chapter  7
22 Pages

Dissent and opposition among ex-combatants in Liberia

ByJohanna Söderström

Opposition, tolerance and dissent are important facets of democracy, yet most societies face real challenges in realizing such principles. This is especially true for many African states, and it is also a severe challenge after war. Pluralism (here mainly understood as the existence of a diversity of values and ideas),1 or the tolerance of others’ political stances, and more formalized, the existence and toleration of a political opposition, have been placed front and centre in Western conceptualizations of democracy.2 While these concepts are not synonymous, they are intrinsically linked. Democracy requires us to respect both people and ideas equally; tolerating others as equal members of the polity also entails tolerating their opinions and right to expression.3 A true democrat is said to tolerate a diversity of opinion, and accords the same political rights to his/her friends and foes. However, this ideal is rarely fulfilled: principles and practice often diverge, even for the ‘average’ democrat.4