Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), formerly ‘Landmine Action’, began its activities in Liberia in February 2006 by implementing a Weapons and Ammunition Disposal (WAD) programme. Preliminary field research conducted by AOAV in Lofa, Nimba, Bong, Bomi and Gbarpolu counties in 2006, revealed high levels of contamination by small arms ammunition, mortars, grenades and other explosive devices that had been dumped by armed groups alongside roads or near villages. The existence of concentrations of ammunition dumps in areas surrounding military command posts – known locally as ‘Killing Zones’— was also noted with concern.
A December 2004 report by the United Nations (UN) Panel of Experts on Liberia claimed that, although the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)-led Disarmament, Demobilisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DDRR) programme had collected 27,000 of the weapons known to have been held by rebel combatants during the civil war, many remained unaccounted for. Considering assault rifles alone, the Panel of Experts claimed that only 63.5 per cent of the assault rifles imported during the war were successfully collected. This meant that at least 1,825 assault rifles were still in circulation in the country in late 2004, posing a serious threat to human security in post-conflict Liberia. With this in mind, AOAV designed its WAD programme to reduce the harm caused by weapons, ammunition and unexploded ordnance (UXO), mainly in the country’s northern region.
The objectives of AOAV’s WAD programme were to:
a) help communities identify and report UXO to UNMIL by using community liaison b) dispose of weapons and ammunitions retained by local residents after the DDRR process c) carry out UXO risk education in high-risk areas
AOAV worked closely with local communities as well as UNMIL, which had been given sole permission by the Government of Liberia (GOL) to destroy Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). Although AOAV worked with UXO as well as weapons and ammunition, it played a slightly different role with each. AOAV’s UXO work focused on risk education and working with communities to identify and report UXO to UNMIL; its weapons and ammunition work focused on procuring the necessary disposal equipment, training local staff to collect and destroy weapons and ammunition, and also developing their project finance and management capacity.
The purpose of this case study is to examine AOAV’s reintegration programme in Liberia, the rationale for and reasons behind its shift into this area of work, and to identify lessons learnt from AOAV’s experience in Liberia to date.