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  • Writer's pictureMarie S.

Ethnic politics and social inclusion

Ethnic politics and social inclusion are major challenges facing Liberia's governance and democracy. The country has over 20 ethnic groups, with no single group dominating the population. However, ethnic tensions and conflicts have been a persistent challenge in Liberia's political landscape.

Ethnic politics refer to the practice of mobilizing political support based on ethnic identity. This often leads to political fragmentation along ethnic lines, with political parties and leaders focusing more on ethnic affiliations rather than policies and ideology. Ethnic politics can be a threat to democracy and political stability, as it can lead to exclusion of certain groups from political participation and exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities.

In Liberia, ethnic politics has been a significant factor in the country's political history. The country's first president, William Tubman, was accused of promoting ethnic politics by favoring his own ethnic group, the Kru. This led to tensions between the Kru and other ethnic groups and contributed to the country's civil war.

Promoting greater social inclusion and reducing ethnic tension is crucial for Liberia's stability and democratic progress. The government has implemented policies to promote social inclusion, such as affirmative action programs and the establishment of a national identity commission. However, these efforts have been limited by a lack of resources and political will.

According to data from the World Bank, Liberia's Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, was 35.4 in 2019. This indicates a moderate level of income inequality, with the richest 20% of the population controlling 50.2% of the wealth, while the poorest 20% control only 5.5%. This income inequality is often associated with social exclusion, particularly for marginalized groups such as women and ethnic minorities.

Ethnic politics and social exclusion have been persistent challenges in Liberia, with the country's diverse population comprising over 16 ethnic groups. This has led to a history of political and social exclusion, with certain ethnic groups being marginalized from political and economic opportunities.

In the 1980s, political tensions and competition among different ethnic groups contributed to the outbreak of civil war, which lasted from 1989 to 2003. The war was characterized by atrocities committed against civilians, including widespread rape and the use of child soldiers.

Since the end of the civil war, Liberia has made progress in reducing ethnic tensions and promoting social inclusion. The country's constitution recognizes the rights of all citizens regardless of ethnicity, and there have been efforts to promote diversity and inclusivity in government and civil society.

However, challenges remain. According to a 2018 report by the National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections, ethnic discrimination is still prevalent in Liberia's politics, with certain ethnic groups being favored in government appointments and resource allocation.

Furthermore, access to education and healthcare is often limited in rural areas, particularly for ethnic minorities, which contributes to the cycle of poverty and exclusion.

Efforts to promote greater social inclusion and reduce ethnic tension include policies aimed at increasing diversity in government and civil society, promoting education and healthcare access, and supporting economic development in marginalized communities.

As of 2021, there are currently 8 political parties represented in Liberia's National Legislature. While these parties are not explicitly divided along ethnic lines, the representation of different ethnic groups within each party varies. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Afrobarometer, 46% of Liberians feel that ethnic diversity is not well-represented in the country's political parties.

In conclusion, promoting social inclusion and reducing ethnic tensions are crucial for Liberia's political stability and democratic progress. Addressing these challenges will require policies that promote greater economic and political opportunities for marginalized groups, as well as efforts to reduce ethnic polarization and promote a more inclusive national identity.

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