Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Wants Three Major Reforms in Liberia
By: J. Moses Gray
Posted December 16, 2003
The Standard Bearer of the Unity Party (UP), Mrs. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has underscored the need for social, economic and political reforms in the country. In her keynote address delivered recently at the First commencement exercises of the Smythe Institute of Management and Technology in Monrovia, Madam Sirleaf discussed the three major reforms separately.
Firstly, on the need for social reform, "the Iron Lady" of Liberian politics said since its founding by freed slaves in the mid-1800s, Liberia has been plagued by a social divide between descendents of the settlers on the one had and descendents of the indigenous ethnic groups on the other hand.
These conditions, she said, worsened in the 1980s with a regime that not only exploited the historical social tension, but also introduced practices that resulted in hostility among the ethnic groups.
Nevertheless, Madam Sirleaf said there is an opportunity to fix it; to address the divide that has plagued us for all these years, adding that because all, hardly without exception, have been negatively affected by the crisis.
Madam Sirleaf who was applauded several times for her presentation told the graduates that there is possibility to rally around a common cause of national unity; the opportunity to make a conscious effort to identify those common stands of freedom and liberty, of education and intermarriage, of equality and equal opportunity for all.
Speaking further on economic reforms, the Unity Party flagbearer said a new policy framework should aim at total reordering of the economy away from dependence on large scale enclave activities to those based upon agriculture and agro-processing with "small" bias.
She said Liberia has always been "capitalized" in its economic outlook even to the point of being called the "caveat emptor state".
Propounding, Madam Sirleaf said a natural progression of this orientation is to adopt those measures which force on the provision of economic incentives for individuals and comprises, leaving the Government to intervene only in those activities which cannot be undertaken by private economic agents, or those which are needed to protect national economic interest.
Madam Sirleaf also said there is a need for political reform, a reform which emphasizes greater participation by a larger number of the population in those decisions which affect their lives and welfare.
According to her, these reforms should ensure the development of institutions which ensure transparency and equity in the dispense of justice and preservation of all those fundamental rights which enhances the dignity of the individual.
"A political system along these lines need not be modeled after those of the West or the East, although it would require creative and perceptive thinking to produce an alternative which is likely to achieve these objectives", madam Sirleaf noted.
The outspoken Liberian political figure challenged Liberians to be innovative, find new measures to dismantle the imperial presidency; the monopolization of power by one man or one ethnic group, we must find new approaches to ensure that anyone and everyone is able to reach his political potential, to achieve his political objectives on the basis of effort.
According to Madam Sirleaf, there are many who are afraid of real structure reform and deep rooted change, adding that they are afraid because they have not been tested; have not been subjected to the vigor of fair competition and the harsh requirements of performance.
She noted that these people success is based upon handout; reward for collusion in political fraud and economic criminalization; the benefits of high office resulting from the spoils of war.
"They talk plenty, they promise much - a computer in every school, a football in every yard- but we will judge them not by the rhetoric of talk but by what they do and more importantly by what they have done to contribute to development, to respond to the basic needs of the people; to promote justice and equity in our society.
"We will not allow the obstacles to change and reform to once again choose the wrong way; we will not accept the old order, the business as usual path for our country", Madam Sirleaf added.
She stressed that we cannot fail ourselves and our people in departing from the past practices of exploitation, lies, deceit and cheap politics, and added that all Liberians cannot fail their people in turning the current crisis to an opportunity.
Meanwhile, Madam Sirleaf used the occasion to commend the graduates and administration of the institute.