The Civil Society Bookshelf

A Nation Long Forlorn: Liberia’s Journey From Civil War toward Civil Society

The International Journal
of Not-for-Profit Law

Volume 6, Issue 4, September 2004

By J. Peter Pham*

When Freedom raised her glowing form
On Montserrado’s verdant height,
She set within the dome of Night
’Midst lowering skies and thunderstorm
The star of Liberty!
And seizing from the waking Morn
Its burnished shield of golden flame
She lifted it in her proud name
And aroused a nation long forlorn
To nobler destiny.

—From “The Lone Star Forever,”
a national song by Edwin James Barclay, President of Liberia (1930-1944)

On August 11, 2003, with the capital of Monrovia entirely encircled by rebel forces after six weeks of bitter fighting that left over one thousand civilians dead, Liberian president Charles Ghankay Taylor resigned from office and, after a defiant farewell address in which he promised to return, left for exile in the southeastern Nigerian coastal town of Calabar. The remnants of the Taylor regime, led by Vice President Moses Zeh Blah, quickly entered into negotiations with the principal rebel movement, the Guinea-based Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), and its smaller Côte d’Ivoire-based offshoot, the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL). A week later, a “comprehensive peace agreement” was signed in the Ghanaian capital of Accra. The agreement established a National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), led by businessman Charles Gyude Bryant, which was inaugurated on October 14.

Protected by the peacekeepers of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) established for that express purpose, the NTGL is supposed to remain in office until January 16, 2006, when it will be expected to cede power to a government to be elected on October 15, 2005. Despite its rather inauspicious antecedents—it is Liberia’s sixth interim constitutional arrangement in less than a decade—there is hope that the NTGL may be able to break the seemingly endless cycle of alienation, conflict, and violence that turned a country intended to be a model for an entire continent into a failed state, the collapse of whose institutions occasioned one of Africa’s longest and most bizarre conflicts and created a complex humanitarian crisis that destabilized an entire region. The fact that hope persists at all is testimony not only to the resilience of the Liberian people, but also to the unprecedented role that civil society assumed in the Liberian polity when the Accra agreement gave it formal representation in the transition government.

This essay discusses the events that led to this result and the issues raised by the new role for civil society. First, however, it is necessary to briefly review civil society in Africa in general as well as its emergence in Liberia in particular, tracing the latter in the context of the West African country’s seemingly endless downward spiral from the 1970s onward. Only against this background can the role that Liberian civil society played or tried to play in the country’s democratization, peace-building, and national reconciliation be appreciated and its future understood.

Civil Society in Africa

Broadly speaking, “civil society” is understood as the range of voluntary associations—including non-governmental ethnic, religious, professional, gender-based, and issues-oriented organizations, but excluding political parties and businesses—that occupy the space between the family and the state. Given this definition, as E. Gyimah-Boadi, a Ghanaian political scientist who teaches at the School of International Service of American University in Washington, D.C., has observed, “[o]n the surface, most African countries contain enough associations to constitute at least a putative civil society.”[1] While civil societies have helped bring about the emergence of formal democracies in a number of African countries, making them participants in what Samuel P. Huntington has called democracy’s “third wave,”[2] their contribution to the consolidation of nascent democracy has been much more negligible. As Gyimah-Boadi has lamented, African civil society has :

failed to transcend ethnoregional, religious, and other cleavages in any lasting way. One African country after another has seen its own particular movement for democracy fracture along ethnoregional and sectarian lines either during or just after the transition from authoritarianism…. In Africa’s multiethnic and multireligious societies, democratic openings are often associated with heightened sectarian conflict and communal violence. This happens, at least in part, because governments determined to stay in power exacerbate such strife as a way of undermining the credibility of democracy and its advocates. It also happens because opposition and pro-democracy groups, often emerging out of ethnically, socio-economically, or politically marginalized segments of society, use ethnoregionalist or sectarian appeals in order to mobilize sentiment against authoritarian incumbents. Whatever the causes, the inability of African civil societies to coalesce has cost democratic movements dearly in overall effectiveness and credibility.[3]

In a detailed study of civil society in his native Kenya, Stephen Ndegwa made four general observations relevant to the question of why Africa’s much-touted associative networks have not produced a vibrant civil society.[4] First, Ndegwa, an advisor to the World Bank, challenged the notion that African civil societies are uniformly progressive in nature, opposing the excesses of the entrenched state and advancing the process of democratization. Second, Ndegwa questioned whether the political opening in Africa in recent years was really founded on deeply democratic roots of civil society, or whether the movement instead represented domestic civil society’s response to external influences, including the fall of communism and new pressure from foreign donors. Third, referring to the activities of the Kenyan groups he studied, Ndegwa noted the lack of democratic accountability within the civil society organizations themselves. Finally, he ascribed this deficiency to the groups’ single-minded focus on organization and institutional actions, rather than on “grassroots empowerment” at the individual level.

These observations echo those made à propos civil society’s contribution to democratization in Latin America by Alison Brysk.[5] The University of California-Irvine scholar argued that civil society can positively impact democratization efforts only insofar as it is itself democratic—that is, representative, pluralistic, and accountable. Those civic groups that are undemocratic inevitably split into factions and, consequently, lose both legitimacy and influence.

These broad generalizations are quite applicable to the case of civil society in Liberia. Without a doubt, the history of civil society groups in Liberia has been checkered: far from representing anything approaching uniform progressive opposition to the excesses of the state, elements of civil society have as often as not been co-opted by the Liberian state. As a result of shifting patterns of interest throughout much of the country’s political development, Liberian civil society has often been divided against itself. And when it has nonetheless succeeded in serving as a strong advocate for democracy, peace-building, and national reconciliation, this witness has been achieved by sacrificing popular participation: the NGOs as institutions have themselves monopolized the role. All that being said, Liberian civil society nonetheless still possesses the potential to play an important role at this critical point in the country’s history.

