Friday, October 13, 2006

Required Paragraph for NGOs and Liberian Lawmakers

As I go through all the recent social science reports I can find on Liberia, everyone's got a different take on what caused the war. This passage from a 2005 report on returnee kids made me think about it differently, again, and I like the overall message:

What we must keep in mind is that, until 1980, Liberia was defacto an apartheid state - but because a black rather than white elite ruled Liberia, it was not a major concern for the international community. For the agencies now working for the improvement of living conditions and human rights, this should matter a lot, both as a means of understanding the war and as a precondition for their policy interventions. Of particular relevance is the fact that the spectre of war is nothing new in Liberia; indeed, the argument can be made that Liberia has been at 'war' with itself from the very beginning of its existence as an independent state. This first and foremost a 'war' over the questions of what it means to be a Liberian, and how the polity of the country should be constituted. The task for the various stakeholders currently involved in Liberia is not simply putting Liberia back together again, but - for the first time - constructing a state and a population based on the principle of inclusion instead of exclusion.

-Morten Boas and Anne Hatloy, After the 'Storm': Economic Among Returning Youths. The Case of Voinjama [big pdf]


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