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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs