Update on the Situation in Liberia as of September 9, 2014

Community Justice Team in West Point (credit: Morgana Wingard)

Photo credit: Morgana Wingard.

By: Lawrence Yealue, Accountability Lab Liberia Representative and Anne Sophie Lambert, Associate Director.

The current Ebola outbreak is West Africa has now been named the worst in history, and the number of cases in Liberia is rising exponentially, with the WHO predicting thousands more within the next three weeks.

Various stakeholders have begun working together to assess efforts on the ground, and Liberia’s Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) commissioned the launch of a website where citizens can find up-to-date information on the crisis in Liberia. It provides the latest numbers and news, reporting 376 cases and 228 deaths in Liberia so far this week.

The quarantine in West Point- one of Monrovia’s poorest communities- has been lifted, yet many critical issues still remain. The recent protests and heavy-handed police response, which led to four injuries and one death, demonstrate the deep level of mistrust and discontent in this densely-populated township. In a recent IRIN news article, Susan Shepler, a professor and specialist on education and conflict in Liberia, gave some possible insight on why many community members doubted what the government was telling them: “In Liberia people have historically used community information and rumours as a way of getting information at times when they weren’t sure whether to trust the government. Information was vital during Liberia’s conflict but official sources were often so unreliable that people relied on informal networks instead. At times the media and authorities reported one thing and the rumour network said something else, and it turned out that the rumours were right.”

The Lab’s Community Justice Teams (CJTs) are working in the heart of this crisis, empowering community members to resolve disputes and maintain peace at the local level. Through an ongoing Tinygive crowfunding campaign, the Lab has been able to provide emergency funding to support the CJT’s work at this critical time. This group of trained local mediators is currently working day and night to resolve cases, many of which relate to disagreements or competition over food distribution during the quarantine. In the past few weeks alone the community mediators have dealt with almost 20 new disputes. CJT leaders also participated in negotiations with the government to find constructive solutions to the problems at hand. They advocated that “the people of West Point are respectful people and the government should treat them with care and caution.” Many community members have said that the CJTs have been playing a significant role in promoting non-violence among community members and maintaining the peace amid the crisis.

 You can show your support for the Community Justice Teams by voting for them to receive the HiiL 2014 Innovating Justice Award, which would provide resources and recognition to help expand the work in West Point and to other neighborhoods that need it. Click here to cast your vote!

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Making power-holders accountable in the developing world

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