Background to a Civil War

The Liberian civil war began on Christmas Eve 1989, when Charles Taylor led some 168 lightly armed men of his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) into the country’s Nimba County from their base in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire. However, the origins of the conflict go back much further. Beginning in 1821, aided by a motley coalition of American philanthropic, commercial, and even racist interests, freed black slaves from the United States settled along what is now the Liberian coast. In 1847, the freedmen-turned-colonizers—a total of some 4,571 persons, half of whom eventually succumbed to various tropical diseases or migrated elsewhere—declared their independence and established a republic. What was inaugurated, however, was far from the exemplary democratic polity that Liberian-American scholars have romanticized. Rather, for the next century and a half, relations between the native peoples of Liberia and the Americo-Liberian settlers (and the “recaptives” whose involuntary voyage across the Atlantic was interrupted by the anti-slavery patrols of the British and American navies, and who were deposited in Monrovia, where they were absorbed into settler society) were characterized by a peculiar version of the colonial mission civilisatrice. As the dean of Liberian studies, J. Gus Liebenow, once observed, the settlers’ “views of Africa and Africans were essentially those of nineteenth century whites in the United States. The bonds of culture were stronger than the bonds of race, and the settlers clung tenaciously to the subtle differences that set them apart from the tribal ‘savages’ in their midst.”[6]

Members of indigenous communities were denied electoral suffrage until 1946, when it was extended to a select few who owned a hut, paid taxes upon it, and were otherwise adjudged “civilized.” The Code of Laws promulgated in 1956 invested neither tribal groups nor individual tribal members with title to the lands they and their ancestors had occupied from time immemorial. Rather, indigenous communities were granted the use of public land. When “a tribe shall become sufficiently advanced in civilization,” it could “petition the government for a division of tribal land into family holdings.”[7] The law gave no criteria for determining when a group had achieved the state of being “sufficiently advanced in civilization.”

Organized religion, rather than playing its expected social role of calling attention to injustice and other moral faults in the body politic, helped perpetuate the Americo-Liberian domination of the country. President Arthur Barclay even boasted in his 1904 inaugural address that “every convert from heathenism to the Christian faith in this country is also a political recruit.”[8] During the nineteenth century, every colonial agent, commonwealth governor, and president of the republic was either an ordained Christian minister or a high-ranking officer of one of the country’s Christian denominations. More recently, President William Tolbert Jr. (president 1971-1980) was head of the Baptist World Alliance, an international umbrella group of that Christian denomination, while his vice president, Bennie Dee Warner, was Liberia’s United Methodist bishop. Even Charles Taylor, in addition to his self-anointed role as the Liberia’s Dakhpannah (literally, “supreme witch doctor”), was a Baptist lay minister who was given to conducting marathon mass-revival meetings with the likes of Bishop John Gimenez of Rock Church International.

In any event, this state of affairs continued until April 12, 1980, when a military coup d’état by seventeen low-ranking soldiers led by a quasi-literate master sergeant, Samuel Kanyon Doe, an ethnic Krahn from rural Grand Gedeh County, killed the last Americo-Liberian president, Tolbert, and overthrew his government. While the putsch was initially greeted enthusiastically by the majority of the population that had been effectively excluded by the settler rule, the new regime turned increasingly brutal and proved even less popular than its predecessors. A failed 1985 attempt to overthrow the junta by an erstwhile member, Brigadier General Thomas Quiwonkpa, resulted in his arrest, castration, and brutal murder. Doe then unleashed military units made up of his fellow Krahn tribesmen against Quiwonkpa’s Gio and Mano ethnic kinsmen, massacring more than three thousand civilians.

That Doe was able to violently suppress his opponents is attributable—like the ability of his Americo-Liberian predecessors Tolbert and William V.S. Tubman (president 1944-1971)—to the Cold War calculus of the United States’ interests. Between 1981 and 1985, U.S. economic and military assistance to Doe—famously saluted at the White House by President Ronald Reagan as “Chairman Moe”—amounted to over $500 million. However, the end of the Cold War altered the variables in America’s strategic calculations: aid plummeted from $53.6 million in 1986 to $19.5 million in 1989; in 1990, no aid was appropriated except for some $10 million in food and other humanitarian assistance. By then, Charles Taylor, the son of an Americo-Liberian father and a Gola mother, had rallied his Gola kinsfolk and members of other ethnic groups long oppressed not only by Americo-Liberian hegemony but by Doe’s Krahn-dominated regime, and had gained military control over nearly 90 percent national territory.

Early Manifestations of Civil Society

The first stirrings of what would be recognizable as civil society can be traced to the activities of one remarkable Liberian, Albert Porte (1906-1986), a schoolteacher whose political career began in the 1920s when he distributed pamphlets that took the Americo-Liberian oligarchy and the True Whig Party government to task for the unconstitutional arrogation of power to the presidency. By the 1970s, Porte’s one-man crusade for accountability had taken aim at President Tolbert’s brother, Finance Minister Stephen Allen Tolbert, who was co-founder of the first Liberian-owned multimillion-dollar conglomerate, the Mesurado Group of Companies, with interests that included fishing, frozen food, detergent, animal feed, and commercial agriculture. In response to Finance Minister Tolbert’s use of public office to advance his business interests, Porte penned a scathing broadside, Liberianization or Gobbling Business?[9] When Stephen Tolbert sued the strong-willed activist for alleged libel—before a court presided over by the plaintiff’s father-in-law, Supreme Court Justice James A.A. Pierre, no less—and won a ruinous $250,000 award, a spontaneous outpouring of public support for the defendant led to the creation of what was arguably the first real Liberian civil society organization, Citizens of Liberia in Defense of Albert Porte (COLIDAP).

While the lawsuit was never finalized—Stephen Tolbert died in an airplane accident in 1975—COLIDAP galvanized the reform movement then nascent among Liberia’s university teachers and students. A number of political movements were established during this period of ferment, including the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) and the Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL). MOJA was founded in 1973 by an economics professor at the University of Liberia, Togba Nah Roberts, an ethnic Kru born Rudolph Nah Roberts (he later changed his name again to Togba Nah Tipoteh). Armed with a pan-African platform of anti-colonialism, the MOJA advocated the nationalization of Liberia’s major businesses, including the large landholdings of the country’s ruling classes, and the punishment of corrupt government officials. In an effort to reach out to other constituencies, the MOJA, which drew its support primarily from the educated middle class, also established, primarily with support from German, Dutch, and Canadian funding agencies, non-profit business and agricultural cooperatives as well as other social services under the umbrella of its SUSUKUU non-profit business affiliate. Among MOJA leaders were two political science professors who would go on to play prominent political roles: Amos Sawyer, the Americo-Liberian dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, who later became head of one of the transition governments during the civil war, and Henry Boima Fahnbulleh, Jr., an ethnic Vai whose father had been an ambassador before President Tubman had him charged with treason, who later served as Liberia’s foreign minister and ran unsuccessfully for president in 1997.

