Liberians Need Sober Reflection - Says Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
(Liberia's 153rd Independence Day Message)
August 2, 2000

Today, our government stands accused by the major western powers of aiding and abetting rebels, in the neighboring country of Sierra Leone, who have committed heinous crimes against their own people. They have also accused the President of profiting personally from the sale of illegal diamonds to purchase illegal arms that are used to commit these crimes.

Our government has denied these accusations and called for the evidence and the opportunity to clear its name. The President has asked for his day in court. We call upon the international community to grant this request - to allow him to refute these allegations in the Tribunal that the Security Council is establishing for those who have committed terrible crimes against the people - the women and children - of Sierra Leone.

We call upon the National Legislature, as these serious allegations have become widespread, thereby putting the nation at risk, to appoint an Independent Commission of Inquiry led by a prosecutor to investigate the veracity of these allegations. The Commission would then present its findings to the Legislature and advise/recommend impeachment proceeding if the President is found guilty. By so doing, in accordance with articles 62 and 43 of the constitution, the Legislature, rising above partisan politics, would act in the interest of the nation and people whom they represent.

On this third anniversary of the coming into power of the regime of President Charles Taylor, Liberians need a sober reflection on the state of their country. There is need to reflect upon our historical successes and failures, the unmet national challenges of successive previous governments, the current profundity of our difficulties and depravation.

When a war weary people voted on July 19,1997, there was hope for the end of social conflict, hope that those who commanded the resources for destruction, would now turn those assets into forces for reconstruction.

We are greatly disappointed. Three years and midway through the period to the next elections, the numerous campaign promises have not been met. Once again, the opportunity for national renewal has been squandered. The economy remains collapsed, basic social services such as water and power unrestored. The schools lack qualified teachers and supplies; the hospitals and clinics are without proper equipment and medicines; public sector wages and salaries are unpaid for protracted periods. The nation faces a level of impoverishment unparalleled in its history. The nation is now virtually a pariah state characterized, by recent media reports, as one attracting drug dealers, illicit arms traders, money launderers and evangelists stealing in the name of the Lord.

If official accounts are to be believed, the nation is at the verge of another round of warfare. I join in the statement already issued by the cooperating political parties in condemning any person, group or organization which is involved in or supporting activities in Lofa County or elsewhere, that would subject our people to the sufferings that result from the chaos and destruction of war.

To counter all these adversities, we call upon the government to address urgently the many issues that constrain its potential success; that undermine the efforts of the many committed honest and hardworking Liberians in and out of government, who are trying to serve the same nation and meet the needs of its people.

These issues include:
National Security and Safety
- The need for government action to promote freedom from fear through a reduction of the level and the presence of militarism, and a judiciary system that provides redress to those whose safety and rights have been violated. This calls for curtailing the activities of specially armed security units and government action to investigate those serious cases of crimes and injustices such as the killing of the Dokies, and Madam Flomo, etc, and for a release of the autopsy report of the late Vice President.

Economic Reconstruction - There is the need for a national vision for development and sound economic policies aimed at implementing the vision. This would call for an end to exploitation of the nation's resources for personal gain, for free trade and competition thus bringing existing monopolies to an end and for a fiscal regime that conforms to the requirements of the constitution, the statutes and administrative regulations.

Good Governance - There is the need for a competent and committed public service reoriented to service and honesty; the need for transparency and accountability in public transactions; the need for independence of the judiciary and legislative branches of government to provide the checks and balances envisioned by the constitution; the need for non partisanship in the granting of public service positions and privileges; the need for loyal and cooperative opposition parties to assist in the task of nation building; the need for national LEADERSHIP.

External Relations - There is the need for the end to our nation's involvement in the Sierra Leone conflict and specifically in support of the RUF; the need for good relations with all our neighbors and traditional friends based upon a demonstration of commitment to the development of our country and to the policies that will foster regional cooperation and Liberia's integration into the global economy.

I join other Liberian leaders in committing myself personally and the Unity Party generally to work for the good of our country, for the peace and stability, which we so desperately need. I join others in calling upon our government to change course, to recommit itself to moving Liberia forward. I join the many others who stand willing to join forces with the government if it is prepared, through action not words, to promote the peace, reconciliation and economic reconstruction for which the people voted in 1997.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was a presidential candidate of the Unity Party in the 1997 elections in Liberia

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