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Expectations High as Liberia's Next Leader Returns Home

October 14, 2003|From Reuters

MONROVIA, Liberia — Tens of thousands of Liberians welcomed businessman Gyude Bryant when he returned to his West African homeland Monday to be sworn in as head of an interim government designed to rebuild Liberia after 14 years of war.

Bryant, 54, was picked by warring factions who signed a peace deal after former President Charles Taylor went into exile in August. Bryant, who is seen as a consensus builder, had been in Ghana since his nomination. He was to take office today.

Waving branches and dancing by the roadside, well-wishers chanted, "We want peace, no more war" as Bryant's convoy entered Monrovia, the capital.

Bryant's administration, backed by what will become the world's biggest United Nations peacekeeping force, is meant to disarm roaming bands of fighters and get hundreds of thousands of refugees home before elections in 2005.

Bryant will replace interim President Moses Blah, Taylor's deputy and chosen successor.

Expectations are high among Liberians that the administration led by Bryant will revive what was once one of Africa's wealthiest countries but now one in which most people live on less than a dollar a day.

Still, nobody in Liberia has forgotten that more than a dozen peace deals were broken during 14 years of violence.

There is huge potential for discord within a Cabinet drawn from two rebel factions and Taylor's government, as well as some of his political opponents and members of civic groups.

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