questioning, and this leads to intolerance for others’ beliefs. From this religious divide, other conflicts are attached hence aggravating the already worse situation. They include lack of employment, infrastructure, and education. Moreover, there is continued historical animosity among the Loma and Mandingo relating to perceived unequal economic resource sharing and lack of trust among the communities.

Within virtually all heterogeneous societies, religious differences are a catalyst for potential conflicts. In Voinjama Christians started by setting ablaze the mosque and holding captive the Mandingo Chief Imam of Konia and soon after the Muslims responded by burning the Loma Catholic church. However, religion is not by itself conflictual but serves to distinguish one’s self-group from the others. From this article, a conflict is composed of the potentiality, disposition and manifestation aspects. The situation of conflict is as result of attitudes that have been transformed into interests. The latter interests drive towards specific goals that are essential in defining the characteristic conditions of a situational conflict. Additionally, involved in the conflict is the capability and expectation specifically for those that define credibility in carrying out threats and authority. Interest and capability define a situation of conflict.

The process of conflict mapping

In the analysis of conflict dynamics, it is paramount to take into consideration that conflicts have many dimensions and are complex thus no specific cause fully explains a conflict. Furthermore, in designing and implementing interventional measures, it is of the essence for third party groups to have a proper understanding of every concept of the context, the associated actors and hence diagnose the conflict dynamics with high levels of precision. The process of gathering data and understanding the various perspectives of the parties involved in the conflict can be cumbersome. For this reason, conflict mapping is an essential tool for organizing and analyzing data to help in uncovering gaps in knowledge. Conflict mapping is characteristically useful for the third parties for Loma and Mandingo case in Voinjama in the endeavors to design intervention means for the conflict. With these conflict maps, parties are facilitated towards conflict ability hence articulating their understanding of the dynamics as well as a resolution process. 

Understanding of the conflict compared to the analysis of the other groups

Issues of conflict have grown into components of intervention as well as program planning for other groups such as government donors, NGOs, and humanitarian organizations. However, this must be met with necessary skills and competence lest could cause more conflict. For instance, the UNMIL allegedly attacked Loma and only protected the Mandingo. Conflict assessment framework adopted by these actors are different from one another as defined by the different objectives, goals, and positions assumed by the communities, religious or ethnic groups involved. Conflicts in most cases involve value differences as well as disparities of power but even when conflicts emanate from economic, religion or ethnic affiliations; it can be fast expanded into identity differences with escalation. As such numerous conflicts involving injustice are deep rooted in historical facts of colonialism, racism and abuse of human rights. While every group desires to increase its influence in the struggle for dominance, it is not easily amended through a simple resolution. The processes of conflict management thereby ought to be clarified through strategies that respond to origins of contention relating to security, social and economic issues.

References

Undergraduate Experiential Learning Project | The School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://scar.gmu.edu/experientiallearningproject/home