#LiberiaDecides: Ex-combatants hope for reintegration as country holds poll

Liberians will be heading into a historic, crucial and defining moment as they cast their ballot on Tuesday 10th October.

Watching as supporters from different camps dance along the roads during the campaigns indicated high expectations among the electorate that whoever they will be voting for will be their change agent to better their lives in the country which was once ravaged by two civil wars and more recently, Ebola.

And even though Liberia is Africa’s oldest republic, in fact, more than a century before the rest of Africa, the civil wars which took place from 1989 to 1996 and 1999 to 2003, mark a dark chapter in human history.

The country was destroyed by ethnically motivated fighting for over a decade. Sexual violence was rampant and all armed groups relied heavily on child soldiers. The death toll from 14 years of civil war is estimated at 250,000 with hundreds of thousands of people displaced.

The civil war involved seven rival factions until its end under a peace accord in 1997 when Charles Taylor was elected president.

That was just part one! Violence again erupted in 1999 when another rebellion flared and Taylor lost control of much of the country, fleeing in 2003 to Nigeria. He was convicted by an international criminal court of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The outgoing President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson fondly referred to as Ma Ellen, took over the reins of leadership in 2005 when she won the elections. She was re-elected in 2011 and a month later, she was co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize as a champion of women’s rights.

She has been credited for bringing peace to the nation and assuring stability prevails in her two terms as President of the tiny West African nation.

Despite the growth in democracy and the prevailing peace, there is one group of people who there’s far more riding on the vote. They’re seeking a way back into Liberian society.

The ex-combatants!

We spoke to some of them…