Dollars for Guns

When the UN entered Liberia in September 2003, they instituted a voluntary disarmament program.  The program specified that ex-combatants could turn in their guns for $300 and a free education (completion of high school or a choice between various trade schools).  The $300 alone is a significant figure, as it is more than double the per capita gross national income.  From outside Liberia, this program appeared to be successful.  Kofi Annan ended the voluntary disarmament in June 2005. 

With no official data to support their claims, many Liberians feel that the program was a disaster, and that all of the significant factions still have plenty of arms.  The problems they cite are not surprising to an economist:

  1. Many guns were imported to Liberia to cash in on the $300, a price well above market-clearing.
  2. UN military personnel, enjoying their immense power, actually declined guns in several parts of the country, in order that their assignment in Liberia might last longer.

Will the violence return after the elections in October?  Liberians seem to be split on this.  Given that there are currently 52 candidates for President, most citizens will be disappointed with the outcome.


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