Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: Africa’s First Female President?

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 7, 2005


Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
The run-off election for war-ravaged Liberia is set for tomorrow. In the first round where 22 presidential candidates contested, no candidate got the needed 50% plus one vote to win the elections. As per the elections law, the two highest vote-getters will meet in the runoff. Liberia’s soccer legend George Weah and Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf a veteran politician and an international figure were the two highest vote getters who will meet in the runoff tomorrow.

If things go well for Ellen, she could be Africa’s first female president. She is no stranger to Liberian politics. She served as Finance Minister during the Tolbert regime.

In 1997, she contested the election and came distant second to Charles Taylor. She also contested the election for the chairman of the current Interim Government and was selected as the #1 choice of Liberian political parties and civic organizations. But warring factions involved in the final decision-making process opted to choice a “country” and “neutral” person, thereby selecting Gyude Bryant.

She is tough, strict and a no nonsense lady. The talk about accountability in government scares to death many of her critics who are fixated in plundering the resources of the country.

Though she entered the runoff as an underdog, she has in recent days moved up. Just a few days ago, it was reported that Nimba County had fallen to her. Abdoulaye Dukule who traveled with her to Buchanan says the reception in that city and Bassa County as a whole was spectacular. Bong County is also said to have moved in Ellen’s corner. Day and night, rain or shine, her lieutenants are campaigned.

Jewel Howard-Taylor, Jeremiah Sulunteh, Dr. Walter Gwenigale et al worked hard in Bong, while effort in Nimba was spearheaded by Dr. Joseph Korto and other prominent Nimbains. Former Interim Chairlady Ruth Perry also assisted, while Abel Massaley was busy at work to bring Cape Mount on board. For her part, Maryland County’s Senator elect Gloria Scott and others worked hard in the county. More importantly, Dr. H. Boima Fahnbulleh, who is not normally a fan of Ellen, has come with a “fire power” - educating the Liberian people about the danger of electing a junior high school degenerate to the Liberian presidency. These are just a few of thousands of campaigners who were dispatched by UP to ensure that Ellen is elected on Tuesday.

Both Ellen and Weah spent their time and resources outside Monrovia during the just ended campaign period. But the condition of roads in the country was a major handicap. For example, it takes about four to five days to travel from Monrovia to Harper. Considering the short period of time allotted to campaigning, it was impossible for any of the candidates to reach many of the voters outside Monrovia. But things changed for the “Iron Lady” on Thursday when she got a helping hand from a helicopter. By Thursday afternoon, it was hovering over the city of Monrovia dropping Ellen’s campaign materials. At first some of Weah’s supporters thought it was the Soccer King who was dropping money from the copter, but to their disappointment the copter was Ellen’s. “Ellen is not only moving up, but has moved up…, she is in the air and on the ground,” said one of her supporters.

Via the helicopter, Ellen criss-crossed the country, meeting thousands of supporters and well-wishers. Thousands of people met Ellen over the weekend in the city of Voijama. According to Moses Gray, who is currently in Harper, Maryland County, a red-carpet welcome was put together for Ellen. But she could not make it there yesterday. After visiting Paynesville, West Point and other points of interest, she closed her campaign at the Fish Market in Sinkor where thousands of her supporters assembled.

On the other hand, Mr. Weah’s Saturday Million-man march turned into a thousand man-march. The march was expected at 10:00am on Saturday, but around 1:00 pm they were still calling on their supporters to come and show the support. At about 4:00 pm just a few thousands of his supporters could be seen in the street. If things continue to be this way, Tuesday would be a tough day for King George and a good day for the Iron Lady.