• Liberia in 2011: Still Ploughing its own Democratic Furrow?

      Harris, David; Lewis, T. (2013-01)
      The momentous 2005 Liberian elections followed a devastating civil war. Remarkably, the winner of the presidential race was a woman, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the second-placed was a footballer, George Weah. In addition, in stark contrast to many African elections in particular those in neighbouring Sierra Leone, voting patterns were fragmented: voters often chose President, Senators and Representatives from different parties or independents. Much can be explained by a remarkably level playing-field delivered by an interim coalition government providing no incumbent. In 2011, the Johnson-Sirleaf incumbency stood to significantly change the dynamics. This article seeks to discern whether Liberian elections maintain their unusual patterns, whether Liberia has joined the ranks of African patron-clientelist, dominant-party or two-party systems, in particular compared to that of Sierra Leone, or whether there are new twists in its democratic development.
    • 'Paper Protection Mechanisms': Child soldiers and the International Protection of Children in Africa's Conflict Zones.

      Francis, David J. (2007)
      The arrest and prosecution in March 2006 of the former Liberian warlord-President Charles Taylor by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, for war crimes including the recruitment and use of child soldiers, and the arrest and prosecution of the Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, by the International Criminal Court, accused of enlisting child soldiers in the DRC war, have raised expectations that finally international conventions and customary international laws protecting children in conflict zones will now have enforcement powers. But why has it taken so long to protect children in conflict situations despite the volume of international treaties and conventions? What do we know about the phenomenon of child soldiering, and why are children still routinely recruited and used in Africa's bloody wars? This article argues that against the background of unfolding events relating to prosecution for enlistment of child soldiers, the international community is beginning to wake up to the challenge of enforcing its numerous 'paper protection' instruments for the protection of children. However, a range of challenges still pose serious threats to the implementation and enforcement of the international conventions protecting children. Extensive research fieldwork in Liberia and Sierra Leone over three years reveals that the application of the restrictive and Western-centric definition and construction of a 'child' and 'childhood' raises inherent difficulties in the African context. In addition, most war-torn and post-conflict African societies are faced with the challenge of incorporating international customary laws into their domestic laws. The failure of the international community to enforce its standards on child soldiers also has to do with the politics of ratification of international treaties, in particular the fear by African governments of setting dangerous precedents, since they are also culpable of recruitment and use of child soldiers.
    • “We don’t know who be who”: post-party politics, forum shopping and Liberia’s 2017 elections

      Harris, David; Pailey, R.N. (2020)
      Liberia’s 2017 elections represented a watershed moment in the country’s political history. In addition to completing the first democratic transfer of power from one president to another since 1944, it resulted in wide representation across many different parties and independents as well as high levels of legislative turn-overs. Additionally, these polls brought forward unprecedented numbers of party reconfigurations, increased levels of defections, and politicians/parties losing abysmally in presumed ethno-regional bases. In this article, we argue that Liberia currently exists in a post-war arena of “post-party” politics where a profound disregard for parties is the norm, and in which the electorate and politicians alike forum shop for candidates and/or political configurations they presume will deliver the best results at national, sub-national and local levels. Although literature exploring electoral trends in Africa tends to over-emphasize ethno-regionalism as a driver and constraint in the choices of voters and politicians, we demonstrate instead that Liberians make relatively informed, strategic decisions about political alliances and ballot casting thereby subverting allegiances to ethnicity and region. By further eschewing party loyalties, Liberians have gradually become astute forum shoppers in a political marketplace that makes running for office and voting complex undertakings.