Outgoing Liberian president: ‘Democracy is unstoppable’

As Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf prepares to leave office in January, she’s spending the twilight of her second and final term thanking the United States and the United Nations for their unwavering support.

Sirleaf credits the U.S. and the U.N. for helping Liberia become a democratic country, boosting its economy after the country’s civil wars ended in 2003 and deploying aid during the 2014 Ebola crisis.

President Trump in his address to the United Nations on September 19 made a similar observation. “The United Nations and African Union led peacekeeping missions to have invaluable contributions in stabilizing conflicts in Africa,” he said.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at lectern on stage before large audience (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
“Liberia’s love of liberty was inherited from the United States of America,” Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said September 25 at the U.S. Capitol. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

“Even in our darkest days, our people held onto hope believing that America would be there for them,” Sirleaf told supporters in a September 25 speech at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center during an event the U.S. Institute of Peace organized. “And that if they worked hard enough, the American dream could take root in Liberia.”

Sirleaf, 78, became Africa’s first elected female head of state following her 2005 campaign. She was re-elected in 2011. Her speech comes as Liberians gear up to elect a new president and 73 members of its House of Representatives on October 10. It will mark Liberia’s first democratic and peaceful transfer of power since 1944.

Chris Coons and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf shaking hands (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
Sirleaf greets Delaware Senator Chris Coons, a Democrat, as California Representative Ed Royce, a Republican, and Tami Hultman of AllAfrica Global Media watch. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

“The election will signal the irreversible course that Liberia has embarked upon to sustain its peace and consolidate its young democracy,” said Sirleaf, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. “Indeed, the march of democracy is unstoppable in Liberia and on the African continent.”

Sirleaf’s remarks come a week after she delivered her final address to the U.N. General Assembly, calling on it to continue spreading democracy, good governance and human rights, while supporting economic transformation and social resilience.

Earlier this month, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon underscored several strategies the administration will implement to address a multitude of issues on the continent. President Trump, like Shannon, has expressed support for the U.N. and the African Union.

The Trump administration is prioritizing its relationship with Africa, as evidenced by the president’s September 20 working lunch with African leaders.

At the event, he announced that U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price will advance the administration’s Global Health Security Agenda in Africa. And, in response to violence in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Trump will dispatch U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley to facilitate conflict resolution and prevention in Africa. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation are considering investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Côte d’Ivoire to bolster economic reforms, Trump said.

“Africa, I have to say, is a continent of tremendous, tremendous potential,” Trump said. “The outlook is bright.”

This article was written by freelance writer Lenore T. Adkins.