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Monrovians Praise Johnson-Sirleaf on First Anniversary of Rise to Power

As residents of Liberia's war-torn capital Monrovia prepare to mark the first year of power for President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the mood remains one of general praise and hope for Africa's first elected female leader. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Dakar with on the street interviewing in Monrovia by reporter Precious Sangbeh Seboe.

On January 16, 2006, traditional music ushered in the newly elected president's swearing-in ceremony.

"Let us begin anew, moving into a future that is filled with promise, filled with hope," she said. "In union strong, success is sure. We cannot, we will not, we shall not fail."

After decades of corrupt, brutal rule, conflict and ethnic divisions, President Johnson-Sirleaf promised renewed foreign investment, an end to corruption, and restoration of basic services.

Although progress has been slow and completely aid dependent, the mood on the street in Monrovia, one year later, seems generally upbeat.

A student at the United Methodist University summarizes the pride many Liberians feel.

"I feel so proud of the first African female president, of her many achievements thus far," the student said.

A young man, Prince, says the most important thing is that security has been restored throughout Liberia's chaotic land.

"Because (there is) no war, nothing going on, so I can sleep freely. I am moving freely and I thank her for that. I like everything that she has done," he said.

A 22-year-old woman says this is the first time she has noticed a government trying to do something for Liberians.

"I feel very fine. I feel impressed because she has proved to us she is really competent for this job," she said. "I was born in 1984, and since I was born, development (is only) starting now. She restored light and now the streets are all getting real development."

Another Monrovia resident also expressed amazement that electricity was coming back to some streets in downtown Monrovia, but does worry about the president's drive to downsize government.

He wants to make sure the new president does not forget how much help people actually need.

"We want the national government to be conscious of the fact that life as a whole in Liberia is very unbearable," he said. "Most are homeless. Most people do not have food to eat. You can see for yourself that people are loitering around the streets because they have nothing to do."

The devastation of the war was such that the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission Alan Doss says that even if Liberia's economy grows at 10 percent over the next 25 years, Liberians would only be back in terms of standard of living to where they were in the 1980s.

President Johnson-Sirleaf is not planning any major festivities to mark her first year in power Tuesday. She is currently working on preparing an international donors conference for Liberia to be held in Washington next month.