Trip to Liberia was Extremely Depressing - Says Ellen Sirleaf

The Perspective

September 26, 2001

Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who recently returned from Liberia says her trip was extremely depressing. "The reception, talking to family, to friends, partisans, the public at large in every sense, was very good. In another sense, the trip was very depressing. Extremely depressing because the country is in a very sad state. Very little has been done to restore anything," Mrs. Sirleaf told The Perspective upon arrival in Abidjan yesterday.

Contrary to what was reported by this paper, however, that Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf was scheduled to meet with President Taylor on Monday, she left Monrovia without meeting the Liberian president. She said Taylor's aides wanted to reschedule the meeting because of conflict in his schedule - he was scheduled to meet with the Liberian Muslim community leaders on the same day. "They tried to make adjustment today, but it just didn't work out. I could not delay my departure for the meeting simply because I had to leave for Dakar to chair a board meeting."

When asked as to whether she now believes that Mr. Taylor was sincere when he granted them the amnesty, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf said, "I wouldn't say Taylor was sincere. Let's put it this way, I think Taylor had to do it. I think Taylor just has too much pressure on him. There are just too many things going wrong... People should take advantage of it, just because it is home. We have the right to be there! I returned home because it is home. I have the right to be there and nobody should stop me from going home."

Reminded that, perhaps, Mr. Taylor did not bother her because she is an international figure, which is not true with some of the other opponents pardoned, she was careful not to say that Taylor would not be "foolish enough" to arrest his opponents. She made similar statement in August and that caused her to cancel her trip to Liberia. Former rebel fighters of Taylor felt that the statement was an insult to Mr. Taylor and the Liberian people, and as such, they threatened to demonstrate should she return to Liberia. In response to the question, she said, "I think - again I have to choose a different word. Let me rephrase it - I think Taylor is smart enough to know that they should not let anything happen to anybody who returns as the result of the pardon. I told them even there that I do not accept pardon, I do not accept amnesty for crimes I didn't commit."

The self-help village project known as Measuagoon, launched by Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf, which is operating in several villages throughout Liberia has come under attack in recent times from Taylor's propaganda machine. Asked about the status of the project, she replied, "the project is going well. It has had some slow-down because of management problem. In fact, the project was under a serious attack. A website for the project was designed by Rodney Wilson and his wife, Juliana Obi Wilson, with the intent of trying to identify different activities that encourage and solicit support from people of those villages, and to introduce the project to people. The website was designed in 1998. Unfortunately, it has not been revised. Some of the projects which are listed on the Measuagoon site for which funds were being solicited have never taken off. But we published in the local paper [The News] in the year 2000, in fact it was also published at The Perspective website. If anybody says the projects listed at The Perspective website do not exist, it is a lie. Those are the actual projects that have been executed - the amounts involved, the people and villages involved were published in the local paper and at The Perspective site. Nobody raised contention when it was published."

Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf continued, "Prior to my departure, T. Max wanted me on his DC 101 radio talk show. I declined going on the show because I did not want to be provoked. Instead, we sent people from Measuagoon projects. A lady from Lorplay and a gentleman from [another Measuagoon project] defended Measuagoon... We pay $150.00 every year to get what they call accreditation. As you know, we have the 501(3)(c) status in the US which means that contributions made to the project are tax deductible. The Liberian government taxes Measuagoon. Now the information I have gathered is that Taylor has told the Ministry of Planning that they must not accredit any NGO without his personal approval. Frankly, we took a decision at Measuagoon's Board meeting last night that if they come up with such a decision, we will have no other choice but close down Measuagood."

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