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Liberian Studies Association 49th Annual Conference

“Governance, Institutional Quality and Elections: Prospects and Challenges for Inclusive Democratic Statebuilding in Liberia”

49th Annual Conference of the Liberian Studies Association

30 March – 1 April, 2017
Ramapo College of New Jersey

About the Liberian Studies Association


The Liberian Studies Association is a non-profit, scholarly organization created to provide a means for effective cooperation among persons interested in furthering research in all scholarly disciplines, including the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, on topics relevant to the Republic of Liberia and adjacent areas; to publish and otherwise disseminate the results of such research; to cooperate with scholarly organizations, and cultural, scientific, and educational institutions, nationally and internationally, having mutual interests in the exchange and presentation of information and ideas resulting from research in the subject field; to encourage interest in Liberian affairs; and to stimulate and facilitate academic contacts and educational exchanges between Liberia and the United States. The Liberian Studies Association produces the second oldest African studies journal published continuously in the United States. The organization publishes the Liberian Studies Journal, which is published bi-annually in June and December.

Liberian Studies Association Officers 2017

Samuel Wai Johnson, Jr., President, George Mason University
Jackie Sayegh, Secretary, Cornell University
Mary Moran, Treasurer, Colgate University
James S. Guseh, Parliamentarian, North Carolina Central University
Michael Wannah, Past President, Concordia University Chicago

Editorial Staff, Liberian Studies Journal

Editors: Emmanuel Oritsejafor and James Guseh
Book Review Editor: Emmanuel Oritsejafor
Desk Editor: Omar Reyes
Copy Editor: Ellen Withworth

Conference Committee

George Gonpu, Assistant Professor of Economics, Ramapo College of New Jersey
David Colman, Associate Professor of African-American History, Ramapo College of New Jersey
Karl Johnson, Associate Professor of African-American Studies, Ramapo College of New Jersey
Rosetta D’Angelo, Professor of Italian, Ramapo College of New Jersey
Niza Fabre, Associate Professor of Spanish, Ramapo College of New Jersey
Stephen Rice, Dean, School of Humanities and Global Studies, Ramapo College of New Jersey
Ben Levy, Director of International Education, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Abstract Committee

Verlon Stone, Indiana University
George Klay Kieh, Jr., University of West Georgia
Emmanuel Oritsejafor, North Carolina Central University
Yekutiel Gershoni, Tel Aviv University
Samuel Wai Johnson, George Mason University

About the Host Institution

Ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the Best Regional Public Universities North category, Ramapo College of New Jersey is sometimes viewed as a private college. This is, in part, due to its unique interdisciplinary academic structure, its size of more than 6,200 students and its pastoral setting in the foothills of the Ramapo Mountains on the New Jersey/New York border.

Undergraduate students may choose to concentrate their studies in one of five schools with more than 539 course offerings and 36 academic programs. Ramapo College boasts an average student/faculty ratio of 16:1 and an average class size of 21; affording students the opportunity to develop close ties to the College’s exceptional faculty.

The College’s mission is focused on the four “pillars” of a Ramapo education, international, intercultural, interdisciplinary and experiential (hands on), all of which are incorporated throughout the curricula and extracurricular programs and help students push intellectual, personal and professional boundaries. The international mission is further accomplished through a wide range of study abroad and student exchange links with institutions all over the world. Additional experiential programs include internships, co-op and service learning.


Liberia goes to national election (presidential and legislative) October, the third election since the country marked an end to its second civil war in 2003. Since the end of the second civil war, the country has been seized with a development agenda focused on rebuilding institutions that foster trust, reconciliation, inclusion, and social cohesion. Despite some significant gains, Liberia still faces major cultural, economic, security and other challenges due to a widespread feeling of exclusion from and distrust in the current state building process, suggesting a state building process that is laden with polarized identities and competing perceptions of governance among the population. In addition, the performance of its major institutions continues to exude weaknesses and ineffectiveness in delivering on the promises of its development agenda. This situation has implications for the country’s ability to sustain a state building agenda that is inclusive and resilient in the wake of and beyond the 2017 election.

