Courage, Principle and Ambition: Human Rights Activism in Liberia and Policy Implications for Taming
Journal of Human Rights Practice, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2011, pp. 113-127
15 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2012
Date Written: January 1, 2011
This study of human rights activism in Liberia shows how small-scale, peaceful advocacy for democracy and human rights can take place even in a resource-poor country where activists face considerable danger from repressive regimes. When repressive regimes manage to block mass campaigns, individually-led, small-scale, nonviolent resistance can take root. The study also looks at ways that policymakers can support such activism. Driven by courage, commitment to principled ideas such as human rights and democracy, and in some cases by political ambition, individual activists helped expose human rights abuses to the outside world, delegitimizing the regime and attracting international responses that eventually brought change. In Liberia, under the regimes of Samuel Doe (1980-90) and Charles Taylor (1997-2003), some journalists, lawyers, university students, academics, clergy, and others, with only minimal international support, risked personal safety to demand freedom of speech, assembly, and protection from arbitrary arrest and torture. The findings are based on some 60 in-depth interviews by the author, mostly with key activists from those periods, and on archival research.
Keywords: Liberia, civil society, human rights, democracy, civil war, non-violence, non-violent resistance, resistance, womens' movements, social movements, civil war, Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor, tactics, protests, resistance, activism
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