The second group, the PAL, was organized in 1975 by a group of Liberian scholars and students then living in the United States. Led by Gabriel Baccus Mathews, who had quit his post as Liberian vice-consul in the U.S. to dedicate himself to political activism, the group called for rapid political reform, the adoption of socialism, and an activist pan-African foreign policy. Drawing its support within Liberia primarily from the urban poor, the PAL’s stated immediate objective was the establishment of a “Progressive People’s Party” (PPP), a group, since renamed the United People’s Party, still active in Liberian politics.

Like analogous civil society organizations in other parts of Africa at the time, the MOJA and the PAL, together with allied professional organizations, student groups, and other groups, focused on the goal of political reforms. Things came to a head in 1979, when the government proposed to increase the price of rice, one of the staples of the Liberian diet, from $22 per hundred-pound bag to $30, a sum that represented more than one-third of the monthly income of an average family at the time. The price increase sparked a massive protest campaign, culminating in an April 14 demonstration organized by the PAL. Police fired on the demonstrators, killing at least several dozen and wounding hundreds. This incident marked the start of what Liberians came to call the “Year of Ferment,” during which the PAL agitated to get its Progressive People’s Party legally registered to contest the True Whig Party’s monopoly of power. The increasing tensions, exacerbated by Tolbert’s clumsy handling of the situation, hastened the fracturing of the long-dominant Americo-Liberian oligarchy, which collapsed altogether with Doe’s coup the following year.

Civil Society and the Civil War

Unfortunately, Doe’s increasingly despotic rule from 1980 to 1990 retarded the development of Liberian civil society by simultaneously co-opting its members and repressing its institutions. Shortly after seizing power, Doe’s People’s Redemption Council (PRC), recognizing that its uneducated members lacked the technical skills to manage a government, expanded its membership by inviting leading members of the PAL/PPP and the MOJA to join it. Ultimately four cabinet portfolios were allocated to the PAL/PPP, including the ministry of foreign affairs, which was given to its leader Baccus Mathews, while MOJA members received three. Others civic leaders co-opted by the putschists included Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, who was appointed president of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment. As Arthur Kulah, who succeeded exiled Vice President Warner as Liberia’s United Methodist bishop, lamented:

Many of these technocrats were “bought” by the system and became lax in their commitment. Many of them joined the leaders who lived luxuriously. A good number of these Liberian professionals studied on the graduate and post-graduate level in the United States and in Europe. Having traveled abroad and after seeing what progress and development is, they might be expected to transfer these methods and policies for the benefit of the nation. Instead, these technocrats and professionals allowed themselves to be ruled by materialism and their leadership style dictated by greed, making themselves what Liberians call “gravy-seekers” …. A culture of lies, deception, and misinformation was developed.[10]

However, over time, Doe eased out his new partners, filling their positions with members of his own Krahn ethnic group. Though the Krahns constituted less than 5 percent of the Liberian population, they soon held one-third of the positions in the expanded central government (between 1980 and 1983, the number of people drawing government salaries rose from 18,000 to 56,000) as well as the command of all four infantry battalions of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Critics of the regime were dealt with harshly. Patrick Seyon, an ethnic Kru who was vice president of the University of Liberia, was arrested and flogged twice a day for two weeks in 1981 by Doe’s agents. When, two years later, students at the university protested the arrest of their dean, Amos Sawyer, military units sealed off the school’s Monrovia campus and began a five-day spree of looting, rape, torture, and killing. Although Sawyer was ultimately released after three months in prison, he was kept effectively under house arrest until early 1985. Independent newspapers became subject to censorship and harassment, and outspoken journalists found themselves targeted or even killed; broadcaster Charles Gbenyon was bayoneted at the Executive Mansion in 1985 after he refused to surrender an audiocassette on which he had recorded the head of the National Election Commission admitting to having plans to rig the elections Doe was staging under pressure from his benefactors in the Reagan administration. Rufus M. Darpoh, managing editor of the Sun Times, Isaac Bantu of the Daily Observer, Arthur Massaquoi and Andrew Robinson of Foot Prints, and Thomas Nimely, then of the Sun Timesand later a senator for Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Party, all spent time in jail during this period. Borrowing a page from South Africa’s apartheid regime, Doe even introduced the penalty of “banning,” whereby a Liberian citizen who contradicted the head of state could be forbidden all forms of social, economic, and political contact with the rest of society, and anyone having contact with him or her would be subject to punishment. All this had the effect of wiping out the gains made by civil society in the 1970s.

Ironically, it was the terrible 1989-1997 civil war that gave Liberian civil society an opportunity to reemerge. During the summer of 1990, the encirclement of Doe in Monrovia by Taylor’s NPFL (as well as a smaller breakaway rebel group, the Independent NPFL, led by Prince Yormie Johnson), led Liberia’s nervous neighbors in the regional organization, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to create a peacekeeping force, the ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), with the mandate to establish a ceasefire, after which Doe was supposed to resign to make room for an interim government that would organize elections within twelve months. On August 29, 1990, an assembly of Liberian politicians and civil society representatives meeting in the Gambian capital of Banjul elected Amos Sawyer as president of the interim government that ECOMOG would install. Despite Sawyer’s sterling credentials—including the authorship of the standard reference on Liberia’s pre-civil war political evolution[11] —the democratic legitimacy of this Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU, quickly dubbed the “Imported Government of No Use” by disillusioned Liberians) was questionable since it was constituted, as one Liberian intellectual put it, “by a few dozen people who were invited and could afford to attend.”[12]

More ominously, Charles Taylor, who had not been represented in Banjul despite controlling most of Liberia’s national territory, quickly denounced the establishment of ECOMOG and pledged to resist the intervention. Taylor saw the peacekeepers as an attempt by his rivals to impose a resolution on the Liberian conflict that would rob him of the fruits of nearly certain victory just as his NPFL was on the verge of conquering Monrovia. Having already proclaimed himself provisional president on July 28, Taylor now established a “National Patriotic Reconstruction Assembly Government,” headquartered upcountry in Gbarnga, in opposition to Sawyer’s interim regime, and declared himself president of “Greater Liberia.”

While the writ of Sawyer’s IGNU and its successor, the Liberian National Transition Government (LNTG), established in 1994, never extended beyond the environs of Monrovia—and then only when the Nigerian commanders of ECOMOG chose to enforce it—the existence of a civil political authority, no matter how weak, created the space necessary for a rebirth of an increasingly dynamic civil society.

