This shocking and disturbing film meets some of the main players from Liberia’s most recent civil war.
Liberia is a country with a turbulent past. Established in 1847 as an American colony and settled by freed American slaves it remained largely undeveloped until the 1940s. After a period of growth and relative stability tensions grew between the “Americo-Liberian” ruling minority and the indigenous African population, until in 1980 the government was overthrown in a coup led by Samuel Doe. Doe was supported by the USA throughout the Cold War period, but later became an embarrassment and support for his regime was withdrawn.
Doe was deposed in 1990 by Charles Taylor, captured and mutilated in front of watching TV crews, before being executed and then eaten. Taylor had been educated in the US and spent a brief sojourn in prison there for alleged embezzlement before “escaping”, eventually ending up in Libya where he received military training. Taylor later claimed the CIA had abetted his escape, and whilst this was never confirmed it was confirmed that he had indeed been a CIA asset.
Taylor then became involved in the civil war in Liberia’s diamond rich neighbour, Sierra Leone. Domestic opposition to his rule grew, culminating the the Second Liberian Civil War, following which he was eventually arrested and convicted of war crimes. Up to half a million people were killed in that war and as this video shows, Liberia is far from recovery.
It’s easy to take a superficial view of these events, their horror and violence, and to draw negative and even racist conclusions about Africa. I would remind you though to take a look back at European and American history before doing so, and the centuries of brutal warfare, slavery and colonialism, culminating in WWI and WWII, before finally the peace and stability we take for granted today was achieved.
Most African states were formed by agreements between colonialist powers without regard for the ethnic and tribal make-up of the people within their borders. Throughout the colonialist period African societies were unable to develop the kinds of civil institutions on which democracies are based, suffering further setbacks when finally achieving liberation and independence as the colonial civil services were simply dismantled and removed. Since then, they have been subject to constant interference, especially during the Cold War which was played out through proxy wars across the African continent and as a result of the rich resources Africa possesses which are coveted by acquisitive corporations and competing national interests.
With that introduction complete, as I think context is important, prepare to be shocked, horrified, amused and amazed…