The Transformation of the US-based Liberian Diaspora from Hard Power to Soft Power Agents

by Osman Antwi-Boateng

Abstract

As a result of a “hurting stalemate” and the failure to capture power through coercion, moderate elements within the US-based Liberian diaspora resorted to soft power in order to have a greater impact on homeland affairs. The effectiveness of the diaspora is aided by the attractiveness of diaspora success and US culture, the morality of diaspora policies, and the credibility and legitimacy of the diaspora. The US-based Liberian diaspora exerts soft power influences towards peace building via the following mechanisms: persuasion and dialogue; public diplomacy; media assistance; and development assistance/job creation campaigns. The study concludes that development assistance/job creation campaigns are the least sustainable because of cost compared to the other mechanisms that attract a buy-in from the community. This research is based on snowball and in-depth interviews with forty US-based Liberian diaspora leaders that also includes leaders of non-Liberian advocacy groups and participatory observation of selected diaspora activities from 2007-2010. It is also supplemented with content analysis of US-based Liberian diaspora online discussion forums and archival records of congressional hearings on Liberia during the civil war.

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Osman Antwi-Boateng is Assistant Professor of International Relations at United Arab Emirates University and holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from University of Delaware. He is the co-author of “Framework for the Analysis of Peace Agreements and Lessons Learned: The Case of the Sudanese Comprehensive Peace Agreement.” Politics and Policy (February 2008): 32-178.