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60 minutes, 2006, Producer / Director: Steven Ross
ABOUT THE FILM
"The documentary powerfully captures the crisis mode of Liberia as it struggles to transition from a long and brutal civil war toward a sustainable peace. The real task of reconstruction and reform now begins."
Elwood Dunn, Sewanee: the University of the South
"This is just the right film at exactly the right time, as Liberia finally begins to turn the corner on a quarter century of violence and tragedy."
Liberia: A Fragile Peace is a perfect follow-up to Liberia: An Uncivil War, picking up the Liberian saga in October 2003, with the departure of the despotic Charles Taylor, the arrival of interim President Gyude Bryant and the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping force. More than a historical record, however, this film is an ideal case study in how difficult it is to rebuild a society once it has lapsed into anarchy, a condition afflicting more and more nations around the world. The success or failure of the Liberian experience could have long-lasting impact on peace-keeping missions in the future.
Perhaps it was only when Liberians began to deposit their corpses around the gates of the U.S. embassy that Americans were finally shamed into working behind the scenes with ECOWAS and the UN to broker a peace initiative for the country they had founded in 1845. The accords had four major points. First, Taylor would leave Liberia. Second, the UN would deploy a 15,000 strong peace keeping force, the largest UN peace keeping force in the world. Third, this force would oversee the fragile peace and implement a demobilization program for the former combatants on all sides. The rubric for this program was: disarm, demobilize, rehabilitate, reintegrate. It is proving an immense task for the government to provide psychological services, vocational education and job placement for young 'soldiers' who know nothing but 14 years of civil war and have no skills but looting. The young former militiamen remain a volatile element, difficult to reintegrate into the new society.
Finally the peace initiative called for the formation of a provisional government comprised of recent mortal enemies. This interim government has proven almost as kleptocratic as the former regimes; when you ask for a document to be signed in Liberia you may still be told that, 'My pen is out of ink,' meaning that a bribe will be needed. Although $500 million of international aid has been promised, not much of it has been expended because of this corruption. On a more positive note, a democratic election, the first in the nation's history, was held in October 2005. In the November runoff between a charismatic young soccer star and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a female Harvard trained economist, Johnson-Sirleaf emerged as the first woman to be elected head of an African state. The question remains: where in the Liberian political class will administrators be found who will be dedicated to government accountability and transparency?
An effort to rebuild this war weary nation is being made. Systematically, with UN involvement, security has been achieved. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are returning to homes without electricity or running water. 85% of the people are unemployed; 70% survive on under 70 cents a day. Liberia demonstrates to the international community that reestablishing an economy and civil society requires a long-term commitment. But for a people who have known only death and devastation for too long, two things exist on the ground today which have not been there for many years: peace and hope.