Ellen in the Driver’s Seat; What Next?


By A. Bob Fallah

Monrovia, Liberia

Distributed by

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

Posted February 1, 2006


By the mandate of constitutional obligation, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Liberia’s 23rd President is the captain of Liberia’s political ship of state. Elected by majority of Liberians and partisans of the Unity Party, she assumed the official leadership of the state on 16 January 2006 when she was inaugurated at the grounds of the Capitol Building, the seat of Liberian Lawmakers.

Unity Party Standard-bearer’s victory came from the run-off elections held on 8 November 2005 between her and football Icon George Manneh Oppong Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC).
The occasion’s venue was the scene of personalities from around the world. Present at the program were U.S. Secretary of States, Condoleeyze Rice, and Representatives from Finland, France, EU States, Africa including South Africa Thembo Mbeki, Nigeria’s Olusangon Obansanjo, Ghana’s John Koffour among others.

Locally, high level Liberians from across the country graced the occasion including the newly members of the 52nd Legislature, traditional and ex-officials of the National Transitional Government of Liberia.

For Madam Sirleaf, the struggle to set the gavel of the Liberian state can be traced as far back as of the mid-eighties. With root from the Liberia Action Party (LAP), Madam Sirleaf came to prominence when she won a seat as Senator for Montserrado County in the 1985 elections, but refused to take seat because of the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) alleged rigging of the elections.

According to research, the female political activist classing herself as an opposition at the time ran into trouble with the late Samuel Doe administration. She was thrown into jail on many occasions.

In order to escape the wrath of that government, Madam Sirleaf managed to leave the country by way of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County through the help of a “friendly security” officer who was later killed by the order of the late President Doe. Madam Sirleaf then went silently only to surface during the hay days of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) revolution when she announced on the BBC being part of the struggle to militarily remove the leadership of the NDPL.

Hence, that marriage with the NPFL did not last because of policy differences. In an effort to realize her dream, Madam Sirleaf participated in the 1997 general and presidential elections but failed when the National Patriotic Front of Liberia( transformed to a political party) named and styled the National Patriotic Party (NPP) of exiled president Charles Ghankay Taylor became victorious of that elections.

Determined and focused on her drive the Liberian “Iron Lady” as she is popularly called went back to the political drawing table for the 2005 political game. At the age of 67, the woman who is now symbol of African politics for African women will go down in history as the 1st female Liberian and African Head of State.

Remarked a university student Peterson Gahn, “the attendance at her inaugural ceremonies is a symbol of a new beginning for Liberia looking at the kind of people who graced the occasion,” “Even though Liberia is Africa’s oldest Republic, Ellen’s presidency is a dawn of a new day.”

Already, the Ellen Administration with Ambassador Joseph Nyumah Boakai as Vice President, is lining up its team with the appointments of Liberians from all walks of life.

In a BBC interview, Madam Sirleaf promised that her government will be inclusive, but based on qualification, competence and good or clean character.

However, say a political observer Peter Johnson of the Central Commercial town of Gbarnga, Bong County “there is no clean person or Liberian now because everyone directly or indirectly was involved in the war.”

With the mandate so given to Madam Sirleaf, placing her in the driver’s seat of the political ship of Liberia, the question on the minds of Liberians at home and abroad now is ….what’s next?

© 2006: This article is copyrighted by the Forum newspaper (Monrovia, Liberia) and distributed by The Perspective (Atlanta, Georgia). All rights reserved. Forum can reached at: Forum@theperspective.org