Dr. Emmanuel Dolo (1962-2018): A Tribute

The young Liberian public policy scholar, Emmanuel Dolo passed away last week in Atlanta, Georgia, at age 56. He succumbed to cancer in the middle of an engaging life of research and study and leaves a void in the ongoing quest to better understand Liberia. His wife, Mrs. Aba Hamilton Dolo and other family members were by his side as he transitioned.

By D. Elwood Dunn

I first met Emmanuel here in the Diaspora in the late 1980s/early 1990s. He called me to make some inquiries and to share perspectives as he wrote his first book, Democracy Versus Dictatorship: The Quest for Freedom and Justice in Africa’s Oldest Republic. A common interest in scholarship on Liberia bonded us.  Our friendship endured to his end.

Emmanuel was born and raised in Nimba County. He received his undergraduate degree in Economics and Communications from the University of Liberia in 1983. He would go on to pursue graduate studies in the United States, obtaining a Masters degree in Economic Development from Eastern University in 1994, a M.Div degree in Theology and Social Ministry from the evangelical Erskine Theological Seminary in 1990, and a Ph.D. in Social Policy, Refugee mental health, and Youth Development from the University of Minnesota in 2003. 

Trained as a Christian minister and a social scientist, Dolo served as a policy development professional for some two decades. His Liberia work included establishing in 2015 and leading a public policy think tank, the Center for Liberia’s Future; service to the government of Liberia as Head of Secretariat of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Advisory Committee on EBOLA, and as National Youth Policy Advisor to President Johnson Sirleaf, 2012-2014. In the private sector Dr. Dolo served Arcelor Mittal/Liberia as Head of Human Resource and Corporate Responsibility, (2010-2011), and Head of General Administration, Government Affairs and Corporate Responsibility, (2011-2012).

Dolo was a prolific writer who managed in his short career to publish two academic books, two monographs, six academic articles, twelve issue briefs, and 173 popular press articles. There were also two book length manuscripts in progress at the time of his death.

Dolo was a very engaging young man with a gifted and inquiring mind. During our many multiple hours of telephone conversations, we discussed every conceivable event that transpired in Liberia since the 1990s against the backdrop of Liberia’s past. There were occasions when we met at forums devoted to Liberia in the United States. I recall a poignant event in North Caroline when Emmanuel paused and bowed to grace his food in an unexpected setting. I was moved. I was also moved many years later when I was the subject of a press attack for investigative work I was asked to lead in Liberia. As I settled in my office at the University of the South early one morning the phone rang. I heard the voice of a pastor at the other end. Such was the young man.

Emmanuel last left home following the 2017 elections to continue his medical treatment in Atlanta. We simply continued carrying on as before – long phone conversations when he was not in treatment and felt up to it. As with the very first encounter on the phone in the 1990s, which led to his first book, what turned out to be our last set of conversations is probably reflected in the book manuscripts in progress when he passed.

What brought us together and kept us together was a common quest to understand our country and ourselves in the larger scheme of things. His quest has ended. Mine cannot be much longer. What matters now is how others might utilize our experiences in the continuing quest to better understand Liberia.  

Goodbye small brother; Rest in Peace!

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