Having undergone years of civil war and dictatorships, the Liberian people could have been forgiven for thinking that the 2006 elections were just another false dawn.
Six years later foreign direct investment has more than tripled and the president has become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. It is still an illiterate and poverty-stricken state but Liberia has become a functioning quasi-democracy and, crucially regained a semblance of stability.
The flood of foreign investment that followed the 2006 democratic elections would never have happened if not for the stability President Sirleaf and her government have brought to Liberia. Under Sirleaf’s guidance Liberia successfully lobbied for debt relief, with all Liberia’s external debt essentially relieved by 2010. Great things have also been achieved in the domestic sphere – a 2007 Executive Act prescribed free and compulsory education for primary school children across the country.
Now that it has established these firm foundations Liberia has a fantastic opportunity to start tackling its deep-rooted poverty problems.
Liberia’s unlikely journey to respectability has connotations beyond its borders. Many political commentators have been gloomy about the future prospects of the countries that have participated in the Arab Spring. The economy and security have been two of the most prevalent concerns.
The Liberian example shows that the vacuum created but the departure of a dictator does not have to filled by another despot or the fall into war, Libya and co. have a real, tangible chance of building a successful democracy. Through stout political leadership and citizenry willing to eschew a struggle for power, the states for the Arab Spring can emulate little Liberia’s success.
Nathan Davies 06.03.2012
Picture source: Odd Andersen, AFP. Liberia’s two Nobel Peace Prize winners flank the Yemeni winner.