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Liberian President Sirleaf Seeks More Support In. U.S.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says in order to have a truly peaceful and just world, the international community must seek to enhance women’s access to decision making processes. Speaking Tuesday at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., President Sirleaf said her government has made a good beginning by naming women to key cabinet posts. But she says a lot more needs to be done internationally.

“We must not forget that the poorest and least educated people everywhere are women and children. I have long supported the establishment of a new independent United Nations-funded program for the empowerment of women and for gender equality. The United Nations must demonstrate its commitment to the world’s women by establishing such an institution with adequate funding and the mandate to carry out this responsibility.”

President Sirleaf says the international community must also do more to stop the killings in Sudan’s Darfur region. She says there is no excuse to delay action because of a debate over whether the instrument should be an African Union or a U.N. force.

“The continued stalemate exposes weaknesses in international cooperation and collaboration and demonstrates a lack of international will to address the suffering. Civilized nations must not be indifferent to any conflict, internal or external, regardless of the factors that fuel it. We must properly equip and fund the current African Union mission now while we move urgently to mount an effective United Nations intervention,” she said.

The Liberian president also called on the international community to curb what she calls the tools of war. She called for UN sanctions against her government to be lifted.

“Liberia is still under economic sanctions because our diamonds were used to fund conflicts. We need those sanctions lifted, but we have also understood our responsibility to police diamond exports. At the same time, diamond-importing countries must better ensure that they are not customers for conflict diamonds,” the Liberian leader said.

President Sirleaf said her election as Africa’s first elected woman president was seen globally as one of hope and possibility for the Liberian people. She says since her inauguration last January, the Liberian people have made tremendous progress. But she said the international community must act quickly to ensure that freedom can deliver prosperity and peace. President Sirleaf says any failure to do so would be more costly for Liberia.

“If we cannot deliver on the promise of peace, we cannot claim surprise at a slide back into war. The record on this is clear. If we do not deliver tangible results in the first year, the risk of descending back into chaos is very high.”

President Sirleaf says the U.S. has been, by far, the most generous bilateral contributor to Liberia’s peace and reconstruction effort.

“Five months ago, the U.S. Congress voted an additional 50 million dollars for urgent rebuilding projects. We are exceedingly grateful, and we look forward to seeing the money on the ground very soon.”

President Sirleaf says Liberia’s poor should not be made to pay for the country’s three point seven billion-dollar external debt, which she says was borrowed by what she calls illegitimate regimes. She called for the cancellation of the debt.

President Sirleaf reiterated her call to Liberians in the Diaspora to return home to supplement her government’s capacity to rebuild their country.

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