BY PATRICIA TAFT AND GEORGE WAH WILLIAMS
On a clear day in the middle of the dry season, it can take up to fifteen hours to travel less than 475 kilometers (350 miles) from Liberia’s capital city of Monrovia to Zwedru, the capital of Grand Gedeh County. Grand Gedeh lies in the southeast corner of Liberia, bordering Côte d’Ivoire, and has long been a restive region of the country. This is due to various factors including continued instability in Côte d’Ivoire, a large refugee population, and the lack of resources in the county.
The county has a history of supporting the opposition, as evidenced by the results of the past two national elections. In addition, the former military dictator, Samuel Doe, hailed from Grand Gedeh and even in death remains a polarizing figure. Some Liberians outside of the region continue to blame Doe for ending nearly a century and a half of Americo-Liberian minority rule when he seized power in 1980 through a bloody coup. Compounding these factors is an enduring sense of physical isolation and political marginalization from the capital of Monrovia, which often feels as though it were in another country altogether.