Liberia's civil war ended 10 years ago, closing one of the most brutal chapters in human history. One in 4 Liberians was displaced or killed. Instances of cannibalism epitomized the inhumanity as Liberia became an archetype of anarchy, greed, and evil.
Today, Liberia may be the most remarkable postconflict success story of the modern era – thanks to smart US foreign policy and the Liberian people's choice of peace over war. But a dangerous paradox threatens to unravel the country's hard-won gains: Despite the progress, central drivers of violence remain. The war has ended, but underlying social and economic tensions continue – as is likely to occur in other countries affected by civil war, from Syria to Libya to Congo.
The unresolved issues in Liberia boil down to three interrelated challenges – exaggerated in perception, but grounded in fact – that have polarized Liberia since its founding in 1847: elite dominance over the majority indigenous population; the mutual disconnect between the capital, Monrovia, and the rest of the country; and lack of trust in government. If left unaddressed, this cocktail promises future instability.
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