In the aftermath of explosive civil wars in Africa during the 1990s and 2000s, the establishment of multi-party elections has often been heralded by the West as signaling the culmination of the conflict and the beginning of a period of democratic rule. However, the outcomes of these elections are very rarely uniform, with just as many countries returning to conflict as not. In Civil War and Democracy in West Africa, David Harris uses the examples of Sierra Leone and Liberia to examine the nexus of international and domestic politics in these post-conflict elections. Although in essence a domestic procedure to select a new political leadership, outside forces also hold considerable influence - as has been evidenced by the arrest and trial in The Hague of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. While the political capacity of parties, sometimes transformed from former military rebel groups, varies considerably and has huge repercussions on the elections, the shift to a more liberal international discourse has also had its effects, particularly in the criminalisation of former combatants and the often arbitrary application of post-conflict 'justice'. It is both the national and the international factors that combine to shape the candidates, results and outcomes of the polls. Beginning with a sensitive and thought-provoking analysis of the road to civil conflict, Harris locates the post-conflict elections within the context of the region's various political leaders, parties and factions, coming to the conclusion that it is political, rather than legal, solutions that are more likely to lead to a more effective reconciliation and to enhance any positive political change. This book is thus of significance to both Western and African policy makers, and also to students and scholars who wish to engage with the critical issues of conflict resolution and reconciliation both in Sierra Leone and Liberia in particular and in the wider region in general.
Civil War and Democracy in West Africa
Conflict Resolution, Elections and Justice in Sierra Leone and Liberia