Country report and updates: Liberia

Last revision: 28 Jul 1998
28 Jul 1998

Liberia plunged into civil war in 1989, when the repressive government of president Doe was overthrown. From then onwards, Liberia has more or less ceased to exist as a nation-state, with several armed factions fighting each other. Besides the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), the remnants of former president Doe's government forces, the principal armed groups were the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), the United Liberation Movement for Democracy in Liberia (ULIMO), the Liberian Peace Council (LPC) and the Lofa Defence Force (LDF).
In 1992 the Economic Council of West African States decided to send a military peace-keeping force (ECOMOG). The ECOMOG forces have been actively involved in the fighting. The warring factions signed several peace accords, the last one on 19 August 1995. Under a transitional plan negotiated in 1996, the main armed factions agreed to disarm and demobilise all armed forces. The ECOMOG forces supervise the disarmament and demobilisation. Nevertheless, it has been reported that after disarmament ECOMOG soldiers have sold the arms on the streets. In 1997 elections were held in which Charles Taylor, the former NPFL warlord, was elected as president by more than 70 percent of the votes. [6] [8] [11]

1 Conscription

conscription does not exist

Officially Liberia has never had conscription. [1] [7] [9]

However, during the civil war, several armed groups forced people to join them. [9]

One of the main armed groups, the NPFL, was thought to have a conscription programme. [4]


At present, it is not known whether the build-up of official armed forces is taking place.

2 Conscientious objection

There is no known legal provision for conscientious objection.

Amongst those who fled the country during the civil war, there have been conscientious objectors and deserters. [10]

3 Desertion

No information is available about official penalties for desertion.

There have been reports of execution of deserters by AFL, NPFL and ULIMO during the civil war. [4] [5]

4 Forced recruitment by several armed groups

There are many reports of forced recruitment by nearly all armed groups. [3] [4] [6]

Amongst those recruited by force, there were many child soldiers. The NPLF had a so called Small Boys Unit (SBU), which consisted of forcibly recruited minors. [3]

There have been reports of boys as young as ten who have been recruited. [2]

6 Annual statistics

As the principal armed forces are being disbanded following the 1995 peace accords, no figures are available on the strength of these armed forces. [8]

In 1995 the total number of combatants to be demobilised and disarmed was 60,000, including 15,000 child soldiers. [6]


[1] Eide, A., C. Mubanga-Chipoya 1985. Conscientious objection to military service, report prepared in pursuance of resolutions 14 (XXXIV) and 1982/30 of the Sub-Commission of Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. United Nations, New York. [2] Woods, D.E. 1993. Child Soldiers, the recruitment of children into the armed forces and their participation in hostilities. Quaker Peace and Service, London, UK. [3] UNHCR 1994. Background paper on Liberian refugees and Asylum seekers. UNHCR, Geneva. [4] US Department of State 1994. Country reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993. Washington DC. [5] IRBDC 1994. IRBDC, 13 December 1994. [6] Children Assistance Program (CAP) 1995. Case study on child soldiers in Liberia. CAP, Monrovia, Liberia. [7] IRBDC 1995. Telephone interview with an Embassy of Liberia. Washington DC, 29 August 1995. [8] Institute for Strategic Studies 1997. Military Balance 1997/98. ISS, London, UK. [9] IRBDC 1997. Letter from SIPRI project leader, Stockholm, 1 August 1997. [10] NRC Handelsblad (Dutch newspaper), 18 June 1998. [11] NRC Handelsblad (Dutch newspaper), 11 July 1998.