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Liberia is a tiny country on the coast of West Africa with a population slightly over 3.4 million.1 Despite its small size it has had an enormous impact on the region of West Africa, particularly due to the actions of Charles Taylor. In fact, it was through following the activities of Taylor as both a rebel leader and a president that I first became interested in the interaction between local leaders and international peace missions. Living in the region at the time of the first Liberian civil war, I was witness to the enormous influx of refugees from both Liberia and its neighbor, Sierra Leone, which was heavily influenced by Taylor’s actions. From my perspective as an outsider, it seemed that Taylor and his National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) were close to devastating the region, so imagine my surprise when he was elected as president of Liberia in the 1997 transitional elections with an overwhelming majority of 75 percent. It left me wondering how an internationally led democratic transition resulted in the election of someone whom most external observers labeled a warlord.
KeywordsLocal Leadership Refugee Camp Security Force Democratic Transition Transitional Government
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