Sunday, December 1, 2013

Only 2,600?

A kind-of weird report from the Economist from November 6th, which mentioned Liberia, but in a way that is either unhelpful or incorrect. The article is about ending civil wars and armed conflicts, and features the above chart, showing civil wars and internal fighting from 1946-2012, all over the world.

The first problem with regards to Liberia is it shows the Liberian Civil War's duration as 2000-2003, which is a curiously narrow definition of the country's civil conflict. More bizarrely, it lists the total combatant deaths at 2,600. Not 260,000 or even 26,000. The definition of a relevant death is "in battle government troops and troops of politically organized rebels." 

I don't see how that definition is illuminating or even how it is measurable: who arrived at this number of Twenty-Six-Hundred for Liberia, and how? The most common number is an estimate of a quarter-million dead in Liberia's Civil War, which is usually considered to have begun in it's first phase in 1990 and continued until 2003. So the Economist's estimate counts a third of that time and only 1% of those dead, even if they are only focussed on militia deaths.

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