President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a Liberian politician who serves as the 24th and current President of Liberia since 2006. Sirleaf is the first elected female head of state in Africa.
Sirleaf was born in Monrovia to a Gola father and Kru-German mother. She was educated at the College of West Africa before moving to the United States where she studied at Madison Business College and Harvard University. She returned to Liberia to work in William Tolbert’s government as Assistant Minister of Finance from 1973–74 and Minister of Finance from 1979–80.
After Samuel Doe seized power in a coup d’état and executed Tolbert, Sirleaf fled to the U.S. She worked for the World Bank before moving to Nairobi, where she worked for Citibank and then the Equator Bank.
Many Liberian professionals, especially those living abroad in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, including Jones Nhinson Williams, a Liberian philosopher who works as a job creation expert and workforce development professional in the United States, have had serious policy differences with the Liberian president on several governance and policy issues. Despite these differences, these Liberian professionals respect the Liberian presidency and President Sirleaf as a person.
“President Sirleaf inherited a difficult Liberia,” Williams said. “But our differences with the president is based on the notion that she has not stood firm against corruption and incompetence in her administration,” he said.
Like Williams, many other Liberian professionals say Liberia is on the right footing in 2017 and the president must do all she can to ensure that the country has a smooth transition of power after the October 2017 presidential election.
As Liberia moves closer into a new chapter, there is a need for Liberians to unite and President Sirleaf is urged to lead this process. In addition, while some Liberians have disagreed with the president and her administration, it is time that national reconciliation and national unity supersede the past. This, however, should not replace the need for accountability and justice.
Liberians should take advantage of the opportunity of having the first democratically elected president turning over state power to a newly elected president. If nothing is achieved under President Sirleaf, this is a major milestone.
Therefore, the Liberian president should and must avoid giving any signal of supporting or interfering in the electoral process. That said, Liberians, somehow, must bid their president a happy farewell. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did many things, some good and most bad, but she must be applauded for the efforts she applied in holding a country that came from fragility together for the past 12 years.