Sunday, October 9, 2011

Liberia: Mixed Reviews for Johnson-Sirleaf's Nobel Peace Prize

Robbie Corey-Boulet


Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Monrovia — As the Norwegian Nobel Committee named Liberian President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf a joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, opposition party supporters were flooding the streets of Monrovia to demand that she be voted out of office in the upcoming election.

Friday's announcement immediately became political fodder in a highly charged presidential campaign, highlighting the wide gap between the glowing reception Johnson-Sirleaf receives abroad and the mixed one she receives at home.

The Nobel committee announced that the prize would be divided into three equal parts. Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist who organised a women's movement calling for an end to civil war in the West African nation, was also named a winner, as was Tawakkul Karman, a Yemeni journalist and activist who has played a prominent role in that country's Arab Spring protests.

But in Monrovia, the focus Friday was squarely on Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first elected female head of state who is running for a second term in a vote scheduled for Oct. 11. The prize was awarded on the same day that supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the leading opposition party, marched in support of political change.

In a statement, the Nobel committee said Johnson-Sirleaf had "contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women."
On the contrary, the CDC has consistently accused Johnson-Sirleaf of bringing war to the country, citing her early financial support of former President Charles Taylor, now on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity at The Hague.

Taylor launched a coup in 1989 that plunged Liberia into 14 years of civil conflict that claimed more than 250,000 lives. In 2009, Liberia's South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission report included Johnson-Sirleaf on a list of 49 politicians who should be barred from politics for 30 years owing to their ties to warring factions. Johnson-Sirleaf issued an apology to the nation shortly thereafter, saying she only supported Taylor in the hope that he would overthrow dictator Samuel Doe.

In an interview late last month, however, CDC presidential candidate Winston Tubman highlighted the president's ties to Taylor, saying: "The government that we are seeking to replace is a government that oppressed the people. It is a government that brought war."

Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist who has previously worked for the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank, has been accused by her opponents of courting international favour at the expense of voters back home.

Speaking to IPS by phone on Friday, Tubman said the prize was further evidence that the views of the international community did not match those of Liberians.

"If the international community feels that she deserves such a prize, they should watch out for today's march, because the CDC is prepared to vote her out of power peacefully," he said.

TQ Harris, a former independent presidential candidate, struck a similar note in an SMS text message sent to supporters and journalists. "This explains why Liberians have yet to get a war crimes court... the international community has an agenda that is not in line with ours," he said.

Thousands of CDC supporters turned out for Friday's rally marking the end of the party's campaign, dancing and drinking in the streets, shouting slogans and brandishing banners. While waiting inside Antoinette Tubman Stadium for the arrival of Tubman and his running mate, international football star George Weah, 36-year-old voter David Mzor described why he thought the decision to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Johnson-Sirleaf was inappropriate.

"I don't think President Sirleaf deserves it because she has not been able to reconcile the Liberian people. She's not a reconciler," he said. "She helped to put our future way back. That was not the right way to remove (dictator Samuel) Doe. There were other alternatives."

Thomas Queayahn, 19, who was also among the CDC supporters in the stadium, agreed. "She was a fighter before she was a leader," he said of the president. "She brought war to the country."
The president's many supporters take the opposite view, praising her for restoring peace and stability against significant obstacles.

As he watched the CDC marchers go by Friday from his stall on Benson Street, petty trader Prince Worzie hailed the president as a peacemaker. "She has brought peace to Liberia," he said, adding that he also commended her efforts to promote women within her government. "That alone justifies that indeed she should deserve the award."

John Ballout, a senator with Johnson-Sirleaf's ruling Unity Party and a member of her campaign team, said the attempt to paint her as an instigator of the war was a political tactic on the part of opposition leaders "who want to shift the discussion."

"Yes, she has been very supportive of all of the struggles to resist dictatorship in this country," he said. "It's not that she's been supporting conflict or war - she's been supporting resistance."

With additional reporting by Stephen Binda and Saye Messah

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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