By Kate Hixon, Guest Blogger
On October 10, Liberians will vote in historic elections, heralding the first peaceful transfer of power between democratically elected leaders since 1944. While the elections are expected to be peaceful, there are some potential pitfalls, and the mixed legacy of President Sirleaf suggests that whoever wins will still have much to do if Liberia’s democratic development is to continue.
The significance of the vote
From 1989 to 1997 and 1999 to 2003, Liberia was engulfed in protracted and bloody civil wars that reflected societal divisions dating back to the 1800s. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, countless other atrocities were committed, children were enlisted as fighters by all sides, and most of the country’s infrastructure was destroyed. Given the duration and scope of these wars, virtually every Liberian was left with physical or psychological scars.
Sirleaf, who became the country’s first postwar president in January 2006, was tasked with rebuilding the country and repairing trust among its citizens. She won reelection in 2011, but by adhering to term limits this year, she has resisted the temptation of indefinite rule that ensnared her contemporaries in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda—all post conflict leaders who have clung to power rather than passing the baton. Sirleaf’s commitment to stepping down will create an expectation of competitive elections and a peaceful transfer of power, helping to solidify Liberia’s democracy.
Source: News Now / Freedom House