IU-Liberia connections keep growing

Indiana University’s longstanding involvement with the West African nation of Liberia has stepped up in recent weeks, with projects under way involving history, constitutionalism and governance.

  • Scholars from IU Bloomington are part of the Liberian National History Project, contributing to the production of a comprehensive history intended to create a sense of unity and reconciliation as Liberia moves forward from nearly three decades of conflict and civil war.
  • The Center for Constitutional Democracy at the IU Maurer School of Law was selected to advise Liberia’s Constitutional Review Committee on amendments to the country’s 1986 constitution.
  • IU faculty member Amos Sawyer represented Liberia last week at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the African Union. Sawyer concluded his term as chair of the Panel of Eminent Persons for the AU’s African Peer Review Mechanism.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf receives degree

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf receives an IU honorary degree in 2008.

Verlon Stone, head of the IU Liberian Collections project, took part last month in the organizing conference for the Liberian National History Project and was named to the project’s advisory committee. The project is also expected to draw on the African Studies Collection at the IU Wells Library.

At the conference, historians, political scientists, poets, anthropologists, development specialists and others created and endorsed a plan for a comprehensive, four-volume history of Liberia and its peoples. IU Liberian Collections will serve as a resource center and clearinghouse.

The selection of the Center for Constitutional Democracy to assist with amendments to the Liberian constitution was announced last week. Its work will include conducting civic education about the current constitution; gathering information about the needs and desires of the people; helping the Constitutional Review Committee design and draft amendments; and providing public education so people can cast informed votes in a referendum. 

Center executive director David Williams and director Susan Williams, faculty members at the IU Maurer School of Law, have worked with the Liberian government since 2005.

Sawyer, an affiliated research faculty member with the IU Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, has chaired Liberia’s Governance Commission, a key policy reform institution under President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was elected in 2005 and re-elected in 2011. A recent accomplishment of the commission was the approval last month of a Liberia Land Commission policy recognizing customary as well as private land ownership and the rights of women to own land.

IU’s involvement with Liberia dates back to the 1930s and includes scholarship and the sharing of expertise and resources. Sirleaf received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from IU in May 2008.

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