Joseph Boakai, Liberia's new president, here on the campaign trail last October, had declared in 2021: “You cannot live in a society, create harmony and reconciliation when most of the people don’t believe that they’re responsible for anything." © Guy Peterson / AFP

In Liberia, there is a conflict about what the conflict was about. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) 2009 final report, however, determined that the history of political violence and Liberia’s destructive civil wars (in 1989-1997 and 1999-2003) are attributable to the origin of the nation-state. Liberia is Africa’s first Black Republic. It was never formally colonised but conceived under problematic circumstances. Despite this pertinent finding, discussions over what led to the civil wars abound. Some maintain that it was caused by inter-ethnic conflict. Conspiracy theorists blamed it on the machination of the Americo-Liberian elites and how they upended indigenous people’s rule in the late 1980s through the plot of a civil war.…  Seguir leyendo »

Liberian President George Weah, who is running for a second term in office, has abandoned the idea of national prosecutions for war crimes committed during the civil war. © Ludovic Marin / Pool / AFP

In 2004, George Weah, then a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, called for the establishment of a war crimes court to prosecute those most responsible for the atrocities of the civil war in Liberia in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Like many Liberians, Weah – a former football superstar – had himself suffered immensely from the violence. Some of his relatives were killed, and others gangraped. His properties, including houses and vehicles, were looted, vandalised; his entire estate in Monrovia was razed to the ground.

Weah’s early support for criminal accountability for civil war-era reverberated in his move into politics and the formation of Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).…  Seguir leyendo »

Gibril Massaquoi, a former Sierra Leonean rebel commander, was acquitted on 29 April by a Finnish court, which was trying him on charges relating to the civil war in Liberia between 1999 and 2003, under universal jurisdiction. © Thierry Cruvellier

For any informed observer, the April 29 ‘not guilty’ verdict by a Finnish court in the trial of Gibril Massaquoi, a Sierra Leonean former Revolutionary United Front (RUF) spokesman who had long taken residence in Finland, was an anticlimax. That’s because the prosecution’s case all but collapsed during the court’s first sittings in Monrovia, Liberia, from February to April last year. I briefly attended one of those sittings, held at a small resort hotel at the outskirts of Monrovia.

One of Massaquoi’s Finnish lawyers had called to ask me whether I could support Massaquoi’s claim to her that I knew he could not have fought in the chaotic battles in Monrovia in 2003 – which grandiloquent Liberian vanity had cast as World Wars 1, 2 and 3 – since I had met him several times during that period at the safe house that the Special Court for Sierra Leone had secured for him as a highly valued witness.…  Seguir leyendo »

Women in the town of Mweso, Congo, walk past a convoy from the U.N. peacekeeping mission on April 10. (Alexis Huguet/AFP/Getty Images)

The second Liberian civil war began 20 years ago this month. All told, the conflicts that ravaged Liberia from the beginning of the first civil war in 1989 to the end of the second in 2003 resulted in the deaths of some 250,000 men, women and children, the displacement of more than 1 million civilians and the destruction of much of the country’s infrastructure.

The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) deployed in 2003 to help the country rebuild, and stayed until its mandate ended last year. By most accounts UNMIL was a success, shepherding in over a decade of peace and three consecutive democratic elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

Liberian president George Weah. Photo: Getty Images.

George Weah’s election as president of Liberia in January 2018 was widely hailed as a popular victory over ineffective or corrupt politics and was the first peaceful handover of power since the end of the Liberian civil war. Seen as a victory of the people over a political system viewed as ineffective (at best) or corrupt (at worst), Weah’s election brought with it the high expectations of not just his support base but the country as a whole.

However, despite early signs that he would take on bureaucratic excess and corruption, rebuild infrastructure and drive economic development, Weah’s first year in office has been haunted by the old guard of Liberian politics, hampered by limited resources and dogged by controversies over missing money.…  Seguir leyendo »

En todo el mundo, unos 263 millones de niños no están escolarizados, y de los que asisten a clase, 330 millones reciben una educación de baja calidad. Como consecuencia de ello, se calcula que 617 millones de niños en edad escolar no pueden leer al nivel adecuado para su edad.

El problema es global, pero es particularmente agudo en el África subsahariana, donde el 88% de los estudiantes jóvenes -unos 202 millones de niños y niñas- no alcanzan un nivel suficiente de capacidad de lectura. Y es también allí donde se están probando algunas soluciones.

Los gobiernos africanos y los donantes internacionales han hablado de la boca para afuera sobre mejorar los resultados educativos, especialmente en capacidades elementales como la lectura, la escritura y las matemáticas.…  Seguir leyendo »

George Manneh Weah taking the oath of office as president of Liberia in January. Credit Issouf Sanogo/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

I grew up in the Gibraltar area of Clara Town, a slum in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. Sport was my passport out of poverty. A combination of luck and hard work enabled me to make my improbable journey from the dusty football fields of Clara Town to glamorous stadiums in Europe. I played professional football for the biggest clubs in the world and was honored to be the first African named FIFA World Player of the Year.