The Liberian Studies Association (LSA), the largest body of scholars working on Liberia, invites proposals for papers, panels, and roundtables related to theme and subthemes of its 49th Annual Meeting scheduled to take place at Ramapo College of New Jersey from March 30th – April 2nd, 2017. Theoretical and empirical papers, action research and case studies on the above theme and subthemes using a range of scholarly approaches including qualitative, quantitative and critical methods with data‐driven conclusions are welcomed.




Each individual may make only one presentation on a panel or round-table. Individuals may serve as a discussant or chair on a panel or round-table in addition to making a presentation on a panel or round-table. A panel typically will have three to four persons including the discussant/moderator. The panel abstract should consist of a statement about the topic and a brief summary of the main argument(s) to be explored (no more than 250 words). A round-table typically consists of a chair and three to five presenters. A round-table proposal consists of a title, abstract, and the names of proposed round-table participants. The round-table abstract should consist of a statement about the topic and a brief summary of the main issues to be explored (approximately 250 words).

The proposal must include the name, title, and institutional or organizational affiliation and full contact details of the person or persons submitting the abstract.  All proposals should be no longer than 300 words, contain five key words, and sent to or All abstracts will be sent to the LSA Abstract Committee for final approval.
The deadline for submission is March 10, 2017.

The Liberian Studies Association (LSA) publishes the LSA Journal. Its editors will attend the conference and will consider excellent papers presented at the 49th annual conference for publication in the next edition of LSA Journal.

Pre-Registration ends: 12 March 2017

In order to plan appropriately for catering, pre‐registration is mandatory. Those who register will be prioritized in catering services. Anyone who does not will be allowed on site registration but will have to seek alternative arrangements for dinning services.

On-site registration will be available on 31 March – April 1st

Registration Fees

Academics / Professionals $100
Retirees / Community Activists $75
Students $50

Please complete the form below and submit payment by check made payable to ‘Liberian Studies Association‘ to:

Ramapo College of New Jersey
Roukema Center for International Education
505 Ramapo Valley Road, ASB123
Mahwah, NJ 07430 USA

Liberian Studies Association's 49th Annual Conference - Registration

Draft Schedule (Subject to change)

Thursday, March 30

 Participants Arrive
6 – 8 pm  

Conference Registration
Opening Reception

Poster Sessions

(Alumni Lounges, SC158)



Friday, March 31

8:00 – 9:30 am Conference Registration and Light Breakfast (Alumni Lounge Lobby)
10:00 – 11:30  am Concurrent Sessions (Alumni Lounges)

Panel I: “Democracy and Constitution-Making” (SC-156)

Chair: Aaron William Kuckevich Bonar, Indiana University

Presenters: Aaron William Kuckevich, Indiana University; Yekutiel Gershoni, Tel Aviv University; and Augustine Konneh, University of Liberia

Panel II: “Political Finance Development and Governance” (SC-158)

Chair: George Gonpu, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Presenters: George Klay Kieh, Jr., University of West Georgia; Samuel Wai Johnson, Jr., George Mason University; George Gonpu, Ramapo College of New Jersey; and Donald L. Cassell, Jr., Sagamore Institute

12:00 – 1:30  pm Lunch and light Liberian music (Friends Hall)
1:45 – 3:15  pm Concurrent Sessions (Alumni Lounges)

Panel III: “Education, Arts and Development” (SC-156)

Chair: Jackie Sayegh, Cornell University

Presenters: Steve Kaifa, County College of Morris; Jackie Saayegh, Cornell University; and K-Moses Nagbe, Prince George’s Community College

Panel IV: “The Diaspora, Institution-Building and Reconstruction” (SC-158)

Chair: Rosetta D’Angelo, Ramapo College of New Jersey

Presenters: Yolanda Covington-Ward, University of Pittsburgh and Amos M.D. Sirleaf, University of Liberia

3:30 – 5:00 pm Tour Haitian Art Collection (Rodman Gallery, B-wing, 1st Floor)

The largest concentration of Haitian art collections in any academic institution in the United States is housed at Ramapo College. Initially donated in the early 1980s, the world-renowned Selden Rodman Collection has grown significantly with subsequent gifts from the Rodman family and an international roster of donors. While primarily Haitian, artists from many other geographies are also represented, ranging from Brazilian painters to North American self-taught masters.