The first group to emerge—although its birth predated that of the IGNU by several months—was the Interfaith Mediation Committee (IFMC), a body created by the Liberian Council of Churches, an umbrella group of Catholic and Protestant leaders, and the National Muslim Council of Liberia.[13] In a major breakthrough, the IFMC persuaded both Doe and Taylor to send representatives to talks it organized at the U.S. embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in mid-June 1990. In order to rally public support for the negotiations, the IFMC organized two massive “peace marches” through Monrovia on June 14 and 26. While the talks collapsed over Doe’s refusal to quit the presidency—he was ultimately kidnapped from the ECOMOG compound and brutally killed by Prince Johnson in September—the IFMC’s proposals for an interim government were adopted by ECOWAS as the basis for the creation of Sawyer’s IGNU. Also, during the nearly eight years of civil war, the IFMC established itself as a critic of the numerous peace accords negotiated or proposed—the conflict would see no fewer than half a dozen interim governments and a dozen or so peace “agreements”—most notably by organizing dramatic “stay-at-home” protests in March 1995 and February 1996, to protest deals that it criticized for “rewarding” the malfeasance of the warlords by giving them positions in government. And, perhaps, most significantly, the Christian-Muslim cooperation in the IFMC prevented the opening of a religious dimension in the already fractious conflict.

The Justice and Peace Commission (JPC), established under the auspices of the National Catholic Secretariat of Liberia during the conflict, was another notable “faith-based” civil society organization. Under the energetic leadership of human rights advocates such as Samuel Kofi Woods, James Verdier, and Frances Johnson Morris—the last a former chief justice of the Liberian Supreme Court—the JPC carried out the Herculean task of meticulously documenting the human rights abuses and other atrocities carried out by the ever-multiplying warring factions during the civil war. Regrettably, the sacking of the offices of the Catholic Secretariat during the 2003 battle for Monrovia destroyed the JPC’s precious collection of eyewitness reports and other documentation.

Another civil society organization born out of the civil war was the Liberian Women’s Initiative (LWI), a non-partisan movement of women transcending ethnic and socio-economic divisions, which documented and brought to the attention of international NGOs the particular plight of women and children during the conflict. While women and children have always suffered in times of war, the Liberian civil war and its Sierra Leonean offshoot were characterized by the systematic use of rape as a terror tactic and the massive recruitment of child soldiers. Through effective media strategies, the LWI was successful in getting its concerns included in the agenda of various peace negotiations. Significantly, an LWI leader, Ruth Sando Fahnbulleh Perry, served as chair of the transitional Council of State from August 1996 until Charles Taylor’s inauguration as elected president on August 2, 1997, thus becoming the first female head of state in modern African history.

Civil Society under Charles Taylor

The overwhelming victory of warlord Charles Taylor, the very man who launched the fratricidal civil war, in the general election of July 19, 1997, came as a shock to many observers, although it should have been anticipated. There was no doubt that the poll was “impartial and transparent,” as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan reported to the Security Council.[14] Some 85 percent of the more than 750,000 voters registered by the Independent Elections Commission cast ballots at 1,864 polling stations. The voting was one of the most closely scrutinized electoral contests in history. In addition to the military contingents deployed to provide security by ECOMOG and the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia, the U.N. had 330 election observers in place, the European Union sixty-four, the Organization of African Unity thirty-five, and the Carter Center forty (including the former U.S. president and his wife). Non-governmental organizations deployed another 500 international and 1,300 local observers. In effect, there was one observer watching every 280 voters. The final results gave Taylor a landslide with 75.3 percent of the vote. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ran a distant second, with 9.5 percent. Former warlord Alhaji Kromah received 4 percent of the vote, while veteran civil society activists Cletus Wortorson, Gabriel Baccus Mathews, and Togba Nah Tipoteh trailed with humiliating 2.5, 2.5, and 1.6 percent levels of support, respectively.

After all they had been through, why had so many Liberians delivered their votes to one of the principal architects of their misery? Some perplexed—and clearly disappointed—foreign observers pointed to fears that had Taylor lost the elections, he might have returned to the warpath. However, the most significant factor contributing to Taylor’s electoral sweep was his opponents. Augustine Toure, co-founder of the human rights NGO Liberia Democracy Watch, has subsequently pointed out:

[A]n equally important but often overlooked explanation is the breakup of the alliance of political parties comprising seven civilian-based political parties which had been formed on the eve of the elections in a bid to deny Taylor an electoral victory. The breakup of the Alliance—as the coalition of parties was known in March 1997—virtually guaranteed Taylor’s victory. The disintegration of the Alliance confirmed the worst fears of Liberians: that the civilian politicians were egoistic, power-hungry, disorganized, and disunited, and could not subsume their personal ambitions to the common good. The disintegration of the Alliance thus dissuaded a significant portion of the Liberian population who had held deep-seated suspicions of civilian populations from casting their votes for members of the Alliance.[15]

Despite Amos Sawyer’s heroic efforts to put together a united civil society-based coalition to oppose Taylor’s election, the various civilian politicians and civic leaders could not put aside their personal rivalries. Some of them—like Gabriel Baccus Mathews and Togba Nah Tipoteh—were still fighting old ideological battles from the pre-Doe era that were of little interest to most voters, as their poor showings revealed. Furthermore, the disastrous Alliance of Political Parties convention in March 1997 did little to reassure voters that these parties were capable of ensuring stability, clearly the most important issue to the majority of Liberians. In fact, Baccus Mathews and Tipoteh pulled their parties, the United People’s Party and the Liberian People’s Party, respectively, from the Alliance when they each failed to win its presidential nomination. In the end, out of the seven parties in the Alliance, only two—the Liberian Action Party and the Liberian Unification Party—kept faith with their pre-convention pledge to abide by the decision of the convention. Consequently, Toure concluded:

A united front of civilian politicians could have presented the Liberian population with an alternative to the much discussed security threat posed by Taylor in the event that he had lost the election. The fact that Taylor won the majority of votes cast in Monrovia—generally regarded as the stronghold of the civilian politicians and [other opponents of] warring factions [like Taylor’s]—is reflective of the extent of the disillusionment felt by the population.[16]

Even Taylor’s principal rival, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, had problems of credibility. Voters with long memories recalled her backing of the brutal Doe when it suited her interests and even her endorsement of Taylor early in the civil war. Also, having lived abroad for more than a decade and having returned to Liberia only to contest the election, she appeared detached from the sufferings of ordinary Liberians, who could only dream of the salary and standard of living she enjoyed as a senior international civil servant and successful private consultant.

