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Clinton Says Liberia Making Progress in Fighting Corruption

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's government is making significant progress in the fight against corruption. Secretary Clinton addressed Liberia's National Assembly in Monrovia.

Secretary Clinton says President Sirleaf's administration is taking action to increase transparency with a strong Anti-Corruption Commission at the center of efforts to rebuild from years of civil war.

"Today, Liberia is a model of successful transition from conflict to post-conflict, from lawlessness to democracy, from despair to hope," said Hillary Clinton. "In the last three years, the people of this country have been working to promote reform, reconstruction, and reconciliation. Liberia has adopted sound fiscal policies and seen strong economic growth."

Liberia ranks 138 on the 180-nation corruption index established by the good-governance group Transparency International. Reigning-in corruption is crucial to attracting foreign investment to a nation where 80 percent of people are unemployed.

President Sirleaf says strengthening Liberia's General Auditing Commission and complying with the Norwegian-based Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative has reduced corruption.

"I am pleased that corruption, long entrenched, long covered, is now being exposed," said Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. "We have to expose it so that we can deal with it."

With those legal and regulatory frameworks in place, President Sirleaf says the challenge now is making sure that they continue to be implemented properly. She says a new team at the Justice Ministry is committed to punishing those responsible for corruption both inside and outside of government.

"We have also reduced people's vulnerabilities by increasing civil service pay, by settling arrears, all of which have contributed to corruption," she said. "We now need for the public and the media to recognize the progress and to join us in this fight which is not limited to government but has taken root in all of the society."

At Liberia's National Assembly, Secretary Clinton spoke of the need to create institutions that are strong enough to engender the faith and confidence of the people and will survive both good leaders and what she called not-so-good leaders.

"Ending corruption is necessary to growing and sustaining such institutions and restoring the public's trust," she said.

She suggested that Liberian lawmakers establish a code of conduct to hold each other accountable.

"You have to have codes of conduct, regulatory frameworks, ethical standards that guide the pursuit of the common good," she said.

Former rebel leader and Liberian President Charles Taylor used embezzled timber revenues to fund conflict in both his own country and neighboring Sierra Leone. He is now in The Hague facing war crimes charges for his involvement in Sierra Leone's civil war.