On Jan. 22, I returned to the Samuel Doe football stadium in Monrovia — a beloved venue where I had played numerous games — to take the oath of office as the president of Liberia.…  Seguir leyendo »

Liberia’s new president, George Weah, speaks during his inauguration ceremony in Monrovia, Liberia, on Jan. 22. (Abbas Dulleh/AP)

George Weah, Liberia’s new president, has packed football (or to Americans, soccer) stadiums before. As a professional player, he was named the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year.  But on Jan. 22, he packed Monrovia’s Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium to be sworn in as Liberia’s 24th president — the first time since 1944 that the nation saw a peaceful transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents.

The 2017 vote that brought him to power also marked the first time the Liberian government ran its own election without U.N. support.

The election had problems. The third-place candidate, Charles Brumskine of the Liberty Party, alleged that the first round of voting on Oct.…  Seguir leyendo »

George Weah, Liberia’s president-elect, left, playing a charity soccer game in the capital of Monrovia on Saturday. Credit Ahmed Jallanzo/European Pressphoto Agency

Liberians recently propelled George Weah, a former soccer star, to the presidency, but as he is sworn in on Monday to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, he will inherit the problem that stymied her progress against corruption: a political system based on coercion and bribery.

Liberia’s trajectory since the end of its last civil war in 2003, including Ms. Sirleaf’s tenure, is unambiguously positive. She obtained the cancellation of nearly $5 billion in debt and stabilized an economy that had contracted by 90 percent between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s. Infant mortality has been halved since 2003. The government has made great strides in protecting human rights and free speech.…  Seguir leyendo »

George Weah, the former world footballer of the year, has achieved his great goal by winning the presidency of Liberia. There are concerns about his bedfellows and time will tell whether he can meet the hopes of supporters desperate for change. However, this is another personal triumph for a decent man born in a slum who has travelled such distance in life.

Much attention focused on a former footballer’s success in politics. Yet Mr Weah’s triumph means 2017 was bookended by two electoral breakthroughs in west Africa, all the more resonant as demagogues and despots abuse democracy elsewhere.

Mr Weah succeeds Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, to become Liberia’s 25th president.…  Seguir leyendo »

Youth supporters campaign for soccer legend Sen. George Weah, Liberian presidential candidate, during a rally in Monrovia, Liberia in August 2017. Weah and Joseph Boakai will face off in the final election round, now scheduled for Dec. 26. (Ahmed Jallanzo/EPA)

After a delay of over a month, Liberia will move ahead and hold a runoff presidential election on Dec. 26. The contest pits George Weah, a retired soccer star and junior senator, against Joseph Boakai, septuagenarian vice president. Boakai was outpolled in the first round in October and appears to be the underdog.

Originally slated for Nov. 7, the second round of balloting was delayed following an unsuccessful judicial challenge by the Liberty Party, whose candidate, Charles Brumskine, alleged fraud, and finished a distant third with less than 10 percent of the vote.

An elected president has not transferred power to another in Liberia since 1944.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ed Sheeran performing during Z100’s Jingle Ball at Madison Square Garden on December 8. Credit Chad Batka for The New York Times

Ed Sheeran may be the toast of Buckingham Palace, having received one of the country’s highest honors, the Order of the British Empire, for his services to music and charity. But last week he also received a dubious distinction: the star of the “most offensive” charity campaign of 2017. A charity watchdog group granted him its annual Rusty Radiator Award, accusing him and other celebrities of producing “poverty porn.”

In the video, Mr. Sheeran travels to Liberia, the eighth-poorest country in the world, which was ravaged by Ebola between 2014 and 2015. He sees two homeless boys sleeping on the beach and is troubled by the situation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Voting takes place in Nimba County, Liberia, last month. (Photo: Agnieszka Paczynska)

On Nov. 6, the Liberian Supreme Court postponed the presidential runoff election between Sen. George Weah, from the Congress for Democratic Change, and Vice President Joseph Boakai, of the ruling Unity Party. It had been scheduled for the following day.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was not a candidate, having completed two six-year terms.

Thus, this was to be the first peaceful and democratic transfer of power.

