A Bumpy Road to Peace and Democracy: Liberia’s Power-Sharing Government, 2003 – 2005


In 2003, after 14 years of civil war and as many failed treaties, representatives of Liberia’s government, rebel groups, and civil society came together in Accra, Ghana, to negotiate a peace agreement. They chose Gyude Bryant, a businessman unaffiliated with any of the factions, to head a transitional government made up of ministers from the incumbent political party, the two main rebel groups, and independents, including opposition politicians and civil society leaders. Bryant’s primary goals were to maintain peace and pave the way for elections by the end of 2005—an assignment that entailed disarming and demobilizing more than 100,000 combatants, creating the means to deal with crucial issues ranging from truth and reconciliation to governance reform, and addressing a long list of other tasks—all of it under the scrutiny of Liberia’s legislature as well as regional and international organizations. Although successful democratic elections in late 2005 marked the achievement of Bryant’s primary aims, his fractious government failed to reach many other objectives, including building capacity and ensuring that resources earmarked for development served their intended purposes. The difficulties led to a novel, temporary system of governance—shared with international partners—that targeted procurement, spending, and other aspects of financial management. This case offers insights useful for planning transitions in low-income, divided societies where prolonged conflict has gutted institutional capacity.

Tyler McBrien drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Monrovia, Liberia in November 2019. Case published in January 2020.

This series highlights the governance challenges inherent in power sharing arrangements, profiles adaptations that eased those challenges, and offers ideas about adaptations. 

The United States Institute of Peace funded the development of this case study.


power sharing
government transition
financial management
unity government
Focus Area(s)
Financial Management
Power Sharing
Critical Tasks
Donor coordination
Financial controls
Follow-up & monitoring
Improving cabinet efficiency
Core Challenge
Capacity (capability traps)
Credibility (trust)
Dispute resolution (compliance)
Institutional traps (spoilers)
Reducing capture
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Tyler McBrien