Liberian Civil War Essay

During the scramble for African territory, in the 19th century, in which the majority of the African landmass was colonised by Europe, the US was able to secure a section of land on the west-coast which borders modern day Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire which was Liberia. The country was fairly obsolete to the US during its early days up until the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. During which, he ended the American civil war, and then ended slavery in the US.

However, before this time many whites in the northern US were worried about space and many southern Democrats (the two main parties were drastically different back then) were worried about mixing with the recently freed slaves. So to solve this problem the African Colonial Society was preemptively created in 1817 or ACS. The job given to the ACS was to transfer many of these recently freed slaves to foreign colonies once slavery was abolished. Abraham Lincoln was a supporter of these programs, as well as the altruistic Quakers, who were strongly opposed to the mistreatment of Black-Americans.

Many initial suggestions to where the freed slaves were made including the Caribbean island of Hispaniola and Central America, but eventually Liberia was chosen due to its moderate climate, similar to that of the South of the US, and also since it was one of the only pieces of African land yet to be claimed by Europeans. In 1821 Black-Americans began to arrive in Liberia, where they quickly set up the infrastructure and formed their own national identity.

Class divides slowly began to form between freed slaves and emancipated slaves who had also been sent there. Liberia eventually became independent in 1847, with the richer people favouring more Republican values (of the time), and the emancipated favouring the Whig party, who held much more conservative values.

However, in 1878 the Whig party was the dominating party, and Liberia essentially became a one-party state. Post-civil-war (1865) slavery was abolished and many blacks were emancipated, this lead to many rewards being offered to blacks moving to Liberia, and therefore a rapid growth in migration occurred. This group of Black-American colonists, who were dubbed, Americo-Liberians, viewed themselves as superior to the indigenous tribes in West-Africa, and a massive divide eventually formed between them, with the Americo-Liberians becoming the ruling elite, and the West-Africans becoming poorer and oppressed by the Americo-Liberians. Here connotations could be made to South-Africa, where the country was ruled by a rich white minority, with the blacks being oppressed by them, and holding resentment towards them, which would eventually result in violence. Liberia eventually became allies with America, with America having paid billions of dollars into developing the country’s infrastructure and industry, the country was also one of the only West-African countries not to turn to communism during the Cold-War.

Eventually, tensions between indigenous Liberians and Americo-Liberians exploded when, in 1980, Samuel Doe, a native Liberian, led a military coup and killed the then-president William Tolbert and assumed power, Doe held many fraudulent elections, and then established a military regime known as the People’s Redemption Council or PRC, which was extremely harsh upon Liberian citizens. There was massive mistreatment all around the country of the Gio and Mano ethnic groups who then came to massively resent Doe, and many used this to accuse him of preferring his own group, the Kahrn. In 1985 Thomas Quiwonkpa attempted a coup against Doe’s oppressive government, with forces from Sierra Leone, Thomas was forced to flee the country and was demoted from Commanding General of the Liberian army. The coup was a failure and Thomas was killed, his body was mutilated and displayed in Monrovia, his body was supposedly eaten. From this point, up until 1989, when the war broke out, a Liberian scholar called Charles Taylor, who was trained by Cote d’Ivoire as a guerilla fighter and was provided with a force of fighters which would eventually be used to fight Doe’s army, his force would join with the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, INPFL who were backed by Libya, a member of the NPFL prince Johnson then split off to form the Independent NPFL (INPFL). Taylor attacked against Doe in 1989, which signalled the start of the war, these attacked were a combination of his initial force and new forces from the north and ivory coast. Many disjointed and violent fights occurred between the INPFL and Doe’s forces in the streets of Liberia, the war was mainly fought with guerilla tactics, and many child soldiers were used to fight. Doe began to employ Generals to oversee parts of Liberia, all of whom were part of the Kahrn group, these generals would use any tactics necessary to defeat the INPFL, some of them would slaughter entire villages and cannibalize survivors of battles. The most famous of these generals being General Butt Naked, who was recently popularized through a series by Vice that was centred around him and other generals. General Butt Naked controlled a force made up only of child soldiers, who all practiced many disturbing things while fighting. Such as, fighting completely naked. The general believed that fighting naked made him immune to bullets, the general would also encourage his soldiers to join him in the cannibalism of survivors from villages. In 1990 Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed to deploy a joint military intervention force, with the Economic Community Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).

Later in 1990, Doe visits the newly established ECOMOG headquarters but is ambushed by the INPFL led by Prince Johnson. Doe was taken to the INPFL base in Cadwell, where he was tortured and interrogated before being publicly executed. After this, there are a series of peacemaking attempts in major regional cities, first 7 of these conferences fail, ECOWAS the proposes a conference in Banjul, Gambia to put forward the formation of the Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU.) However, the NPFL refuse to attend this and hostilities resume. There are a series of skirmishes in the city of Monrovia between the two major forces the NPFL and INPFL, many Generals and other former allies of Doe also form their own factions including the ALF and ULIMO, for a chance to gain power. ULIMO was the largest of the Doe supporting groups and was later accused of violating human-rights many times, before entering West-Liberia they had fought alongside the RUF, in 1991 they are able to take a lot of the area held by the NPFL and fight with them constantly until 1997. In 1992 ECOMOG declare an IGNU, in response to this the NPFL launch an attack on Monrovia but are severely pushed back by ECOMOG. In 1995 the main groups decide to sign a ceasefire in an event sponsored by ECOWAS the US and the UN, however, this ceasefire is short lived as heavy fighting in Monrovia breaks out in 1996. These fights lead to the evacuation of the city and the destruction of most of the city. The fighting is eventually ended by the Abju accords in Nigeria, which then leads to democratic elections in 1997, where Charles Taylor was elected president. In 1999, the second Liberian civil war started when Guinea backed Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) emerged in North-Liberia, in early 2003 the Movement for Democracy in Liberia emerged in the South, and through 1999-2003 fought government soldiers. The rebels began to approach Monrovia, and from July-August 2003 they besieged the city and shelled the city resulting in the deaths of many civilians, eventually, Charles Taylor was forced to give up office. Under the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreements, the country began a move into democracy, and in 2005 there was a general election after Gyude Bryant had been interim president since 2003. These wars killed over 20% of the Liberian population, led to mass emigration from the country and marked one of the fastest falls in economy and life-expectancy ever.

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