NAIROBI, Kenya — Hilary Clinton is personally applying the US's seal of approval on Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's disputed re-election as president of Liberia by showing up in person in the capital, Monrovia, at the start of a mini-tour of Africa that will also include stops in Ivory Coast, Togo and Cape Verde.
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The link between America and Liberia is an odd and conflicted one, stemming from the export of freed black slaves to West Africa in the 19th century and resulting in a contemporary accent that is like talking to a slurring, inebriated denizen of the Deep South. It is also, almost, entirely one-sided, as this passage from Denis Johnson's 1990 Esquire article "The Civil War in Hell" points out:
The US enjoys an almost mystical veneration in the region. Liberians don't know that most Americans couldn't guess on which of the seven continents they actually reside, that images of their war have rarely been shown on US television, that their troubles have scarcely been mentioned on US radio. They can't understand why the Americans won't send in troops, or call for an interim government, or offer to host peace talks. They don't understand that among Americans they have no constituency, that even among black congressmen they have few advocates.