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June 08, 2012

Clinton, Sirleaf Discuss Liberia Development and Mali Coup

by Scott Stearns

STATE DEPARTMENT - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf met in Washington Friday to discuss Liberian development and moves by the West African regional alliance to put down a rebellion in northern Mali.

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, are looking for the United Nations to back military intervention in northern Mali where armed rebels and Islamic militants have expanded areas under their control since a March coup.

Secretary Clinton and President Sirleaf discussed that situation Friday during talks in Washington. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says the ethnic Tuareg rebellion risks further opening up the Sahel to groups like al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

"The instability in Mali is endangering the security and providing an opportunity for all kinds of nefarious actors to exploit the territory of the country," Nuland said.

Setbacks in the previous government's campaign against the Tuareg rebellion was one of the main reasons coup leaders gave for toppling President Amadou Toumani Toure. Nuland says coup leader Captain Amadou Sonogo is now the main focus for why Mali has not been able to pull itself back together.

"There is a peace plan on the table that is generous, that is appropriate, that restores democratic rule. And if he cares about his country at all, particularly these kinds of things he should take it and work with ECOWAS and work with the international community," Nuland said.

President Sirleaf has been an active member of the regional ECOWAS alliance since her first election in 2005. She won a second term last year, shortly after receiving a Nobel peace prize for helping to reunite and rebuild Liberia after a long civil war.

Secretary Clinton says President Sirleaf can count on Washington's continued support.

"President Sirleaf has demonstrated great commitment and absolute devotion to her country following a very terrible conflict that did so much damage to the people of Liberia. And the United States will continue to work with her and with her government and the Liberian people as they make progress into the future," Clinton said.

President Sirleaf says she hopes an even stronger partnership with the United States will help achieve the main goals of her second term: improving the economy and creating more jobs.
 
"We want to make sure that all the things we've done now translate into improveing the welfare of the people. That is our new agenda," Sirleaf said.

President Sirleaf and several Liberian lawmakers are in Washington for a U.S. Agency for International Development conference on development financing.