5:30 – 8:30  pm Dinner and Keynote Address by President Amos Sawyer (Friends Hall)

Opening remarks by Dean Stephen Rice (School of Humanities and Global Studies, Ramapo College); Ramapo College President, Dr. Peter P. Mercer; and Conference Co-Chair, Professor George Gonpu, Ramapo College


Saturday, April 1

8:00 – 9:30 am Conference Registration and Light Breakfast (Alumni Lounge Lobby)
9:00 – 10:00 am Executive Board Meeting (SC-217)
10:00 – 11:30 am Session (Alumni Lounges)

Panel V: “Youth, Media, Public Health & Crop Diseases” (SC-158)

Chair: Welma Redd, Morgan State University

Presenters: Jasmine L. Blank Jones, University of Pennsylvania; Welma Redd, Morgan State University; Charles Riley, Yale University; and Cyril E. Broderick, Sr., Delaware State University

12:00 – 1:30 pm Lunch & Film Screening – “The Land Beneath Our Feet  (Friends Hall)

When lost footage from the 1920s depicting a corporate land grab in the early days of globalization arrives back in Liberia, it sparks inquiry into how Liberians lost sovereignty over the very land that sustains them. (A film by Gregg Mitman and Sarita Siegel, 2016)

Chair: George K. Kieh, Jr., University of West Georgia

Presenters: Emmanuel K. Urey, University of Wisonsin-Madison and Gregg Mitman, University of Wisconsin-Madison

1:45 – 3:15 pm Concurrent Sessions (Alumni Lounges)

Panel VI: TBA (SC-158)

Chair: David Colman, Ramapo College of New Jersey


Panel VII: TBA (SC-156)

Chair: James Gusch, North Carolina Central University


3:30 – 5:30 pm Film Screening – “Out of My Hand  (H-Auditorium)

A struggling Liberian rubber plantation worker risks everything to discover a new life as a Yellow Cab driver in New York City. (A film by Takeshi Fukunaga, 2015)

5:30 – 8:30 pm Dinner (Liberian Food) and Musical Performances by the Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change  (Friends Hall)

Session Descriptions

Panel I: “Democracy and Constitution-Making”

Chair: Aaron William Kuckewich Bonar, Indiana University

‘Bushwacking Democracy: Cutting a Path to Participatory Constistutional Design in Liberia’
Aaron William Kuckewich Bonar, J.D./Ph.D Candidate, Constitutional Design Center for Constitutional Democracy, Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

‘Seeds of Change in Liberia: Democratic Reforms in the Aftermath of Political Crisis’
Yekutiel Gershoni, Department of Middle Eastern and African History, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel

‘Civic and Voter Education, A Critical Tool for the Success of the 2017 General Election’
Professor Augustine Konneh, Ph.D., Director General, Foreign Service Institute and Professor of International Relations IBB, University of Liberia, Liberia

Panel II: “Political Finance Development and Governance”

Chair: George P. Gonpu, Ramapo College of New Jersey

‘Regulating Political Finance in Liberia’s Elections’
George Klay Kieh, Jr., University of West Georgia, USA

‘Exploring the Political Contribution of Microfinance to Post-Conflict Governance in Liberia’
Samuel Wai Johnson, Jr., George Mason University, USA

‘Governance Quality, Institutional Credibility and the Flow of Remittances to Liberia’
George P. Gonpu, Ramapo College of New Jersey, USA

‘Business and Development’
Donald L. Cassell, Jr., AIA, Senior Fellow, Director – Liberian Initiatives, Sagamore Institute, USA

Panel III: “Education, Arts and Development”

