Projects in Liberia
In the summer of 2014, Liberia faced the greatest Ebola outbreak in its history, which caused the death of thousands of Liberians. It presented challenges to Liberia’s health infrastructure and created general instability. In response to the potential for violence during this crisis, the Pen-Pen Peace Network (PPPN) – a local peace committee convened with the support of the Purdue Peace Project – designed, organized, and implemented the Ebola Prevention Campaign aimed to disseminate messages through various channels and platforms about ways to prevent this deadly disease. The campaign ran between September 2014 and January 2015 and was endorsed through health messages approved by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Impact data show that Liberians began implementing prevention measures and started feeling more confident about their ability to manage the outbreak and prevent the feared violence associated with Ebola.
The Liberian Civil War left many ex-combatants with few opportunities for socio-economic advancement. To make ends meet, these ex-combatants became motorcycle taxi drivers, also known as pen-pen riders. Although they began providing a much needed service in a country with a weak road infrastructure, many pen-pen riders became engaged in violent activities, such as armed robberies, mob violence, and conflicts with law enforcement officials and clients. In February 2014, the Pen-Pen Peace Network (PPPN), a local peace committee that emerged through the encouragement and support of the Purdue Peace Project, designed and launched a violence prevention campaign in Monrovia. This campaign aimed to encourage changes in public perceptions about pen-pen riders, change pen-pen riders’ disruptive behaviors, and address issues related to the potential of political violence. As a result of the PPPN initiatives, pen-pen riders themselves have become more aware of the need to avoid being used during political campaigns to instigate violence, and have demonstrated their ambition to engage in constructive and peaceful dialogue with law enforcement officials and other community members.
In 2013, a group of motorbike taxi drivers (also called pen-pen riders) formed a local peace committee, called the Pen-Pen Peace Network (PPPN), to promote peace in their homeland of Liberia. Since September 2015, the PPPN, in support of the Purdue Peace Project (PPP), has been planning and implementing a campaign aimed at promoting peace before and during the 2017 general elections, and fostering good relationships between pen-pen riders and the Liberian National Police. Numerous activities, such as soccer tournaments, town hall meetings, radio talk shows, distribution of flyers, and roundtable discussions, have taken place since the campaign’s launch. Various groups, such as the Liberian Ministry of Transport and the National Election Commission, have joined the effort to spread peaceful messages about the 2017 elections in Montserrado County, Liberia. Data collected by the PPP show that so far, this project has been positively perceived by local citizens and that they have embraced the messages about peace.
Believing that only by working together, Liberians can ensure peace and development in their country, a small group of motorbike taxi drivers (also known as pen-pen riders) in Montserrado County, formed a local peace committee convened with the support of the Purdue Peace Project (PPP). The committee named itself the Pen-Pen Peace Network (PPPN). In response to existing political tensions and violent outbreaks during electoral periods in Liberian history, the PPPN initiated a project that aims to promote, ensure, and maintain peace during the general elections in 2017. In May 2016, a working group in Margibi County emerged with the support of PPP. The working group brought together pen-pen riders, pen-pen union representatives, the Liberian National Police, market women, National Election Commission and Ministry of Transport representatives, as well as other local citizens to discuss strategies and activities that will take place in the upcoming months around peaceful elections.
The Peaceful Elections Project in Nimba County is a continuation of a locally driven initiative started by the Pen-Pen Peace Network (PPPN) in Montserrado County in 2015. This Monrovia-based peace committee, initiated with the support of the Purdue Peace Project (PPP), has been working on activities to encourage dialogue among pen-pen riders (i.e., Liberian motorbike taxi drivers), the Liberia National Police (LNP), and other citizens to promote peace and stability before, during and after the 2017 elections in Liberia.
Nimba is the second most populated county in Liberia with over 30,000 pen-pen riders. In early September 2016, with the support of PPP, the PPPN convened a meeting in Ganta City, Nimba, to promote violence-free elections in the county. Local citizens from various actor groups (e.g., LNP, the National Elections Commission, pen-pen riders) and parts of Nimba came together to discuss ways in which they can spread peace messages and implement strategies to contribute to peaceful elections in their communities. As a result, a working group of ten members was established in Nimba to carry on the task of promoting violence-free elections in the county.
The Peaceful Elections Project in Bong County started as an extension of a locally driven initiative by the Pen-Pen Peace Network (PPPN) in Monrovia which began in 2015. Initiated with the support of the Purdue Peace Project (PPP), the PPPN has been designing and implementing activities in the Liberian capital to promote peace in the context of the 2017 general elections in the country.
Bong County is located in central Liberia, and is also the former headquarters of Charles Taylor. Upon learning about PPPN’s efforts in ensuring peace during the 2017 elections, local citizens in Bong expressed willingness to implement activities around electoral violence prevention in their county. In September 2016, with the support of PPP, the PPPN convened pen-pen riders, local representatives of the Liberia National Police and the National Elections Commission, as well as other community members to a meeting in Gbarnga, Bong County. The meeting resulted in the formation of a 10-member local working group composed of representatives of the convened groups. The group’s goal is to encourage collaboration among Bong citizens before, during and after the 2017 elections.
Natural Resources Management Project in Bomi County, Liberia
In 2009, Sime Darby, a Malaysia-based multinational palm oil company, signed a 63-year lease agreement with the Liberian government to cultivate land for oil palm. Amongst the many communities whose lives have been affected by this agreement are Malema and Golodee in Bomi County. The two communities have argued that they did not consent to allowing the company to operate on their land. This tension resulted in a number of protests by community members. When the Purdue Peace Project (PPP) became aware of these problems, PPP began working with International Alert and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa to help mitigate tensions between the affected communities and Sime Darby. As a result of these efforts, a local peace committee emerged in Malema, and the PPP has since extended its work to the Golodee community as well.
Natural Resources Management Project in Grand Bassa County, Liberia
In 2010, a British crude oil company, Equatorial Palm Oil (EPO), began working in the Palm Bay area in Grand Bassa. Since then, the company has been in a heated dispute with local communities regarding its use of community lands for plantation purposes. In the beginning of 2012, the affected communities tried to take action to stop the expansion of the company on their territory. The severity of the dispute led to intervention by the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who committed to any EPO expansion as needing to be contingent on community support. However, the encouragement of the President did not successfully resolve the dispute. The Purdue Peace Project (PPP) is currently working with local communities who agreed to EPO’s use of their land. PPP aims to support the gathering of relevant actor groups to engage in productive dialogue, diminish tensions and reduce the potential for violence.