International and domestic observers had judged the Oct. 10 election as peaceful and generally well conducted, even though they did note some challenges, including some overcrowded precincts, some voters with voter cards but not on voter rolls, and some polling officials inconsistently applying procedures.…  Seguir leyendo »

Supporters of soccer legend George Weah rally for the official launch of the senator’s presidential campaign at the party headquarters on Aug. 19 in Monrovia, Liberia. Liberia’s presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for Oct. 10. (Ahmed Jallanzo/European Pressphoto Agency)

In landmark elections slated for Oct. 10, Liberians will vote in the country’s third postwar presidential and legislative races. Incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — Africa’s first female president — is ineligible to run because of constitutionally mandated term limits. So January 2018 will mark the first time in recent memory that a democratically elected Liberian president will hand power to a similarly elected head of state.

A nation of 4.5 million people, Liberia is a sliver of a country in West Africa “founded” in 1847 by black migrants from the United States, the Caribbean and the Congo River basin. Clashes between these settlers and the 16 ethnic groups already occupying the territory spiraled Liberia into more than a century of political upheavals.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, center, surrounded by heavy security visiting to quarantined neighborhood in Monrovia, Liberia, in 2014. Credit Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

One of the saddest stories of this year has been the death of Salome Karwah, a Liberian health worker who was featured on the cover of Time magazine as a fighter in the 2014 Ebola epidemic.

She lost most of her family to the disease. She was also infected, but she recovered to return to the clinical front lines to care for hundreds of other patients. Earlier this year in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, she died from complications of childbirth.

Her death draws new attention to the governing structure in Liberia. The scope of the dysfunction that Ebola revealed is beyond what can be chalked up simply to being a weak state in West Africa.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man walks past a billboard to educate Liberians about the treatment of Ebola in Monrovia on July 10, 2015. (Ahmed Jallanzo/European Pressphoto Agency)

Liberia was finally declared Ebola-free a year ago this month. The 2013-2015 outbreak wreaked havoc on the lives of thousands of Liberians, infecting at least 10,675 and killing 4,809. Many more were affected: 4 in 10 Liberians reported having a relative or close friend die during the outbreak.

During Liberia’s epidemic, analysts pointed to multiple obstacles blocking effective response: inadequate health facilities and resources, citizens’ mistrust of government, and the slow international response. There were questions about whether the Ebola outbreak would have severe consequences for Liberia’s already embattled government, leaving citizens even more distrustful of government and its ability to protect and provide for them.…  Seguir leyendo »

Werner respondeded to the criticism by altering the plan; now Bridge is to operate 50 schools next year, while another 70 will be chosen in a competitive process. Others on the short list (Tuesday is the deadline for final proposals) include Omega Schools, a Ghana-based chain of 38 private schools; Rising Academies, which operates three schools in Sierra Leone; and BRAC Liberia, a branch of the world’s largest anti-poverty group, which operates free schools for the most marginalized students. At the end of the project year, an outside evaluator will measure results, leaving data for Liberia’s next administration to ponder. So this plan is now far less radical than when first envisioned.…  Seguir leyendo »

Celebrations erupted Saturday in Monrovia after Liberia was declared Ebola-free. Credit Ahmed Jallanzo/European Pressphoto Agency

On Saturday, the World Health Organization declared Liberia to be Ebola-free, recognizing that there had been no new cases since the end of March. While its neighbors Sierra Leone and Guinea still wrestle with this virologic demon, this is a moment for reflection and cautious optimism in Liberia. The world must ensure that what happened in Liberia never happens again — there, or anywhere.

Only eight months ago, the most tragic scenes were still unfolding in Liberia, one of the three countries hardest hit by the outbreak. Newly built treatment centers sat empty while bodies of the dead, and nearly dead, lay in the streets.…  Seguir leyendo »

El brote de ébola que comenzó el año pasado en Guinea, Sierra Leona y Liberia, tres de los cuatro países de la Unión del Río Mano, es el más grave registrado desde que en 1976 se diagnosticó esa enfermedad por primera vez en el África central. Las consecuencias de la epidemia han sido devastadoras y han puesto en entredicho los importantes avances socioeconómicos de nuestros tres países después de decenios de conflictos e inestabilidad.

Hasta ahora, esa región ha registrado un total de 25.791 casos y 10.689 muertes, casi diez veces el número de muertes de todas las epidemias de ébola combinadas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Yes, We Were Warned About Ebola

The conventional wisdom among public health authorities is that the Ebola virus, which killed at least 10,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, was a new phenomenon, not seen in West Africa before 2013. (The one exception was an anomalous case in Ivory Coast in 1994, when a Swiss primatologist was infected after performing an autopsy on a chimpanzee.)

The conventional wisdom is wrong. We were stunned recently when we stumbled across an article by European researchers in Annals of Virology: “The results seem to indicate that Liberia has to be included in the Ebola virus endemic zone.” In the future, the authors asserted, “medical personnel in Liberian health centers should be aware of the possibility that they may come across active cases and thus be prepared to avoid nosocomial epidemics,” referring to hospital-acquired infection.…  Seguir leyendo »