UPDATE: Charles G. Taylor, former President of Liberia and warlord, was convicted by an international tribunal of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 50 years in prison. He is the first head of state to be found guilty by an international court since the Nuremberg trials.
Welcome to The VICE Guide to Liberia. VICE travels to West Africa to rummage through the messy remains of a country ravaged by 14 years of civil war. Despite the United Nation’s eventual intervention, most of Liberia’s young people continue to live in abject poverty, surrounded by filth, drug addiction, and teenage prostitution. The former child soldiers who were forced into war have been left to fend for themselves, the murderous warlords who once led them in cannibalistic rampages have taken up as so-called community leaders, and new militias are lying in wait for the opportunity to reclaim their country from a government they rightly mistrust. America’s one and only foray into African colonialism is keeping a very uneasy peace indeed. In Part 1, VICE’s own Shane Smith provides a brief history lesson and some essential context for understanding what caused Liberia’s civil war and how things got so bad. Liberia was originally planned and founded as a homeland for former slaves back in 1821. But fast forward a bunch of years and a military coup and you find the First Liberian Civil War in 1989: yet another third-world regime change in which the US-backed opposition, led by Charles Taylor, overthrows a government unfriendly to US interests. Once in power, Taylor’s corrupt, dysfunctional government quickly finds itself under attack by local warlords, leading to the Second Liberian Civil War ten years later. From there things go from bad to total shit.