News / Africa

Liberian President Sirleaf: Country Making Progress, Challenges Remain

President Sirleaf, currently visiting the US, asks for continued US support but says the country seeks partnership, not handouts

Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, during the first session of the 3rd Africa-EU Summit in Tripoli, Libya, November 29, 2010 (file photo)
Liberia's President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, during the first session of the 3rd Africa-EU Summit in Tripoli, Libya, November 29, 2010 (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio
  • Butty reports on President Sirleaf's speech in Washington

James Butty

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is seeking re-election this year, said U.S. aid to Liberia has helped the country rise from the ashes of war to become an emerging democratic nation.

President Sirleaf spoke at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington Friday on the progress her government has made and the challenges it faces.

She thanked the American people for their past support and appealed for a continuation of that support.  But, Sirleaf said her government is looking for a partnership, not handouts.

“As I stated earlier, and emphatically, we came to Washington to make the case for sustained foreign assistance to Liberia. We are not seeking an open-ended commitment, but rather support in the next few years of this transition. If it happens, I’m confident, and I’ve made the commitment that Liberia will sustain its own development. We shall not ask for foreign assistance,” she says.

Sirleaf said her government has made progress in revitalizing the economy, rebuilding infrastructure and restoring services by introducing a Poverty Reduction Strategy.

“In 2008, when we wrote our Poverty Reduction Strategy, we re-grouped our tasks into four pillars: peace and security, economical revitalization, infrastructure and basic services, governance and the rule of law. It is through the hard work of the Liberian people that I can now stand before you today and say that our progress, and the lessons that we’ve learned along the way, have got us where we are today,” she says.

Critics of the government, including presidential candidate Dew Tuan Wleh Mason, who supported the president in 2005, say she should not be re-elected because she has failed to deliver on her promises.

“As my people asked me in Grand Gedeh (County), the question was asked as to why [I am] not supporting the president again? I said, ‘Well, we native people go around during Christmas time and dress the devil and we bring the devil to entertain us, and the drums begin to beat and the women begin to sing and we realize that the devil can’t dance. So, those of us who want to bring that devil to town, it becomes our responsibility to go and undress that devil and bring a new devil to town,’” Mason said.

Mason also said Sirleaf has failed to fight corruption, which he described as the albatross around Liberia’s neck.

“I think the first step is to show leadership by example; leadership in the fight against corruption must begin with the president. As you know, our people say the fish begins to rot from the head. We need to ensure that the president sets the example,” he says.

Some Liberians refer to the country’s judicial system as one that serves only the rich. As a result, they say they are frightened to seek redress in a court of law.

In her speech, Sirleaf admitted that the punishment aspect remains what she calls “the missing link” in the fight against corruption. But, she said her government will continue to tackle that problem.

“Battling corruption is at its core a battle of ideas, a battle of values, a battle of attitudes. We have been trying to take an approach that’s both systemic and preventive, and we have made progress,” she said.

Sirleaf said her government has strengthened the principles of fairness and professionalism by increasing compensation to reduce the incentive for corruption.

She said her government has also strengthened the principles of accountability by restructuring the country’s general auditing commission and establishing the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

As a result, she said Liberia has moved up 41 places on the global index of Transparency International.

The Liberian leader said unemployment remains the biggest challenge and the priority of her government.

“We know that relying on our natural wealth and foreign investment along will not create jobs. We need to go one step beyond our own traditional experience and the experience of many of our African countries. We need more value added, more labor-intensive industries, more small business, more vocational training, and a sustained and renewed effort to raise the educational standards for all of our citizens,” she said.

Other critics say she has not done much to reconcile Liberians by what they say is her failure to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The commission was set up 2003 to look into the root causes of the Liberian conflict from 1979 to 2003 and to make it possible for perpetrators to be held accountable for gross human rights violations.

The president said her government’s process of national healing and reconciliation is neither perfect nor complete.  But, she said her government is convinced it has taken the necessary first step.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid