‘Man of Letters’ And Peace -Prof. Amos Claudius Sawyer, Consummate Intellectual

One of Liberia’s rare, engendered species, who surrendered his life for the good of Liberia, has finally fallen. Dr. Amos Claudius Sawyer, a Liberian statesman and academic, a paragon of intellectual, has answered the call of Providence. But that was not until he had, for six decades, impacted many lives, spread and increased civic and political consciousness, preached peace and Liberianness and got countless decorations for his stewardship. The Analyst presents this “Man of Letters”, a “Peaceful Lion”.

Three scores seventeen years ago, there was born a babe onto the union of Abel and Sarah Sawyer. He was raised by a prominent parents of Sinoe County, with free African-American ancestors who came as colonists to what was called “Mississippi in Africa”.

Professor Amos C. Sawyer was born on June 15, 1945 in Sinoe County, Liberia. He was a Liberian citizen who worked tirelessly for peace and the establishment of democratic governance in his home country as well as for the establishment and strengthening of institutions and processes of democratic governance and development in Africa.

Academic Profile

The Southeastern progeny reached the zenith of education with Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University in the United States in 1973.

Sawyer was educated in local schools and was a 1966 graduate of Liberia College (now the University of Liberia). He traveled to the United States for graduate work, earning M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in political science from Northwestern University in metropolitan Chicago, Illinois.

After his return, Dr. Sawyer worked as an academic, but also became an activist and politician. He ran for the position of Mayor of Monrovia, the capital, as an independent rather than within the True Whig Party, which had dominated the country for more than 130 years.

As an academic, he served as Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Liberia in the late 1970s and as Dean of the faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities in the early 1980s.

From 2000 to 2009, he was a professor at Indiana University, serving as Research Scientist and Co-director of the public policy institute called The Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis.

A colleague of Professor Sawyer and fellow co-director of the Workshop, in the person of Professor Elinor Ostrom, was the 2009 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences.

Professor Sawyer published widely on issues and challenges of democratization, governance and peace building in Africa.  His book, The Emergence of Autocracy in Liberia, Tragedy and Challenge (published 1992) is still considered a seminal work on Liberian political economy.

His other book, Beyond Plunder, Toward Democratic Governance in Liberia (published 2005) makes an important contribution to the analysis of governance breakdown as well as the formulation of post-conflict recovery policies in Liberia with significant lessons for other post-conflict African countries.

He had a distinguished record of public service in Liberia and Africa and an impressive record of academic achievements.

After the military takeover in Liberia in 1980, he was called upon to head the National Constitution Commission to draft a new constitution for Liberia, as a major part of the transition to civilian rule.

In 1990, when Liberia was engulfed in civil war, he was called upon to serve as President of the Interim Government of National Unity and tasked with the responsibility of leading the search for peace among Liberians.

Public Service Stewardship

After Liberia’s return to constitutional rule, following the holding of democratic elections in 2005, Professor Sawyer got involved with efforts to ensure that Liberia’s institutions and processes of governance are more accountable, participatory, efficient and effective, meeting standards of good governance.

At the request of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, he took up the position of Chairman of the Governance Reform Commission of Liberia (now Governance Commission of Liberia), the body charged with the responsibility of crafting reform policies and implementation strategies for sustaining peace, advancing reconciliation, and attaining good governance in post-conflict Liberia.

He also served as Lead Convener of the Zero Hunger Initiative designed to advance Liberia’s achievement of Sustainable Development Goal on eliminating hunger (SDG #2).

It was under Professor Sawyer’s leadership at the Governance Commission that the Commission played the lead role in crafting Code of Conduct for public and civil servants, establishing the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Policy on Decentralization and Local Government, the Land Commission, the National Vision 2030 and the roadmap for managing the 2017 post-elections political transition, among other deliverables.

On the African continent, Professor Sawyer was well known for his work in the promotion of democratic governance and socio-economic development through regional integration. He led numerous missions on peacebuilding and election observation and was deeply involved in the strengthening of civil society and the building of African capacity to sustain institutions and processes of democratic governance.

He served as Chairman of the Panel of Eminent Persons of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), an affiliate of NEPAD, after serving as a Member of the Panel for two years. Members of the Panel have the responsibility of leading technical missions to review the performance of APRM member-countries in critical areas of political, economic and social governance.  He also served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the African Centre for Development and Strategic Studies (ACDESS), the Wahala Publishing House and as a consultant in managing post-conflict transitions.

After retiring from the Governance Commission in January 2018, Professor Sawyer initiated a project in the area of citizenship education in Liberia. He maintained that the nurturing of citizens who are informed and efficacious is indispensable to sustaining peace and democratic governance.

A set of citizenship education textbooks for use in Liberian schools was completed under his aegis. During his retirement, he participated in high-level discourses on deepening democratic governance across Africa, specifically attending seminars and facilitating democratic development in Botswana, The Gambia, Nigeria and Liberia.


Professor Sawyer was thrice decorated by his county. In 2011 he was accorded Liberia’s highest distinction, the Grand Cordon of the Knighthood of the Most Venerable Order of the Pioneers.

He was the recipient of the 2011 Gusi Peace Prize. In 2015, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters (Honoris Causa) by the University of Liberia, and in 2017 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters (Honoris Causa) by Indiana University.

He was married to Thelma Duncan Sawyer, a professional social worker. They have four children. Professor Sawyer sadly passed away on February 16, 2022 at the age of 76.

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