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Liberia: From Despotism to Freedom

April 26, 2012 2 minute Read by Amanda Schnetzer

Today a special court at The Hague found former Liberian president Charles Taylor guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.  He was convicted of aiding and abetting rebels in Sierra Leone who committed horrendous acts—including rape, murder, and recruiting of child soldiers—during a civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002.  An estimated 50,000 people perished.  Taylor’s Liberia also suffered terribly under this warlord turned president. Forced from power and into exile in 2003, Taylor stands in sharp contrast to freedom advocate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who in 2005 was elected president of Liberia and became the first woman democratically elected to serve as a head of state in Africa.  “[W]e inherited a devastated country, dysfunctional institutions, destroyed infrastructure.  A debt overhang, debt-distressed country. Trauma. But we also had a population that was tired of war. And wanted to be normal again,” Sirleaf said in an interview for the Bush Center’s Freedom Collection. No longer among the ranks of the world’s “not free” countries, according to Freedom House, Liberia today is an electoral democracy in which corruption is under attack and basic rights are generally protected.  Sirleaf acknowledges that “Yes, there are a lot of…disappointments and dissent…[P]eople think that their lives are going to change immediately, and there´s going be a magic wand….Just the ability to make it happen takes longer than we think.”  But she also rightly sees that “we´ve come a long way. And that the future´s bright.” The Freedom Collection is a permanent archive of the struggle for human freedom and democracy around the world.  Visit www.freedomcollection.org This post was written by Amanda Schnetzer, Director of Human Freedom at the George W. Bush Institute.


Author

Amanda Schnetzer
Amanda Schnetzer

Amanda Schnetzer is Director of Global Initiatives at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas, Texas. In this role, she is responsible for developing innovative research, programmatic, and policy efforts to advance societies rooted in political and economic freedom and to empower women to lead in their communities and countries. Previously she served as the Bush Institute’s founding director of the Human Freedom Initiative. 

Amanda has twenty years of experience in the international arena and a background in public policy research and analysis, public affairs, and management of diverse, high-level stakeholders. As senior fellow and director of studies at Freedom House in New York, Amanda guided research for the organization’s definitive studies of freedom. She began her career at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, supporting research on U.S. foreign policy and international politics. Amanda is a published writer and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She holds degrees from Georgetown University and Southern Methodist University, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

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