In fact, the late Clarence Zamba Liberty, a professor at the University of Liberia who had represented his country at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) before the civil war, pointed out that many reports misunderstood the slogan that Liberians chanted at the time of the election to the horror of observers, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: “He killed my Ma / He killed my Pa / I’ll vote for him.” Zamba Liberty attributes to the refrain not only a pro-Taylor meaning but also an anti-establishment one. In his version, the chant was: “They say, ‘You killed my Ma’ / They say, ‘You killed my Pa’ / But I will still vote for you!”[17]

In short, despite Taylor’s reputation as a brutal warlord whose aim had always been the capture of power in Monrovia, the across-the-board victory for him personally and for the National Patriotic Party (NPP) that had formed out of his rebel movement, in an election that, despite its difficulties, was judged free and fair by the international community, could perhaps be best explained by the fact that the electorate faced an uncertain security situation and made a reasoned choice for the candidate most likely to maximize the possibility for stability and, eventually, improved conditions.[18]

Those hopes were soon dashed by Taylor, who had long viewed Monrovia, where civil society had flourished under the favorable IGNU’s benign if ineffectual governance, as hostile territory. The new president’s disposition towards civil society leaders and institutions was not helped by the fact that many of these civic groups were funded by Western governments and NGOs, both of which were almost universally hostile to the former warlord. In the view of the Taylor regime, there was little to distinguish civil society from the political opposition, a confusion only compounded by the actions of the latter’s leaders.

Before long, freedom of the press remained alive only in the sense that journalists were allowed to write or broadcast what they wanted if they were willing to suffer the consequences. In 1999, the government pulled the short-wave frequency allocation from independent Star Radio. Although the station was allowed to continue broadcasting via an FM band, its reach was severely curtailed. In 2001, the government likewise refused to renew the short-wave license of Radio Veritas, a station owned by the Catholic Church. This left the state-owned Liberian Broadcasting System and the Liberia Communications Network, which is owned by Charles Taylor personally, as the country’s only truly national broadcasters.

Critics of the Taylor government were increasingly subjected to routine harassment, with the more articulate among them arrested, tortured, and imprisoned—as was the case with prominent human rights lawyer Tiawan Gongloe and Hassan Bility, editor of the independent Analyst newspaper, both of whom disappeared into custody in early 2002, the latter allegedly for communicating via e-mail with the LURD rebels. Abused but still defiant, both reemerged after Taylor’s departure, and Gongloe received Human Rights Watch’s highest honor, the Defender Award, for 2003.

At the same time, former Chief Justice Frances Johnson Morris, then director of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, was arrested after she presented a paper at a public forum in Monrovia questioning the validity of the “state of emergency” declared by President Taylor. She was detained at the central police prison among male inmates until international protests brought about her release. The official excuse that Liberian National Police Director Paul Mulbah gave to diplomats who protested the arrest was that it was a case of “mistaken identity.” In any event, Morris fared better than Henry Cooper, a ranking official of the opposition Unity Party who was taken into custody at the same time she was: his body was found riddled with bullet holes fifty miles north of Monrovia.

Meanwhile, five members of the National Human Rights Center of Liberia, an umbrella organization of nine non-governmental human rights organizations, were arrested on Good Friday 2002. Several weeks later, when they managed to get a court to order their release on the ground that the arrests without charges went against the Liberian constitution, they were immediately arrested again on charges of “criminal malevolence” and “resisting arrest.” The regime’s risible grounds for the “resisting arrest” charge was that the defendants had contested their previous illegal arrests!

Even as the Taylor government cracked down on political dissent, real or perceived, it was unable to improve the general situation in the country. In fact, by 2003 the average Liberian was, by most socio-economic indices, worse off than he had been at the start of the civil war. Life expectancy in July 1990, for example, had been 54 years for men and 58 for women; by August 2003, those same values for the 3.3 million Liberians were estimated to be 47.03 and 49.3, respectively. In its annual survey of the world, The Economist magazine awarded Taylor’s Liberia the dubious distinction of being “the worse place to live in 2003.” Not surprisingly, an anti-Taylor umbrella group, LURD, emerged in early 2000 and began the armed struggle that ultimately drove Taylor from power in 2003.

A New Tactic for Civil Society?

As 2003 began, the military pressure of the LURD and MODEL insurgencies, coupled with the political and economic isolation of U.N. sanctions imposed because of his role in the Sierra Leonean conflict, had considerably weakened Taylor’s hold on the reins of power. By late May, with nearly two-thirds of Liberia loosely under rebel control, but with neither LURD nor MODEL yet strong enough to take the capital by storm, Taylor finally agreed to sit down with his opponents at peace talks to be held in Accra under the auspices of ECOWAS. However, much to the embarrassment of the African diplomats who had worked to set up the meeting, Taylor’s attendance was cut short on June 4, when the prosecutor of the U.N.-sponsored Special Court for Sierra Leone, David M. Crane, published the previously sealed indictment of the Liberian president for war crimes and other serious violations of international humanitarian law during the 1991-2002 Sierra Leonean civil war that Taylor had helped precipitate. Although Taylor hastily left the talks and fled back to Monrovia, the end game had clearly begun, especially after U.S. President George W. Bush declared in a speech on June 26, the eve of his own trip to Africa, that “President Taylor needs to step down so that his country can be spared further bloodshed.”[19] After protracted negotiations, a Nigerian-led West African peacekeeping force, acting under the authority of an apposite U.N. Security Council resolution, landed in Monrovia on August 4. On August 11, Taylor finally acquiesced and accepted a Nigerian offer of asylum, resigning the Liberian presidency and handing power over to Vice President Moses Blah.

In the multi-party talks that ensued after Taylor’s departure, representatives of civil society adopted a new approach. Whereas previously, despite the sometimes ambiguous lines of demarcation between civil society and civilian political groups, civic leaders had sought to cast themselves as advocates somehow above the fray of partisan politics, this time they sought not only inclusion in the Accra peace talks but a formal role in the transitional government being negotiated. The argument was that with most of Liberia’s professional political class tainted or worse, leaders from civil society needed to step in and participate directly in governance. The result was a four-way power-sharing arrangement that parceled out positions in the cabinet and the rest of the NTGL between the remnants of Taylor’s National Patriotic Party (NPP) government, the LURD and MODEL rebels, and representatives of civil society.

In the cabinet picked to work alongside NTGL chairman Gyude Bryant, the NPP retained five ministries (post and telecommunications, health and social welfare, national defense, planning and economic affairs, and internal affairs), while five each were allocated to the members of LURD (finance, justice, labor, transport, and state) and MODEL (agriculture, commerce, public works, foreign affairs, and land, mines and energy). The remaining six ministries—national security, education, gender and development, information, rural development, and youth and sports—were entrusted to representatives of civil society organizations.

