During the civil war, Liberia’s forestry sector rose to prominence as Charles Taylor traded timber for arms. When the war ended, the UN’s timber sanctions remained in effect, reinforced by the Forestry Development Authority’s (FDA) domestic ban on logging. As Liberians waited for UN timber sanctions to be lifted, a burgeoning domestic timber market developed. This demand was met by artisanal loggers, more commonly referred to as pit sawyers. Out of this illicit economy emerged the Nezoun Group to provide local dispute resolution between the FDA’s tax collectors and ex-combatant pit sawyers. The Nezoun Group posed a dilemma for the government. On the one hand, the regulatory efforts of the Nezoun Group helped the FDA to tax an activity that it had banned. On the other hand, the state’s inability to contain the operations of the Nezoun Group—in open contravention of Liberian laws—highlighted the government’s capacity problems.
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