Monday, November 14, 2005 at 11:11 AM

Africa’s first female president restores hope for Liberia (and all of Africa)

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

On Friday, with 99% of the votes counted, the National Elections Commission declared Harvard-trained economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf the winner in Liberia’s run-off presidential election

Liberia is the only African nation never colonised by European imperialists. And this is probably due in large part to the fact that it was originally inhabited by black American settlers under the auspices of the United States government. But this unique founding did not set Liberia on a path that distinguished it from the pathologies of corruption, political incompetence and bloody civil wars that characterise the histories of other countries in Africa.

Nonetheless, Liberia has just distinguished itself in another way that augers well for its future. Because last week, after years of being misled by egocentric men who measured their success by the size of their guns and Swiss bank accounts, Liberia became the first African country to elect a female president.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has demonstrated that she is as politically astute as she is academically accomplished. And it is a testament to the enlightened self-interest of the Liberian people that they rejected the prototypical posturing of yet another would-be strongman, former soccer star George Weah, in favour of this serene, courageous and wise woman.

Sore loser and self-possessed former soccer star George Weah screamed foul and hurled groundless accusations of fraud when it became clear that he would lose – what he apparently thought was a national celebrity contest – to a little woman who has probably never had people treat her like a god or swoon over her autograph

Now, hope springs eternal that Johnson-Sirleaf will tame the unruly, predominantly male politicians who have made such a mess of things in Liberia; just as her idol “iron lady” Margaret Thatcher (the first female elected Prime Minister of England) instilled discipline and accountability amongst the members of her ruling Party when she was first elected in 1979.

So, here’s to Liberia’s unflappable President-elect as she gives birth to a new era of hope for Liberia and all of Africa.

Note: Woman Power! Alas, treating the chronic maladies that have plagued Liberia (and most African countries) may require women (like Johnson-Sirleaf and the founders of African First Ladies Against HIV/AIDS ) to usurp the authoritarian control men have wielded over Africa, take hold of the reins of political power and steer the continent on a more wholesome path

Endnote: Because she’s Harvard educated and, frankly, a woman, Johnson-Sirleaf will probably have no difficulty attracting financial aid from the United States and other donor nations to build her country’s infrastructure. The key to her success, however, rests on her ability to enlist the leaders of Liberia’s fractious and corrupt Armed forces (and local police) in a national effort to squash the destabilising activities of diamond warlords and rogue militia men.


  1. Richard November 14, 2005 at 1:06 pm

    This is a great story and I agree with the hope it represents. What a contrast to your other column today on the indictment of the South African V.P.

  2. Anonymous November 19, 2005 at 2:37 am

    The results are under investigation, the electoral commission of Liberia has cautioned no one to celebrate victory. The woman who is on top for the moment appears to have troubling record. She was visiting the Nigerian President just a week before the election. Her security guards are all Nigerian agents, and the largest Brigade of troops in Liberia are Nigeria’s. She had close ties to this regional power and the other candidate did not. He had his own private security and his own money, he would have likely caused trouble for Nigeria by being harsh on Taylor and been difficult to control. The election was not in his favour regardless of who the people of Liberia wanted. Nigeria is going to be remote controling things in Liberia one way or another.

  3. Dominic November 19, 2005 at 2:10 pm

    I agree with Richard.

    I wonder if the anonymous commenter above would prefer if Madam Sirleaf were guarded by US forces. People call for Africans to take care of their own problems. Well Nigeria is a democratic country and a regional power that was instrumental in ending years of civil war in Liberia. And its presence is as critical to Liberia’s survival as America’s presence is Iraq’s.

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