The seventy-six seats in the unicameral National Transitional Legislative Assembly (NTLA) that was created by the Accra agreement were likewise divided up by participants in the negotiations. Supporters of the outgoing NPP government, LURD, and MODEL were each given twelve seats. Each of the eighteen registered civilian political parties, except for the NPP, was allocated one seat each. Seven seats were reserved for representatives to be designated by civil society groups. Less than a quarter of the parliamentary seats—fifteen—were to be filled by election, with one representative chosen from each of Liberia’s counties.

The existing judiciary was declared vacated by the accord, which stipulated that new members would be appointed to the Supreme Court by the chairman of the NTGL, subject to confirmation by the NTLA.

Finally, the agreement parceled out Liberia’s publicly owned corporations and autonomous government agencies and commissions. The outgoing NPP regime received five companies: the Liberia Broadcasting System, the Liberia Electricity Corporation, the Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation, and the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation. LURD was likewise allocated five companies: the Liberia Free Zone Authority, the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation, the Liberia Produce Marketing Corporation, and the National Ports Authority. MODEL was given the Agriculture Corporative Development Bank, the Forestry Development Authority, Roberts International Airport, and the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation. The lion’s share, however, went to civil society organizations, whose representatives were installed at the head of the Agriculture Industrial Training Board, the Liberia Domestic Airport Authority, the Liberia Mining Corporation, Liberia National Lotteries, the Liberia Rubber Development Unit, the Liberia National Oil Company, the Monrovia Transit Authority, the National Housing and Savings Bank, the National Housing Authority, and the National Insurance Corporation.

Likewise, twenty-two autonomous government agencies and commissions were parceled out. The outgoing NPP government retained control of the Bureau of the Budget and the National Security Agency. LURD assumed control of the General Service Agency and the National Investment Commission. MODEL took over the Bureau of Maritime Affairs and the Liberia Refugee and Resettlement Commission. Civil society representatives were entrusted with management of no fewer than sixteen agencies: the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization, the Bureau of General Auditing, the Bureau of State Enterprises, the Center for National Documents and Records, the Civil Service Agency, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Medical Center, the Independent National Human Rights Commission, the Liberia National Police Force, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the National Bureau of Investigation, the National Fire Services, the National Food Assistance Agency, the Contracts and Monopoly Commission, the National Elections Commission, and the Governance Reform Commission.

Needless to say, the formalization of the role of civil society organizations qua organizations in the transitional government did not come without controversy. While there is a certain logical segue to having representatives of civic groups assume responsibility for such agencies as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Human Rights Commission, which are less involved in the day-to-day business of direct public administration, as well aid agencies such as the National Food Assistance Agency, the rationale for civil society-run banks, lotteries, and rubber plantations—to say nothing of government ministries—is less apparent. Worse, as the text of the Accra agreement did not designate which specific groups or individuals among civil society should assume which charges, the conference was the scene of rather unseemly squabbles as civil society leaders, who presented themselves as “non-political,” “non-governmental,” and “representative,” vied with one another for very political government positions. With their leaders having entered the fray, the ability of civil society organizations to credibly remain “above politics” as impartial monitors of the implementation of the peace accords is questionable at best. And even if these civic leaders—presumably of great integrity—remain personally unimpeachable during their government service in the transitional period, it is still likely that the inevitable disappointments that will result, when the agencies they manage fail to deliver basic services, will redound negatively to Liberia’s civil society organizations and negatively impact their ability to exert positive pressure in the lead-up to the scheduled elections. In any event, the results of this new role for civil society representatives, governing rather than monitoring the governors, will be interesting to watch.

Challenges Ahead

At the time the NTGL took over, Liberia had essentially dropped off the world economic map. In fact, the United Nations Development Program did not even include the country in its Human Development Report 2003.[20] The country’s GDP for 2002 was a miserable $561.8 million, or $169.20 per capita—a figure that, even without adjusting for inflation, represented just 45.9 percent of the GDP before the civil war. More than three-quarters of the population subsist on less than $1 per day. Of course, these dire figures only tell part of the story. Over the seven years of what is generally considered full-fledged civil war in Liberia—from Charles Taylor’s Christmas Eve 1989 invasion to his inauguration as president on August 2, 1997—it is commonly estimated that between 150,000 and 200,000 individuals lost their lives. As the Liberian civil conflict turned into a regional conflagration, 70,000 Sierra Leoneans, at least 10,000 Ivorians, and several thousand Guineans likewise lost their lives. Several million persons, further, were displaced at one point or other—including most of the populations of Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as significant numbers of Guineans and Ivorians. Some of those people remain refugees more than a decade later, and the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire is still heated. In this context, the scope for civil society action in Liberia—and, indeed, the subregion—is virtually limitless.

It would be facile enough to simply conclude that almost any action would represent progress. However, despite some disagreements among civic leaders regarding the order of priority, there is widespread consensus on the three principal tasks that, with the armed conflict arrested, civil society needs to undertake: peace-building, national reconciliation, and building up a stable democratic polity.

Peace-building—or, at least, attempts at it—has long been the strongest aspect of Liberian civil society and the hallmark of its most consistent pillars, religious leaders. From its very beginnings, Liberia has been noted for the influence of its religious community, which not only supplied a disproportionate number of the country’s political leaders but also was instrumental in establishing education and social institutions. While for many years the close ties between church and state, characterized by the links between religious leaders and the country’s political power structure and their relationship with the Americo-Liberian national ideology, compromised the independent witness of the various Christian denominations, more recently the Liberian religious community, both Christian and Muslim, has been on the forefront of the struggle for peace. Even such a stalwart political survivor as Monrovia’s Roman Catholic archbishop, Michael Kpakala Francis, who has been an intimate of the country’s ruler du jour since the comparatively halcyon era of William Tolbert, and who has been much criticized for his prolonged absences abroad during times of crisis, has turned into a strong peace advocate, receiving the 1999 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for his outspoken sermons and pastoral letters.

