The Republic of Liberia has endured two long civil wars that devastated the country in the 1990s and 2000s. The Liberian Civil Wars were fundamentally sociopolitical. Indeed, since its inception, Liberia has encountered an accentuated tribalism. The Republic of Liberia was founded by the American Colonization Society in the early 1800s by Robert Finley. The goal of creating Liberia was to establish a new territory in Africa where freed slaves could live in harmony with each other. The freed slaves who settled in Liberia became the Americo-Liberians. They were the minority group that held political, economic, and financial power over the majority, which was the indigenous Liberians. Thus, the Americo-Liberians established a system of Apartheid where they imposed their cultural values upon the indigenous Liberians for more than a century, Americo-Liberians dominated life in Liberia until 1980. The system that the former American freed slaves imposed in Liberian systematically marginalized indigenous Liberians.
In 1980, Samuel Kanyon Doe became President by overthrowing William Tolbert, who was the last Americo-Liberian president. At first, his rise to power was welcomed by many but then, his government became very authoritarian. Freedoms were suppressed and corruption thrived. Prior to this coup, Liberia was considered one of the most stable democracies in Africa where elections were held without any conundrums. Although Samuel K. Doe ended more than a hundred years of Americo-Liberian domination, his presidency did not improve Liberia’s sociopolitical ecosystem. He practiced tribalism and nepotism at the highest levels of government, which evidently weakened Liberian political institutions.
In 1990, Liberia fell into a civil war after Samuel K. Doe was brutally assassinated by Prince Johnson’s rebel forces. Charles Taylor, who was a warlord and represented another faction of the rebellion, seized power and became President of Liberia in the early 1990s. Under his presidency, Liberia experienced one of the most brutal and excruciating civil wars in the history of Africa. Economic activities completely stopped, most major businesses were destroyed or heavily damaged, most investors pull out their investments from the country, and Liberia was in complete chaos. Under Charles Taylor’s leadership, Liberia was perhaps the most politically unstable nation on the planet and foreign investors avoided investing in Liberia. Due to political instability, the country experienced abject poverty. The Liberian democratic system was utterly destroyed.
In 2006, Liberia elected Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was a Harvard-trained economist. She became the first woman ever to be elected to a such high level of government. Her priority was to rebuild the country first by rebuilding the political system. Political stability was key to revitalizing the Liberian economy. Investors wanted to be sure that their investments were secured and protected by strong political institutions.
Source: World Bank
Liberia prospered economically under President Sirleaf’s leadership, even though Liberia was still considered one of the poorest countries on the planet. When she took power in 2006, Liberia’s GDP per capita was $323. At the end of her presidency in 2018, Liberia’s GDP per capita was $700. This was a 216% growth in income per capita. What the presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf epitomized the most was the need for political stability as a catalyst for economic growth. George Weah, the incumbent president, is continuing the work of President Johnson Sirleaf by prioritizing political stability in Liberia. Liberia has been better economically since President Sirleaf. Even though there is still a lot of work to do, Liberia started to attract important investors to develop the country’s infrastructures. This is a sign that the country is heading in the right direction. Liberia set itself on the path to political stability. We can only hope that this path is an enduring one.