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1980 Coup Created Opportunity For Disputes...Professor Holsoe Diagnoses Liberia's Problems

The April 12, 1980 military coup created an opportunity for disputes to flare up in Liberia, which the True Whig Party (TWP) government had difficulty quashing, Professor Svend E. Holsoe said.

Dr. Holsoe, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Delaware said the overthrow of the TWP leadership in 1980, and with the new leadership favoring people of certain regions resulted into the weakening of the overarching control by force of the central government.

As a consequence, he said, there was an opportunity for disputes to flare up, which the authorities had difficulties quashing.

Professor Holsoe, author of several publications including books, book reviews monographs, edited works, bibliographic documentation and articles on Liberia, was testifying Tuesday at Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) ongoing Thematic Hearings on Historical Review at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion on Ashmun Street, Monrovia.

"The top was off the box, and disputes spilled out, thereby allowing local warlords to arise. As a consequence, some of the patterns of violent disruption, known from the past, began to re-emerge," Dr. Holsoe founding editor of the Liberian Studies Journal, Liberian Working Papers and Liberian Monograph Series, member of the African Studies Association and a founding member of the Liberian Studies Association said.

He said regional variations in Liberia are real and continue to exist, but recommended the need to re-impose central authority all over the country in order to return to tranquility.

He said it is necessary to acknowledge in any new political structure, that there are regional political and social differences, which any new structure of local governance will need to pay attention.

In the matter of dispute settlement, Dr. Holsoe said mechanisms need to be put in places that are appropriate. At the same time, he said a standardized legal system needs to be made operative across the country.

He said local people must be left to design within a general structure and political system that works best for themselves and not have the specifics of it imposed.

Dr. Holsoe said that Liberia has had dual legal system (the traditional and statutory) which he said had been a troubled boundary and proposed a unified legal system that would alleviate competitiveness between the two systems.

Under the theme: "Examining Liberia's Past: Reality, Myth, Falsehood and the Conflict", the hearings will provide a critical review and expert perspectives into Liberia's past not only for the purpose of understanding the historical antecedents to the conflict, but to ensure the country's history or national narrative reflected the experiences, beliefs and aspirations of Liberians of all backgrounds.

The hearing featuring the testimonies and presentations of historians, anthropologists, journalists, lawyers, politicians, diplomats and clergymen is intended to help Liberians rewrite their history by seeking to identify the issues that underpinned our history, divided us as a people and nearly eviscerated the state.

The hearings are focused on events between 1979 and 2003 and the national and external actors that helped to shape those events.

The TRC was agreed upon in the August 2003 Accra Peace Agreement and created by the TRC Act of 2005.

The TRC was established to "promote national peace, security, unity and reconciliation," and at the same time make it possible to hold perpetrators accountable for gross human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law that occurred in Liberia between January 1979 and October 2003.


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