Liberians are impatient for the change they voted for. The bread and butter issues continue to bite hard to the bone. President George Weah - elected largely by the youth on the Euphoria of change is yet struggling to grapple with the realities of political governance. It was never going to be easy for Weah (a football legend), to navigate the troubled political and socio-economic terrain of Liberia especially given the fact that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, with her vast experience in economic management and international diplomacy, fell short of her own promises to bring economic and social transformation to Liberia. George on the other hand with limited experience in governance has been entrusted by the people to transform their lives and the fortunes of their beloved Liberia. A tough call.
It is extremely important that a critical analysis of Leadership from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to George Weah is done to situate some of the current challenges in their right perspective and proffer solutions and suggestions to how Liberians should be thinking about future governance. During the first term of Ellen Sirleaf, (2006 -2012), substantial accomplishments were achieved given the disastrous state of the nation just coming out of a serious war. Check the links at the bottom of this write up for more on Ellen’s presidential accomplishments.
This write up seeks to highlight the modest accomplishments and challenges from the Ellen to George Weah era, the hopes, aspirations and frustrations of the Liberian people in their Leadership, the way forward and the lessons for governance in Africa.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Presidential Accomplishments. Highlights of achievements, challenges, setbacks.
The challenges Ellen – Johnson Sirleaf Inherited upon taking office in 2005.
- A collapsed socioeconomic structure with huge bureaucratic bottlenecks.
- A total collapse in the rule of law that led to massive deaths, destruction of infrastructure and displacement of thousands of people.
- The breakdown of all vital institutions of state; in Education, health care, public infrastructure and the rule of law.
- A marauding army of militants involved in the abuse of drugs, armed robbery, mayhem, blackmail, prostitution etc.
- Deep rooted unemployment and insecurity.
Ellen Sirleaf’s Presidential Legacies and Achievements
- Debt forgiveness to the tune of 4.9 billion dollars. In 2010 the Government was able to cancel $4.9 billion of debt by reaching the completion point of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, with financial reforms approved by the World Bank and IMF, leaving greater resources available for investment in public services and poverty reduction.
- Big investments were made in training government officials and rebuilding institutions, as did foreign governments, which poured $1.1 billion in foreign aid into Liberia in 2015 alone. This was through collaborative efforts of the George Soros open society foundation, Humanity United, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Africa Governance Initiative and the Oxford economist Paul Collier who signed on as an advisor.
- . From 2011 to 2013, the country’s economy grew at an annual rate of more than 8 percent. This was due to a boom in commodity prices of Iron Ore and Rubber. This brought in a lot of investors looking for theses commodities. Liberia’s economy soar over this period.
- Improvements in Road network: Buchanan – Ganta. The Somalia Drive to Red Light projects, Some Renovations at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), JFK Medical Facility, the Monrovia Port etc. The Monrovia to Ganta stretch and more.
- The Improvement in Freedom of speech.
- The championing of women’s right issues.
- New hope in A democracy that works and will stand the test of time.
- An opportunity for many Liberians to participate in Public service especially those not politically aligned.
- The opportunity for Liberians to get scholarships to study abroad and return to build a better nation.
- The opportunity to freely participate in multiparty democracy.
- The introduction of the West African Power Pool, which has electrified Ganta-Harper and approaching Gbarnga are milestones worth touting as well.
- Building and maintaining a strong foreign policy and representing Liberia in an impressive and honorary manner abroad.
- Awarded the Nobel Peace prize alongside other outstanding women.
Challenges, Failures and disappointments of The Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Era
- Does not seem to have done enough to root out poverty and deep seated corruption in Liberia. In 2006, she declared corruption “Public Enemy No. 1,” only to preside over an administration that was perceived by some as notoriously corrupt.
- Allegation of corruption leveled against her sons and Appointees in government; and she not doing enough to investigate the issues and prosecute offenders.
- Liberia ranked 90th out of 176 countries in the 2016 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. This indeed put a dent in the efforts of the president in fighting corruption especially in her administration.
- Poverty levels and unemployment especially among the youth remain high, making Liberia one of the world's poorest nations.
- Why has Sirleaf not been able to deal with the rampant poverty in her country, despite having worked at the World Bank and UN agencies dealing with such issues? A concern that questioned her commitment and willingness to bring her expertise to bear in her broken and poor country.
“In fact it ranked 177 out of 180 countries in the Human Development Index. Part of this is [due to the lack of] capacity to implement policy. If you are looking at an immediate post-conflict environment, it can be difficult and complex to do the work of rebuilding the country, consolidating peace and sustaining a transition towards democracy all at the same time.” Elizabeth Donnelly, deputy head of the Africa Program at Chatham House in London.
- Ellen Sirleaf seem to have committed one of the biggest back stabbing in Liberian politics when she openly, and deceitfully went against her sitting vice president Mr. Joseph Boakai who was the ruling party’s candidate for the presidential elections. Despite his vast knowledge and experience in public administration and governance, he lost the election to football legend George Weah. Ellen was accused of masterminding this scheme for her own parochial interest and not in the interest of the state.
- The dreadful Ebola outbreak in 2014 had a very devastating impact on the country’s economy. Almost wiping out the entire economic gains made over the years. Probably, the Sirleaf administration would have posted very strong economic growth record if not for the Ebola outbreak. The country however, overcame the Ebola attack.
The Way forward and Expectations from the Weah led Administration
- Ensuring the Peace and stability of the Country; that Liberia does not return to its despotic past.
- An all-inclusive government of National Unity.
- Upholding the rule of law and curbing crime, threats and ethnic divisions.
- Fixing the economy from its current disastrous state.
- Working hard on Liberia’s road infrastructure especially connecting Monrovia to the interior.
- Rebuilding and improving the country’s educational system.
- Health care and Sanitation challenges
- Building an equipped and disciplined law enforcement system
- Financial Accountability and Transparency in government
- Curbing bribery and Corruption which has strong cultural roots in the Country.
- A more efficient and effective security system.
Lessons for Governance in Africa
- The people of Liberia and Africa as a whole deserve a better standard of living.
- Building strong institutions in Africa will lead to a freer and safer environment for Africans.
- The personal, selfish political interest of African politicians is causing death and destruction of the continent.
- Let governance be done by those who are fully equip to govern. Governance is so critical to national success that only those who are equip with the capacity and character to lead should be place at the high office.
- Citizens must get involve in the issues of governance and not be just spectators.
The links below will give additional information in detail that this write up does not cover on Governance.
References and works cited
- https://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/09/the-tearing-down-of-ellen-johnson-sirleaf-liberia-elections/ retrieved on 28th sept. 2019
- https://allafrica.com/stories/201801190803.html retrieved on 2nd Oct. 2019
- https://www.dw.com/en/liberia-ellen-johnson-sirleafs-presidential-legacy/a-41947808 retrieved on 2nd October. 2019
- https://www.achievement.org/achiever/ellen-johnson-sirleaf/ cited on 2nd Oct. 2019