Chair: Jackie Sayegh, Cornell University

‘Socially Accepted Unaccepted Equality of Opportunity in Education in Liberia: A Duality Reality’
Steve Kaifa, County College of Morris, USA

‘Public-Private Partnerships in Liberia: Case of Bridge International Academies and the Government of Liberia’
Jackie Sayegh, Program Manager, Institute for African Development, Cornell University, USA

‘The Mind and Manner of Productive, Democractic Governance: How the Arts Fit In?’
Professor K-Moses Nagbe, Prince George’s Community College, Maryland, USA

Panel IV: “The Diaspora, Institution-Building and Reconstruction”

Chair: Rosetta D’Angelo, Ramapo College of New Jersey

‘The Liberian Diaspora, Discourses of Reconciliation, and the Negotiation of Diaspora-Homeland Tensions in Online Radio’
Yolanda Covington-Ward, Ph.D., Department of Africana Studies, University of Pittsburgh, USA

‘De-Racialization of the Liberian Colonial Constitution: A Precondition for Post-Conflict De-Colonizing of the Liberian Democracy Towards the 2017 Elections’
Professor/Dr. Amos M.D. Sirleaf (Ph.D.( Blacology USA – Liberian Mission
Professor/IBB Graduate School of International Studies, University of Liberia, Liberia

Panel V: “Youth, Media, Public Health & Crop Diseases”

Chair: Welma Redd, Morgan State University

‘Youth Civic Practice: Interrogating Local, National and Global Engagements in the Midst of the Ebola Crisis’
Jasmine L. Blank Jones, Ph.D. Student, University of Pennsylvania, USA

‘Ebola, Liberian Elections and the Media’
Welma Redd, Morgan State University, USA

‘Strengthening Public Health Messaging Using Liberian Languages: the Case of Vai and Ebola’
Charles Riley, Librarian for African Studies and Catalog Librarian for African Languages, Yale University Library, USA

‘Protecting Crop Plants from Important Diseases in Liberian Agriculture – the Basic Guidelines’
Dr. Cyril E. Broderick, Sr., Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Delaware State University, Dover, DE, USA

Panel VI: TBA


Panel VII: TBA


President Amos Claudius Sawyer


Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer served as President (1990-1994) of the Interim Government of Liberia following the assassination of its embattled leader, Samuel K. Doe. Dr. Sawyer was born in 1945 in Greenville, Sinoe County, Liberia. He obtained his early education in Greenville and matriculated to Liberia College (now the University of Liberia) where he graduated in 1966. Later he traveled to the United States for graduate work, earning an M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Political Science from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

After his return to Liberia, Dr. Sawyer worked as an academic but also became an activist and politician. He ran for the position of Mayor of Monrovia, the capital, as an independent rather than within the True Whig Party. The latter had dominated the country for more than 100 years.

After the 1980 coup d’état, Sawyer returned to academia for a time, taking a position as a professor of political science at the University of Liberia. In December 1980 he was appointed Dean of the College of Social Sciences and acting director of the University.

He was a founding member of the Movement for Justice in Africa (MOJA) and in 1983 founded the Liberian People’s Party. In the period after the abduction (and eventual murder) of president Samuel Doe, from 9 September 1990 until 22 November 1990, principal mutineer Prince Johnson and co-conspirator Charles Taylor both made claims on the presidency. In late August an emergency conference was held in The Gambia by a delegation of 35 Liberians representing seven political parties and eleven interest groups. They voted Sawyer as interim president and Bishop Roland Diggs as vice-president, to establish a government.

Such leaders extended Sawyer’s one-year appointment for four years during the civil war fought against rebels led largely by Taylor, Johnson, and David Nimley. In 1994, Sawyer was forced to step down as a part of the peace process, and subsequently the role of official leader of Liberia was held not by the president, but by the Chairmen of the Council of State. Fighting sparked again in 1996, and continued during Charles Taylor’s presidency from 1997 to 2003.

