"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


the liberia question

The few American Africa-watchers who hadn't already left their posts for the 4th of July holiday on Friday were all abuzz over the news that Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had apparently been banned from holding public office for thirty years by the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC organization was tasked with exposing crimes committed during the country's 2+ decades of on-again, off-again civil war. Johnson Sirleaf, who supported Charles Taylor against Samuel Doe in the 1980's, and then the LURD against Taylor in the 1990's, was apparently therefore considered to have committed war crimes because of her support for Taylor. Not expressing regret over those actions was apparently enough to land her on the list of politicians banned from holding future office in Liberia.

Or that's how it was initially. Since the report's release last Tuesday (and the firestorm of criticism that followed), the TRC retracted its report. What will happen next seems by all accounts to be completely unclear.

What does all this mean? As Chris Blattman points out, for one thing, it serves as a good lesson for Westerners that there are very few angels or demons in politics everywhere, including African countries. (As he also notes, how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would purport to enforce the ban is far from clear.) It is almost always more complicated than it seems.

Glenna Gordon at Scarlett Lion has a great piece that explains what happened and why in much greater detail. Can any readers with Liberia expertise enlighten us further?


Blogger Shelby said...

First, it's worth noting that the TRC report was not retracted because Sirleaf's name was on the list of those who should be barred from public office. Her name still appears on the list in the new report: https://www.trcofliberia.org/reports/final/final-report/trc-of-liberia-final-report-volume-ii.pdf (page 271)

The only difference I can discern between the two reports is that the new report recommends 50 people be barred from holding public office, while the old report had a list of 52 people. The 2 people in the retracted report but not the new one are Harry Greaves Jr., managing director of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, and someone called "Cllr. Rogers."

I have more on this at my blog, http://allabuja.blogspot.com/2009/07/harry-greaves-jr-recommended-for.html

Monday, July 06, 2009 8:00:00 AM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

Thanks, Shelby. My understanding is that the first report was issued, then the second that you mentioned came out with the two fewer names, then they retracted the report altogether. Do you know anything about that?

Monday, July 06, 2009 9:19:00 AM

Blogger Shelby said...

Everything you said is right, except that it doesn't look like they've retracted the report altogether. It's still up on their website, www.trcofliberia.org (It's called Volume 2 of TRC Report.)

Monday, July 06, 2009 9:56:00 AM


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