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Origins of Chaos in Liberia
by Courtney

In Recent Past the media has graphically illustrated the current problems that Liberia is experiencing. The video footage showed young children and adolescents, rising against their government structure. While taking a look at the situation objectively, one may ask why were such actions taking place; nevertheless the media failed to provide a thorough explanation to its viewers. In order to understand the conflicts, it is essential that one becomes familiar with the political and military history of the country.

Since the establishment of the country in the 19th century Liberia has been experiencing political strife and socio-economic confusion, which has undoubtedly affected its population. The country was founded as a state for freed slaves from the United States in 1820. Conflicts began to manifest as the freed slaves colonized the land. For an indigenous population that was now being imposed upon geographically and culturally, had occupied the land for centuries. The population soon became composed of Americo-Liberians, the indigenous population, and other slaves freed from boats in route to America.

Due to the diversity in the population the groups did not identify with each other; therefore the political system that was organized did not encompass all populations. At this point the country began to experience the problems associated with nation building, which are identity, legitimacy, penetration, participation, and distribution. Since the populations were loyal to their ethnicity rather than a nationality, an identity crisis emerged. Given that the political system was not designed to benefit all, its legitimacy is questionable, so the government had neither a legal or moral right to operate while excluding persons form its structure. The government had further problems, regarding penetration it could not assert its authority throughout the country. Concerning distribution, many parts of Liberia were left underdeveloped while other sections were modernizing and flourishing economically.

The retention of power by the Americo-Liberian government led to uprisings against their structure. Their style of governing was unacceptable to not only its subjects, but also the League of Nations. Many of Liberia’s leaders governed and attempted to rule in favor of themselves and their party. This was the case with William Tubman and Williams Tolbert who succeeded him in 1971. Their political agendas included governmental dishonesty and corruption. Often times providing personal friends and family with government positions. This factor further contributed to the chaos, which included an absence of freedom of speech and protection from the government. Several organizations were created with the intent to restore peace to Liberia but their productiveness was a futile effort against the government. Such organizations were the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA), and The Progressive Alliance of Liberia (PAL).

In 1980 there was a military coup that was headed by Samuel Doe. During the takeover carried out by the military, William Tolbert and his cabinet members were killed. The country would now be operated as a military state for several years. During the years 1980 to 1990 Samuel Doe remained in power, first by winning an election of which the outcome fueled skepticism in the integrity of the election, and secondly by having his opposition executed. Doe’s years in power illustrated the corruption that the previous governments indulged in, which included a misallocation of funds and impractical politics. Overall the actions of Tubman, Tolbert, and Doe need to be closely examined so that succeeding political leaders can deal with the socio-economic crisis more effectively.



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