Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first democratically elected woman president, has announced she will run for a second term, despite promising during her first campaign to limit herself to one term.
President Sirleaf made the announcement Monday in an annual speech to the national legislature.
Press Secretary Cyrus Badio said the president cited her successes in governing the country as reasons for her decision to seek re-election.
“The president did catalogue the number of achievements that have been made, including peace and security…the country now enjoys economic revitalization, including infrastructure, the current image that our country has built, but more importantly there is now hope in the future of this country. She spoke of the challenges but said now it is time to confront those challenges and who is best to lead the fight against those challenges but someone who has put in place the vision for the country to follow,” he said.
Charles Brumskine of the opposition Liberty Party of Liberia said he was not surprised by President Sirleaf’s decision to seek re-election. But he said he was shocked by the venue the president chose to make her announcement.
“The fact that the president announced her candidacy during her deliverance of the annual message of the state of our national affair is most indicative of what’s happening in our country. When the president cannot discern her constitutional duty from a campaign affair, our country is in trouble,” Brumskine said.
Brumskine said his Liberty Party will call on the president to account for every Liberian tax dollar that she has spent whether to travel around the country or elsewhere because he’s not sure if those trips were campaign trips or official duties.
“Will Mrs. Sirleaf account, I hope so. But if she doesn’t, I guess we will just have to treat it as just another affair of public corruption that remains unresolved and unprosecuted as many incidents over the last four years,” Brumskine said.
Badio said he saw nothing wrong with President Sirleaf announcing her re-election bid in front of a joint session of the national legislature.
“The president has a right to make her disclosure wherever she finds and where best to make an announcement like somewhere where the representatives of the people are based which is the joint assembly hall,” he said.
In its final report, Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) recommended that President Sirleaf and about 50 others be prevented from holding public offices for the next 30 years because of their support for warring factions during Liberia’s brutal civil war.
Brumskine said the president has decided to sweep the TRC report under the rug because she is not concerned about the rule of law in Liberia.
“The issue is not whether one agrees with the commission as such, but they (its members) must be commended because for the first time in our living history we had men and women who were courageous enough to look at the facts and indict a sitting president. Our duty as a people is to find a balance between maintaining peace in our country and upholding the rule of law,” Brumskine said.
Badio said the Liberian people should have the final say in what happens to the TRC report.
“The report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are recommendations, and those recommendations have been advanced to the National Legislature. Mind you the president has said that there are other good aspects in that report. Our people, the Liberian people will find a way out in implementing those aspects which do not violate our constitution,” Badio said.
He denied President Sirleaf’s government has failed to fight corruption.
“What people are used to in this country is arbitrariness, and that is what the president has said she will not do. There is rule of law and the president is obliged to respect the rule of law. If people want arbitrariness from this president they will not get it,” Badio said.
Brumskine describe President Sirleaf’s government as “new wine in old bottles”.
“The difference between this president and her predecessors is that she plays up to the international community. She talks about accountability and transparency but corruption in this government is more rampant than we’ve had in a long time, if not more so than ever,” Brumskine said.