The Interfaith Council of Liberia (IFCL) has picked up where its predecessor, the IFMC, which successfully kept religion from becoming another source of division during the 1989-1997 conflict, left off and has worked unceasingly to root out incipient religious tensions before they become sources of conflict. The IFCL played an important role in community mediation in Lofa and Nimba Counties following attacks in 1999 and 2000 on the predominantly Muslim Mandingo (or Malinké) community; the attacks came about as a result of the identification of its ethnic kin with the opponents of the Taylor regime, who later coalesced into the LURD insurgency. Likewise the IFCL helped defused the situation when several Catholic missions and other Christian institutions were targeted by unknown assailants during the renewed conflict in 2001 and 2002. Recognizing the regional dynamic of the conflict, the IFCL has reached out to establish cooperative initiatives with nascent counterpart organizations in the two other countries of the Mano River Union, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

One of the most salient features of the recent conflicts in West Africa was the widespread use of child soldiers. Though child combatants have been used in conflicts in various parts of the world, a disproportionate number of cases have been in Africa.[21] Estimates vary considerably, but international NGOs in the subregion widely use as a benchmark the estimate that between one-third and one-half of all combatants were in the age range of 8-14 years. With the cessation—at least for now—of the armed conflict in Liberia, many of these ex-combatants have drifted to Monrovia and other cities, drawn by both the attraction of urban life and the fear of retribution or at least of being ostracized in the towns and villages where many committed unspeakable atrocities during the fighting. The high concentrations of these young, unskilled, and socially maladjusted former child soldiers not only present new law enforcement challenges to Liberia, but also constitutes a potential risk to peace and stability across the subregion. Just as former child soldiers of the Sierra Leonean Revolutionary United Front drifted to Liberia to serve with irregular units loyal to the Taylor regime after peace came to their country in 2002, likewise Liberia’s own former fighters could, unless they are successfully reintegrated into society, prove a plague to other neighboring countries, especially Côte d’Ivoire, which is experiencing its own civil conflict, and Guinea, where the anticipated death of the ailing president-for-life, Lansana Conté, is expected to unleash ethnic tensions that the aging autocrat has kept repressed. Regrettably, the rehabilitation and reintegration of ex-combatants, especially children and teenagers, is one aspect of peace-building that, in contrast to the attention lavished on it in Sierra Leone, has been relatively neglected in Liberia by international NGOs as well as local civil society organizations.

Hand in hand with peace-building is the challenge of national reconciliation. Historically, the principal divide in Liberian national life has been between the descendants of the Americo-Liberian settlers—never more than 10 percent of the population—and the members of ethnic communities that had dwelled in the country from time immemorial. This fissure was diagnosed with great clarity nearly four decades ago in an economic study whose conclusions were unambiguous, but whose recommendations, tragically enough, still await implementation:

Despite its historic association with the United States, its rich resource base relative to population, and generous external assistance by foreign governments, Liberia must be placed among the least developed countries in Africa. In 1962, less than 10 percent of the population was literate, the quality of its educational establishment was low, the traditional divisions between tribal Liberians and the Americo-Liberian descendants of the colonial settlers remained in force, and traditional governmental procedures had not been appreciably revised to serve development needs.

In 1962 there was nothing that could reasonably be called developmental planning. Neither effective plan nor personnel existed…. Its most tenacious problems are institutional and require policies to reform traditional social and political organizations, to abolish forced recruitment of labor, to reform traditional land tenure arrangements, to reform the traditional administration of the tribal hinterlands in ways which provide incentives for tribal persons to enlarge their production for sale, and to allow them access to higher education and political expression.[22]

Samuel Doe only exacerbated this problem by manipulating divisions between the various indigenous communities. Doe’s Krahn-dominated Armed Forces of Liberia targeted Manos and Gios, who then flocked to the standard of Charles Taylor’s NPFL, which in turn targeted Krahns and Mandingos, who, once Taylor succeded to the presidency, filled the ranks of the two insurgent movements, LURD and MODEL, that ultimately brought him down. While most Liberians are sick of the vicious cycle of conflict, much needs to be done to overcome the inter-ethnic animosities that still persist in the countryside as a result of this history.

Under the provisions of the peace agreement hammered out in 2003, elections are scheduled in Liberia for October 15, 2005. Already, the practicality of this timetable has been called into question, not least because of the near-total destruction of the Liberian state during the long conflict. The Center for National Documents and Records Agency, the principal archival bureau of the Liberian state, was destroyed during the first battle for Monrovia in 1990, and nothing even approximating it has been constituted in the ensuing years. A national census—the last one was carried out in 1984—would seem to be the condition sine qua non for conducting general elections.

Beyond the mechanics of the poll, there is the question—unaddressed except by a few academics—of whether it is even desirable to elect a government to carry on under the existing constitutional arrangements, or whether a more substantial overhaul needs to take place. The present structure, essentially unchanged since the 19th century and the long paternalistic dominance of the Americo-Liberian True Whig Party, favors a powerful presidency that dominates all aspects of Liberian political life. Whether this is still adequate to the necessities of governance in the 21st century is, at the very least, debatable. Recently, several Liberian scholars have made proposals for a more decentralized government with greater power devolved to local authorities and have even proposed that the voting be postponed until permanent constitutional arrangements are discussed by a national conference.[23]

Beyond the question of elections and whatever emphasis is placed on “democratization,” establishing a democratically elected government—while, undoubtedly, a major achievement—will not by itself be enough to build a free society out of the failed wreck of the Liberian state. Rather, a stable, free society presupposes not only a democratic polity, but also a culture of liberty and a free economy. These three are inherently interdependent: none can endure for long without the other two. The dependence of the economy on the basic rule of law and functional organs of government is relatively straightforward. Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto has, in recent years, clearly demonstrated that the principal obstacle to development in many countries is the lack of access to clear legal property titles and, consequently, to credit markets. A government of laws insures this for the economy.[24] Likewise, as Johns Hopkins University professor Francis Fukuyama, among others, has shown, the economy also depends on certain moral and cultural variables, including social trust and cohesion.[25] This culture in turn requires the conditions established by a market-based economy and a democratic regime in order to ensure the freedom from want and fear. And, of course, a stable democratic government requires material prosperity—or at least the reasonable opportunity to pursue it—and a culture that respects individual rights and encourages personal responsibility and tolerance for others.

Regrettably, to date Liberia’s civil society leaders and organizations have paid almost exclusive attention to the political aspects of a free society, giving occasional lip service to its social requirements while relegating economic considerations to the realm of fuzzy pieties when not neglecting them entirely. This does not bode well for the future. If the new Liberia that Liberians have been hoping for, and in which the international community has invested considerably, is to succeed, then the current transition must make civic education for all Liberians a priority—not just the “usual suspects,” those Western-educated civil society “representatives” who make up the majority of the denizens of Monrovia’s circuit of “leadership workshops” and other internationally sponsored symposia. A grassroots approach to communities and individuals needs to be undertaken to inform Liberians about the cognitive and existential aspects of democratic values and practice.

