Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who is widely considered as Africa’s first woman head of state gave what commentators and analysts termed as her farewell speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday in New York. The Liberian leader highlighted her leadership’s successes in the past 12 years of her reign.
In addressing the world, President Sirleaf said, “Today, I address you for the last time as I bring to closure my two terms of elected office. Liberia is just 22 days away from historic legislative and presidential elections. It will mark the first time in 73 years that political power will be handed over peacefully, and democratically, from one elected leader to another. This paves the way for the next generation of Liberians to lead the country into the future.”
Adding, “Today, we face the threat of climate change, the violence of terrorism, the risk and indignation of migration, and a nuclear escalation on the Korean peninsula. More over there is a race against time to accommodate a restless youthful population in search of opportunity and a brighter future.”
The Liberian leader mesmerized the world body with her usual charm on global issues and policies, urging the body to develop and implement concrete policies and actions, saying, “I hope that our deliberations, we will forge a consensus and renew our commitment as leaders to transform the lives of our people and meet our responsibility to our planet. The work of the United Nations has never been more important to the search for peace and the sustenance for global stability than it is today.”
During the speech, President Sirleaf also highlighted aspects of her domestic achievements as well as the upcoming presidential and legislative elections in Liberia.
She pointed out the significance of the presidential election, noting that the upcoming elections in the country signals an irremediable progression that Liberia has boarded in consolidating its young, post-conflict democracy.
She also lauded the international community and Liberia’s partners for their meaningful contribution both in funds and in-kind to ensure that the upcoming electoral process succeeds. She also lauded organizations willing and prepared to deploy observers to monitor the election process.
On key domestic successes, President Sirleaf said she assumed leadership of Liberia after almost 25 years of collapse which was heightened by 14-years of a civil war initiated and led by Charles Taylor, an ex-warlord and president presently jailed in the UK for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Taylor and his National Patriotic Front of Liberia rebel forces are said to have been organized as well as politically and financially supported by the Association for Constitutional Democracy in Liberia (ACDL), a nonprofit organization registered and operated in the United States by former exile Liberian opposition politicians (including Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf) to the Samuel K. Doe, Sr, regime.
The NPFL launched attacks on Liberia in 1989, leading to institutional breakdown, the cessation social services and agricultural activities. The war also decimated the country’s military and security forces. But in her speech, the Liberian leader detailed the progress made transforming the Liberian army and security apparatus.
“We have reshaped the Armed Forces of Liberia and the Liberia National Police, professionalized our customs and immigration services and small Liberian Coast Guard. We are proud to report that since the formal turnover of the security responsibilities to the Government, Liberia has remained stable, peaceful and secured,” she said.
On the economy, President said her government has transformed the Liberian economy in terms of growth, saying from a rate of zero, the country growth rate is now around 8.7% as indicated in 2013. She however, admitted that the recent Ebola epidemic which generated a heath catastrophic impacted commodity prices which in turn facilitated an economic downturn and slow the recovery plan.
Adding, “Liberia has adjusted, we are resilient, embracing diversification. Our focus today is towards strengthening the agriculture sector for value addition, and infrastructure development with emphasis on roads and energy for industrialization.”
The Liberian leader also informed the UN General Assembly that heretofore weak public institutions in Liberia have now re-established the capacity to respond to the needs of our citizens through decentralized county service centers that are governed by strong local government authorities.
“And from the tragedy of the health crisis, we are strengthening our healthcare systems, prioritizing prevention and delivering capacity at the community level,” she said.
Adding, “Poverty rate has decreased from 63.8% in 2007 to 50.9% in 2016,”
The Liberian leader said her administration has made incalculable impact on life expectancy in Liberia, noting, it has advanced from a stumpy 47 years to a hopeful 62 years with reduction in maternal death from 1400 to 1100, an annual rate of reduction of 3.4%. President also addressed the infrastructure issues in Liberia, adding, that infrastructure has been revamped and rebuilt.
“With the increasing provisions of electricity, potable water and technology, cities and towns are bustling with new life. It is now possible to receive voice and data on your phones and mobile devices from virtually everywhere in the country, at competitively low rates,” she said.
Even as access to healthcare services remain unattainable, and after UNCEF recently rated Liberia’s educational system as ‘weak’ in addition to several reports that have rated it as poor and deplorable, the Liberian leader said, “We have continued to transform the healthcare and education systems, engendered the entrepreneurial spirit in our youth, in our vibrant media and civil society.”
The Liberian leader praised the UN for its intervention and leadership role in transforming and stabilizing Liberia and Mano River sub region.
Adding, “Consider the lives saved, the wealth created, the stability assured, because this global body led at a time of great uncertainty in our sub-region and around the world. I ask member states to continue to lead, to spread the values of democracy, human rights, and good governance while strengthening solidarity for economic transformation and social resilience. It is often in times of transition that great leaders emerge and institutions are strengthened.”
In concluding, President Sirleaf described the United Nations as the preeminent world body that must continue to evolve and be more effective in serving the common interest of its member states.