President Akufo-Addo has called on the leaders and people of the West African state of Liberia to do everything within their power to consolidate the democratic experiment on which they embarked 20 years ago as they go to the polls in October to elect a president.
Speaking as the special guest of honour at the 176th Independence Day celebration in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, on Wednesday (26 July 2023), President Akufo-Addo said Liberia is a unique country in West Africa that has shown resilience and the will to persevere in the face of many challenges and obstacles.
Being the only country on the African continent that did not suffer colonisation by a foreign country, President Akufo-Addo said, Liberia has a present generation of leaders and citizens who have a duty to ensure that the country does not lapse into its painful past of war and instability.
Today’s leaders and citizens can do this by ensuring that their choice of rule of law and democratic systems of governance is maintained and strengthened.
“Giving your people hope for a peaceful, violence-free election, the theme for this celebration imposes a sacred responsibility on each and every Liberian to contribute [his] quota to the construction of a happy, prosperous Liberia in which all Liberians, particularly the youth, the women and the vulnerable in society, will have equal opportunities to realise their potential and build lives of dignity.
“That is when the country’s independence will continue to be meaningful. Giving our people hope means you must always bear in mind the words of the oft-cited maxim which says; ’That which unites us is far greater than that which divides us,’” President Akufo-Addo told the leaders and people of Liberia.
“So, whether you are Bassa, Gio, Grebo, Kpelle, Kru, Via, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, or from any other ethnic group, I appeal to you to look beyond from where you have come. You must deepen the cohesion among you and promote the spirit of reconciliation for the sake of your beloved country, its progress and prosperity,” President Akufo-Addo added.
Accra Peace Agreement
In his address, President Akufo-Addo recalled the role he played in 2003 in the search for peace in Liberia. He said that 20 years later, it will be worth celebrating the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement in order to ensure that Liberia maintains the peace.
“Before spending eight years in the political wilderness as the leader of Ghana’s opposition, I had the privilege and honour of serving in the government of the outstanding Ghanaian statesman [and] second president of Ghana’s Fourth Republic, His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor.
“Intense negotiations ensured finally the coming into effect of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which, as its name signifies, was negotiated and signed in Accra. Indeed, Accra became briefly then a microcosm of Monrovia, as virtually the entire Liberian political class resided there.
“This agreement established the postwar two-year transitional government which by consensus named the late Charles Gyude Bryant as interim chairman.
“The foundation for lasting peace in Liberia was made ultimately by the peaceful departure of the former president Charles Taylor from office and the country, and by the conclusion of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the successful implementation of which brought about the election of the first female leader in the history of the continent, Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and subsequently made possible a peaceful transition of power to President George Weah after two terms in office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,” President Akufo-Addo said.
“It is appropriate that next month, the month of August, we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement. It was imperative at the time and still is that Ghana involve herself in seeking the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts, resolutions that invariably sought to promote democratic outcomes.
“For we believe that the more Ghana gets involved in enhancing peace and democracy within our region, the more we guarantee ours at home,” President Akufo-Addo further said.
Liberia continues to consolidate its democratic gains and rebuild its war-torn economy. Since the end of the Liberian Civil War in 2003, the country has held three national elections generally perceived as free and fair.
It has also taken on the difficult task of rebuilding its economy and strengthening its education and health-care delivery systems. The 2014-2015 Ebola virus disease outbreak drained the government of vitally needed resources, slowed economic growth and delayed key development projects. A worldwide response led by the United States helped bring the worst of the outbreak under control.
With 28 ethnic groups and languages, Liberia is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world.
For hundreds of years, the Mali and Songhai Empires claimed most of Liberia. Beginning in the 15th century, European traders began establishing outposts along the Liberian coast. Unlike its neighbours, however, Liberia did not fall under European colonial rule. In the early 19th century, the United States began sending freed enslaved people and other people of colour to Liberia to establish settlements.
In 1847, these settlers declared independence from the US, writing their own constitution and establishing Africa’s first republic. Early in Liberia’s history, tensions arose between the Americo-Liberian settlers and the indigenous population.
In 1980, Samuel Doe, who was from the indigenous population, led a military coup and ushered in a decade of authoritarian rule. In December 1989, Charles Taylor launched a rebellion against Doe’s regime that led to a prolonged civil war in which Doe was killed.
A period of relative peace in 1997 permitted an election that brought Taylor to power. In 2000, fighting resumed. An August 2003 peace agreement ended the war and prompted President Taylor’s resignation.
He was later convicted by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague for his involvement in Sierra Leone’s civil war. In late 2005, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf became the president after two years of transitional governments; she was the first female head of state in Africa.
In 2011, Johnson Sirleaf won re-election but she struggled to rebuild Liberia’s economy, particularly following the 2014-15 Ebola epidemic, and to reconcile a nation still recovering from 14 years of fighting.
In 2017, the former soccer star George Weah won the presidential runoff, marking the first successful transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another since the end of Liberia’s civil wars. Like his predecessor, Weah has struggled to improve the country’s economy. The next presidential election is scheduled for 10 October 2023.