In the end, however, the greatest challenge facing civil society in Liberia may be Liberian civil society leaders and organizations themselves. While the original intent of many of the latter in entering the Accra negotiation process may well have been to act as advocates for and custodians of popular interests amid the convened warlords and politicians, the ensuing jostling for positions in the NTGL and competition for control of state agencies and enterprises fundamentally altered their role in Liberian society. One cannot be both a political “insider” and a non-political watchdog over the actions of the government. There is a basic conflict of interest that somehow seemed to have escaped the civil society representatives who put themselves forward for political office while still averring to be non-partisan advocates. While debate that swirls around these contradictions will in the long run be healthy for Liberia’s political culture, in the short term it negatively impacts the strength that civil society would otherwise be able to bring to bear during the transition.

Finally, there is the concern that those leaders and organizations who have managed to preserve their independence vis-à-vis the political institutions of the NTGL—and precious few of these exist outside the religious community—are overly dependent on foreign assistance. While in the present circumstances it is understandable that funding and other resources from outside donors are necessary for the very existence of civil society, the dependence comes at considerable cost to the democratic and representative nature as well as the accountability of civic leaders and groups. Reliance on foreign donors lessens the need of leaders to respond to concerns and priorities of the “masses” they ostensibly represent. Many, it seems, are more adept at addressing the needs of foreign stakeholders than at cultivating national constituencies. (Of course, things cut both ways. As Mary B. Anderson has acknowledged, “The ways outsiders enter and assume important roles in these circumstances correspondingly pose the most complex moral, as well as practical, challenges aid workers face.”[26] ) In fact, aside from the churches and mosques, whose attendees can be counted by observers during services, outside observers have found verifying memberships of many Liberian civil society organizations a singularly unrewarding task. Unchecked over time, this tendency undermines civil society’s democratizing potential, as unrepresentative or unaccountable groups lose the popular legitimacy that, ultimately, is their only coin of the realm.

As Liberia emerges from its dark years of civil conflict, reconstruction will need to be not only material but institutional. It will require the strengthening—if not the wholesale overhaul—of the institutions of civil society that, if not destroyed during the years of fighting, are compromised either by involvement with discredited regimes, past and present, or by what is perceived as self-absorbed pursuit of the individual interests of their self-appointed leaders. Only with civil society reinforced can a culture—and a truly national identity—be developed that can give hope to peace-building and national reconciliation. Amos Sawyer recently pointedly argued:

No degree of external support can help Liberia in the long-run if Liberians are not the driving force in peace-building but are simply the beneficiaries of peace-building programs driven by others. And no peace-building approach can yield sustainable outcomes if it does not empower Liberians by strengthening their individual and collective capacity to do things for themselves, to rely on their own resources, and then seek assistance from others.[27]

That path of self-reliance will no doubt be difficult. But it is perhaps the only way a nation so long forlorn can rise to its nobler destiny.


* J. Peter Pham, Assistant Professor of Justice Studies at James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, is the author of Liberia: Portrait of a Failed State (Reed Press, 2004). Dr. Pham served as an international diplomat in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, in 2001 and 2002. Copyright 2004 by J. Peter Pham.

[1] E. Gyimah-Boadi, Civil Society in Africa, 7 J. Democracy 118, 121 (1996).

[2] Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century (1991).

[3] Gyimah-Boadi, supra note 1, at 119-120.

[4] See Stephen Ndegwa, The Two Faces of Civil Society: NGOs and Politics in Africa 1-8 (1996).

[5] See Alison Brysk, Democratizing Civil Society in Latin America, 11 J. Democracy 151-165 (2000).

[6] J. Gus Liebenow, Liberia: The Quest for a Democracy 15 (1987).

[7] Liberian Code of Laws, Ch. 11, § 60-61.

[8] Quoted in Nathaniel R. Richardson, Liberia’s Past and Present 122 (1959).

[9] Cf. Albert Porte, Liberianization or Gobbling Business? (1974).

[10] Arthur F. Kulah, Liberia Will Rise Again: Reflections on the Liberian Civil Crisis 73-74 (1999).

[11] Cf. Amos Sawyer, The Emergence of Autocracy in Liberia: Tragedy and Challenge (1992).

[12] Carl Patrick Burrowes, Democracy or Disarmanent: Some Second Thoughts on Amos Sawyer and Contemporary “Politicians”, 20 Liberian Stud. J. 117 (1995).

[13] Cf. Kulah, supra note 10, at 27-30.

[14] Twentieth Report on the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia, U.N. Secretary-General, at 1, S/1997/643 (1997).

[15] Augustine Toure, The Role of Civil Society in National Reconciliation and Peace-building in Liberia 12 (2002).

[16] Id.

[17] Clarence E. Zamba Liberty, Butuo: A Lilliputian Testament to a Struggle—The NPFL Journey to State Power: How Charles Taylor Upset the Bowl of Rice and Took Home the Whole Hog, 23 Liberian Stud. J. 175-176 (1998).

[18] Cf. David Harris, From “Warlord” to “Democratic” President: How Charles Taylor Won the 1997 Liberian Elections, 37 J. Mod. Afr. Stud. 431-455 (1999).

[19] President’s Speech to the Corporate Council on Africa (Jun. 26, 2003), available at (last accessed Sept. 1, 2004).

[20] Cf. United Nations Development Program, Human Development Report 2003: Millennium Development Goals: A Compact among Nations to End Human Poverty (2002).

[21] Cf. A.B. Zack-Williams, The Forgotten Realities of Contemporary Africa, 5 New Pol. Econ. 116-191 (2000).

[22] George Dalton & A.A. Walters, The Economy of Liberia, in The Economies of Africa 314-315 (P. Robson & D.A. Lury eds., 1969).

[23] Cf. Yarsuo Weh-Dorliae, Proposition 12 for Decentralized Governance in Liberia: Power Sharing for Peace and Progress (2004).

[24] Cf. Hernando de Soto, The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else (2000).

[25] Cf. Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (1995).

[26] Mary B. Anderson, Do No Harm: How Aid Can Support Peace—Or War 146 (1999).

[27] Amos Sawyer, Peace-building in Liberia: Foundational Challenges and Appropriate Approaches (Aug. 21, 2003), available at (last accessed Sept. 1, 2004)