Yes to peace: Preventing election violence in Liberia

In 2017, Liberia will be conducting its third general election after its civil conflict. Liberia is among a handful of African countries that could experience election violence during elections this year.  In fact, security officials speculate that electoral violence in the forthcoming general elections is perhaps of a greater likelihood than at any time since 2005 given the significant UNMIL drawdown and the nature of the elections, which should see the first transfer of power from the democratically elected Sirleaf government to a new administration.  According to the literature, one of the key actors involved election violence are youth party members. Moreover, the police often exacerbate the situation by using too much force.  For this reason, this pilot study focuses on changing perceptions and behaviour related to election violence by targeting youth party members and the police.

Together with the Liberian National Police, we are conducting a field experiment to assess whether a community dialogue between police and youth party members facilitated by an NGO, or a mentorship program between youth party members and the police along with the community dialogue might be effective in changing attitudes about conflict and violence, as well as improve trust in each other.  To do this, we conducted a baseline survey of 120 police officers and 300 youth party members.  Of these, 200 youth and 50 police will be assigned to participate in a community dialogue.  From this group, 60 youth and 20 police officers will participate in the mentorship program.  An end line survey will be conducted before the election.  Additionally, we will use crowdsourcing information to assess whether participants were involved in election-related violence.

To date, no study has attempted to understand election violence through engaging youth party members and the police.  Our pilot study can be used to better understand the scale of programming needed to detect effects.  Moreover, our hope is that this project will shed light on the opportunity for programs such as the ones implemented here to reduce the likelihood of election violence in other locations.

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