The 2017 election in Liberia has resulted in George Weah the legendary footballer being elected as the next president of the West African country. Having won the prestigious “FIFA World Player” award in 1995 (the only African footballer to do so) and several other accolades as a player, it certainly seems that Weah possesses all qualities that a leader requires. However, it is the complex nature of Liberian politics which has led to two major civil wars in the country that is surely going to test his leadership skills. The pertinent question then to be asked is, what are the factors that have made politics in this West African country extremely complex and chaotic? And so, to provide the answer here is presenting an analysis highlighting the kind of politics that has gradually disrupted the “social, political, and economic growth” of the Liberian society over the years.
1. Formation of “The American Colonization Society” In United States of America, and its link to Liberia:
It was during the 19th century that a movement to free the American “blacks” from the bondage of slavery and resettle them in Liberia was initiated in the United States of America. The major reason for the rise of this movement being, that during this period the blacks in America were subjected to severe racial vilification that included taking away their social, civil, and religious privileges. It was therefore due to such circumstances that many belonging to the white community as well as a few black nationalists believed that “resettlement” of the black community in another land would prove to be a much better option. And so, in the year 1816 an organization known as “The American Colonization Society” was established by a number of known politicians and slaveholders in order to facilitate the “resettlement” of the black community in Liberia. Furthermore, it was in 1822 eventually that the society began to resettle a number of black volunteers from America into Liberia which was then known as “Pepper Coast” It is this movement of resettlement that forever historically linked Liberia to the United States of America.
2. Independence of Liberia, and formation of its constitution:
“June 26th 1847” was the exact date when the black settlers from the United States of America in Liberia for the first time issued the “Declaration of Independence” and formed its constitution. Not surprisingly the settlers (having originated from America) based the constitution on the democratic principles followed by the United States of America. In addition, the independence of this West African nation was first officially recognized by Great Britain. So, in this manner by adapting from the American democratic system, Liberia was also “politically” linked forever with the United States of America.
3. The gradual political growth of Liberia:
It was during the mid 20th century that Liberia with the help of the United States of America (due to the historical links shared between the two countries) that Liberia began to make its presence felt in the political world. It was in 1945 soon after the completion of World War II that the then Liberian President William Tubman created policies that welcomed foreign investment in the country. Furthermore, this move made by Tubman resulted in Liberia recording the second highest economic growth rate during the post world war II period. Additionally, it was also during this period that this West African country began taking keen interest in international politics, and became the founding member of the “United Nations” in 1945. Due to this newly discovered political confidence Liberia also became an extremely vocal critic of the “Apartheid regime” in South Africa, and help fund the “Organization of African Unity”.
4. The dramatic decline of politics in Liberia, and the lead up to the “First Civil War”:
It was eventually in the 80’s that the politics in Liberia rapidly began to fall apart. The beginnings of a serious political turmoil in the country first took shape in the form of a military coup on April 12th 1980 which was led by a Master Sergeant Samuel Doe belonging to an ethnic community called Krahn. The then president William R Tolbert (belonging to the True Whig Party) was killed by Doe and members of his cabinet was also executed too by Doe who formed the “People ‘s Redemption Council” (PRC) to takeover the governance of Liberia. The PRC led by Doe also became a key “ally” of the United States of America during the “Cold War” era. On obtaining power Doe initially replaced the old constitution with a new one. He then went on to win several elections (which many experts claimed were won by using fraudulent means), and was also blamed for encouraging “corruption” and “political repression” in the Liberian society.
With frustration within the Liberian society against the “repressive” Doe regime growing each day, it was thus not surprising that on 12th November 1985 a coup was initiated by a commanding general named Thomas Quiwonkpa of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL). Although this seizure of power failed, it resulted in another rebel group known as the “National Patriotic Front of Liberia” led by Charles Taylor instigating another move to overthrow the oppressive Doe regime. The unique feature of this coup being that it got the support of neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. Unfortunately though, the rebel group split up into several factions that fought among each other. And so, to stop these splinter groups from fighting an army was sent by the “Economic Community Monitoring Group” (ECMG). It was this battle between the splinter rebel groups and the task force set by ECMG that led to the devastating first civil war in Liberia killing about 200,00 innocent people lasting from 1989 to 1995.
5. The “initiation” of the Second Civil War in Liberia:
It was around the year 1995 that all the warring rebel groups decided to settle the issue via the use of a peace deal,which eventually lead to Charles Taylor being elected as the 22nd President of Liberia in 1997. However, as soon as Taylor acquired power he (according to the United Nation) began supporting a rebel group in Sierra Leone known as “Revolutionary United Front” (RUF) with weapons and training in exchange of diamonds (i.e. in other words funding of another civil war).Furthermore, the Liberian President was also accused of using funds acquired from illegal timber exports to support the civil war in Leone. It is thus in response to the growing corruption openly seen within the Taylor government that led to rise of a rebel group from the northeast of the country known as the “Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy” (LURD). It is the battle between the LURD and the government of Liberia that eventually led to a “Second civil war” that begun 1999 and eventually ended in 2003 killing approximately 150,000 to 300, 000 people.
6. The “contribution” of the United States of America foreign policy in the deterioration of politics in Liberia:
It was during the early 20th century that United States of America first began exploiting one of Liberia’s most precious natural resource i.e. rubber. Now, America wanted become the leader in the automobile industry, and hence they required good quality rubber to produce tyres of high standards. And so, they made use of Liberian rubber by establishing “The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company” in the country which the government led by Willam Tubman happily supported. In addition, Liberia also benefited in terms of aid of about $280 million which was paid by the US from 1962 60 1980. They also helped America during the “Cold War” in their fight against a number of communist regimes that cropped up in Africa. However, in 1971 the then president William Tolbert (who took over after the death of Tubman) began welcoming ambassadors from communist countries such as the Soviet Union, Cuba, and China. Additionally, he also spoke in support of the rights of the Palestinian people.And so, with Tolbert acting not in accordance with US interest, it was in 1980 that a coup led by Master Sergeant Samuel Doe was instigated to change the regime (a normal US foreign policy tactic). It is this overthrowing of the Tolbert government which led to a serious political turmoil in Liberia that lasted for years and included two destructive civil wars.
With a highly pedigreed man such as George Weah having been elected as the next president of Liberia here is hoping that he does provide with the “social, economic, and political” stability that this country truly deserves and badly requires.
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