Sawyer returned to the US for a period, invited to serve as Co-Director and Research Scholar, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis in the Department of Political Science at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

Sawyer is Chairman of the Governance Reform Commission in Liberia, which has recently become the Governance Commission. He has several published peer reviewed articles and books, including “African Politics and the Future of Democracy” (2015),”African Development in the 21 st Century”(2014), “Challenges of Governance Reform in Liberia” (2013), and “Beyond Plunder: Toward Democratic Governance in Liberia” (2005), which explored the development of multi-party democracy in the country.


fairfieldFairfield Inn by Marriot
225 Ramapo Valley Road, Mahwah, NJ 07430
Phone: (201) 529-4000
Distance: 1.1 Miles / Shuttle provided between hotel and conference

Conference Rate: $109.00 USD / night (rate available from 30 March – 02 April; must book by March 20th, 2017)
Book your group rate for LSA Ramapo College


Hampton Inn & Suites Mahwah
290 Route 17 & Corporate Drive, Mahwah, NJ 07430
Phone: 201-828-2031

Conference Rate: $115.00 USD/night (rate available from 30 March – 02 April 2017)
Book your group rate for LSA Ramapo College


Super 8 Mahwah

160 Route 17 South, Mahwah, NJ 07430
Phone: 201-512-0800
Book your group rate by requesting: Liberian Studies Association at Ramapo College


On-Campus Parking

Enter through the main gate. Inform the security gate that you are here for the conference. They will issue you a parking pass for throughout the conference days. You will then need to go to Parking Lot A to park. If this lot is full, then Parking Lot C can handle the overflow.

Parking Maps:



Newark Liberty International Airport

Public Transportation Links

New Jersey Transit System
Port Authority Air Train System
Air Brook Shuttle


NJ Transit Schedules (to Ramsey Rt-17/Suffern)
Off-Campus Shuttle to Ramsey Rt-17 Train Station


Shortline Bus Service between College and NYC

Driving Directions

From the South

Using Route 17
Follow Route 17 North to Mahwah to exit sign “202 Suffern/Morristown” on right. At the end of the short exit ramp turn left (Route 202 South). Continue on Route 202 to light. Campus entrance is on left.

Using Garden State Parkway
Leave Parkway at exit 163 (left lane exit). Follow Route 17 North, using instructions above.

Using Route 208
Follow Route 208 North until Route 202 in Oakland. Continue north on 202 until first light in Mahwah. Campus entrance is on right.

Using Route 287
Take Route 287 North to exit 66 (Mahwah); follow Route 17 South to Route 202 exit. At the end of the exit ramp make left turn (202 South). Continue on Route 202 to light. Campus entrance is on left.

Using New Jersey Turnpike
Take N.J. Turnpike (I-95 North) to end (exit 18W or 18E). Continue North to Route 80 West to Route 17 North. Follow directions above using Route 17.

From the North

Using Route 17
Follow Route 17 South (approximately 1.5 miles from Suffern exit on N.Y. State Thruway). Turn right at Route 202 exit. At end of exit ramp, turn left (Route 202 South). Continue on Route 202 approximately one mile to light. Campus entrance is on left.

Using NY State Thruway
Take N.Y. State Thruway (I-87) South to Route 287 South (New Jersey), exit 15 (Suffern) onto Route 17 South. Follow directions for “From the North Using Route 17.”

From Orange County Using Route 17
Follow directions “From the North” using Route 17 (above).

From Westchester and Rockland Counties
Follow Route 287 West over the Tappan Zee Bridge to Route 17 South. Follow directions above “From the North Using Route 17.’

From the East
Follow Route 80 or Route 4 to Route 17 North. Follow Route 17 North. Follow directions above “From the South Using Route 17 North.”

From the West
Follow Route 80 East to Route 287 North to Mahwah exit 66 (south on Route 17 to 202 South).

From New York City
Take the George Washington Bridge, Route 4 West to Route 17 North to 202 South.

From Connecticut
Follow I-95 to Route 287 West over the Tappan Zee Bridge, continue to exit 15 (Suffern) onto Route 17 South. Follow directions “From the North Using Route 17.”