Elected in 2005 and 2011 as Liberia and Africa’s first democratically elected President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf more than four decades public service would come to a close at noon on Monday, January 22 following the Inauguration of President-elect George Weah.
In those years, the Johnson Sirleaf has had her high and low. From a mere government employees to director, Minister, activist, patriot, rebel and President.
Ever since her electoral victory in 2005, the Liberian leader has and continues to receive rock star reception across the globe, from Washington to Brussels, from Oslo to Beijing and capped with numerous international accolades including the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.
Public expectation was massive when the then relatively popular Johnson Sirleaf was elected owing to her firebrand and anti corruption credentials. Billions of United States Dollars was raised domestically and international to help finance her economic recovery and socio development programs and projects.
But after 12 years in office the jury is still out there if she has performed to expectation and reputation.
The Johnson Sirleaf administration began promisingly bright with the assistance of international partners introduced reforms to address century old perennial problems with respect to economic mismanagement and bad governance, which had amongst other factors generally been pinpointed as drivers of the country’s brutal civil conflict.
For instance in the financial sector there exists the Public Finance Management and the Public Procurement and Concession laws designed and approved to ensure fiscal discipline, accountability and openness in public financial transactions coupled with deriving efficiency, economy and value for money relative to government’s procurement.
Anti graft institutions including the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC), The General Auditing Commission and the Liberia Internal Audit Agency were established.
While setting up these institutions and rolling out those reform programs were no doubt good news for post conflict Liberia, there are overwhelming criticism that its effectiveness and efficiency had been disappointing with public financial transactions in many instances still bearing the outlook of pre-reform era.
Her vow to fight corruption that has retarded economic development is an undeliverable promise.
She is leaving behind a country that is experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades and the retiring leader is criticized for doing little to rebuild the country and revive the economy.
As Sirleaf leaves office, the Central Bank of Liberia forecast inflation at 11% and currency depreciation at 24% while according to World Bank and UNDP more than 70 percent of the country’s 4.5million population is leaving on less than a dollar a day.
In January 2017 the President used her final Annual Address to the nation to defend her government’s performance.
She reported notable progress was made with respect to her 2006 mandate to transform the country.
“See for you the progress we have all made,” she said then, adding there will be no apology for critics who are also benefiting from fruits of the success.
Health, education, agriculture and the provision of basic social services such as electricity and pipe borne water are amongst sectors and programs, which the President outlined as achieved deliverables.
She indicated that from switching on the first streetlight in 2006, the administration has made available 10magawhatz with more than 3,300 people, including slum dwellers enjoying access. The rehabilitation of the country’s main energy source – the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant is in advanced stage and will go live at end December 2016, with corresponding increase in household connections.
All these have not been without controversy. She never pretends about her feelings. Following the election of US President Donald Trump, Sirleaf was perhaps the first African leader to express concern about what President-elect Donald Trump’s policy towards Africa would be.
In an interview with BBC television she said “We are extremely saddened by this missed opportunity on the part of the people of the United States to join smaller democracies in ending the marginalization of women.
“We are concerned as to whether President-elect Trump will have an African agenda, will be able to build bridges with Africa. We can only hope that he will do so in due course.
“I’m worried about trade deals for Liberia, for Africa. I’m worried about investment and the special programmes that have been put in place by President Obama and by President George Bush before him, and we just don’t know what the policy towards Africa will be.”
But one aspect of her life, which she regrets today is her involvement in the rebellion of the 90s and her financial contribution to warlords Charles Taylor, and prison in wars that would lead to the killing of more than 250,000 Liberians and destruction of the country.
In 2005, Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu an insider of the destructed rebellion that derailed the nation’s forward march revealed the role Sirleaf played in an open letter.
Woewiyu, now on trial in the United States for the war narrated: First, let us clarify the matter of what level of involvement and part you played in the founding of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and the prosecution of its wars: The Quinwonkpa failed coupe in 1985 and the version led by Charles Taylor which started in December of 1989. As you know, the NPFL organization was the same but operated with different foot soldiers in each version under your stewardship, as we will see later on in this letter.
Your position in that organization, especially the Taylor version, was not as petit and as limited as you continue to describe it to have been. “Level Monrovia we will rebuild it” could have only come from the real Head of State and Commander-in-Chief whose Army was the NPFL as you saw yourself. You issued the order, and it was executed. It included the notorious Octopus, which finally wrecked Monrovia. Fifteen years have gone by and Monrovia is still without water and electricity. During the course of this period, you were the second most powerful person in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP); but zero came to Liberia by way of your influence. You even undermined the promotion and employment of qualified Liberians in that UN organization during your tenure. For now, I will leave your UN record to speak for itself.
Preparation for Invasion
My first trip to the Ivory Coast to meet with Charles Taylor, Harry Yuan, Moses Duopu and others to assess the level of military plan of action for the purpose of removing Doe was sponsored by you and others in the wake of the failed Quinwonkpa coupe in which you played a major role. At the time, you were personally supporting Harry Yuan in the rapid re-recruitment of his fellow Nimbaians and Clarence Simpson was supporting Moses Duopu, the late Counselor Gbaydiah and others in the Ivory Cost to launch another arm attack on the Doe Regime following the botched Quinwonkpa coupe.
If you can recall, after my visit, to the Ivory Coast, the three men split up in search of a possible training base and support. Duopu went to Nigeria, Harry Nyan went to Senegal and Taylor went to Burkina Faso. It was Taylor who first found the possible avenue to accomplish the mission.
With your knowledge and support I again went to Burkina Faso to ascertain the truth to Taylor’s claim that he had found the ultimate opportunity to train men for another attempt to remove the Doe Regime by force of arm. The sponsors, especially Thomas Sankara, wanted to know that there was a political support for an arm rebellion by civilians to remove the Samuel Doe’s military junta. With your knowledge and consent, I gave the sponsors the assurance they needed to kick off the process of recruitment and training.
Upon my arrival back in the United States, I went straight to your sister’s house on Long Island where you were living. While we were discussing the issue of Taylor leading this round of arm rebellion, Byron Tarr arrived. When you told him what you were putting Taylor up to, he was totally opposed on the ground that Taylor was corrupt. He gave in only when you asked him if he had any other viable alternative, given that you people had tried more than 10 times to get rid of Doe but failed.