For your weekend reading, a piece in Guernica — “Hipco: The Living Art of Liberia” — about looking for art and music in Liberia.
The boot was preserved in a glass case in the middle of the museum’s bare, sunlit second floor. It had belonged to Prince Johnson, a warlord who controlled part of Monrovia back in 1990. On September 9th of that year, Johnson’s rebels cornered then-president Samuel Doe and carted him back to Johnson’s base on the outskirts of the city. You can still buy street videos of what happened next: Johnson coolly sips a Budweiser as his men slice off Doe’s ears. Doe died of blood loss later that night; Johnson wound up a senator in Liberia’s legislature. Like other former warlords who continue to wield power, Johnson gets mixed reviews from Liberians—some see him as a protector; others, as a criminal. He ran for president last year and got 12% of the vote, good enough for third place. Today, he lives in a sprawling compound just outside Monrovia, where he tends to a pet eagle and gives the odd interview to nervous foreign journalists.
For some background and context, here is the Fresh Air interview from 2009 with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who became Africa’s first democratically-elected female leader when she was elected president of Liberia in 2005.