Liberia: What it takes to push peace-building to the next level
Liberia shows that recovery is complicated and hard – but possible.
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The head of the Ghanaian battalion in the city of Buchanan, a veteran of six global peacekeeping tours, pointed out that it means that “Liberians have to take responsibility for their own country if it is to make progress.” Until now they have preferred to rely on aid donors.Skip to next paragraph
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Right now, Liberia cannot feed itself and there is little appetite to work the land. But if Liberia is to be a sustained success story, it will have to get people working on the land where its biggest comparative advantage exists.
Low population density, rich soil, and plenty of water make it the perfect location for growing rice and other staples. As Patrick Mazimhaka, a veteran Rwandan and African Union politician notes, “One thing we have not got right is how difficult it seems to be for people to go back to agriculture after long wars.”
Liberia’s reluctance to return to agriculture could be about safety and land tenure. But another obstacle could be the fact that Liberia remains a country fraught with internal cleavages.
Not only are there schisms between the descendants of returned slaves (so-called Americo-Liberians or Congos) and local ethnic groups, but also, different tribes and different religions. The country’s slogan, “The love of liberty brought us here,” seems to apply only to the 5 percent of the population made up of the descendants of freed slaves who, until Master Sgt. Samuel Doe’s brutal regime in the 1980s, ruled Liberia since its creation in 1854.
The damage to local mind-sets by long-term violence must be repaired. The key in doing so is leadership.
Many are mired in a pernicious combination of apathy and entitlement, where carelessness and petty corruption is pervasive.
Not far from the gates of a $10 million hotel complex is squalor. It is not an unusual sight to see a local drop his trousers and defecate on the beach apparently oblivious to passersby.
It’s changing this careless attitude, and ingraining a culture of responsibility, that is the biggest, and probably generational, challenge that Liberians will have to handle if they are to continue to ascend the recovery ladder.