In conversation with a Liberian today, I ended our hour-long consultation with the phrase "God willing," a hangover from the inshallah of my childhood. The man, middle aged and in a suit, sharply drew in his breath and leaned back, assuming the posture of a man about to immensely enjoy giving an instruction.
"Do you know who else said that phrase?" he said, smiling because he knew the answer and believed that I did not.
I paused, playing for time. "Give me a clue," I said, leaning forward on his desk.
"It was August 13, 2003," he said.
Nate and I looked at each other for a moment, doing the math. "Accra Peace Accords," Nate said, referring to the official end of Liberia's 14-year civil war.
"Accra Peace Accords," he affirmed. "But who?"
Here we were silent, watching him as he reveled in his superior knowledge of Liberian history. Clearly, whoever had pronounced "God willing" at that particular moment, the end of decades of conflict, had made something of an impression.
"Charles Taylor," he said, almost smiling. "Charles Taylor said it when he said he would step down for the good of Liberia. He said 'God willing, I will be back.'"
As the accused warlord stands trial at the ICC tomorrow morning and young Liberians try to rebuild their lives against almost impossible odds, I can't help but hope he's very, very wrong.