Noble Laureate Johnson Sir-Leaf has said her main task nine years after a civil war will be shoring up peace in Liberia, increasing Investment in its resources and curbing rampant Youth unemployment especially among ex-soldiers. She made this statement during her swearing in ceremony for the second term in the office before regional leaders and US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton “We inaugurate a new beginning, a rebirth of our democracy and restoration of hope” Johnson sir leaf said, affirming that this would be her last term. Her effort may be boosted by main rival Winston Tubman’s recognition of her victory in the controversial November run off; Which Tubman boycotted alleging irregularities and raising fears of a return to unrest. Tubman attends the ceremony, sitting in the front row; Tubman was forced to flee his party headquarters in the capital recently when it was besieged by dozens of supporters angry at his decision to recognize Johnson Sir-Leaf Government.
“We expected that she will live up to her promise. She promised to have a government of inclusion. She promised to bring the CDC (an opposition party) on board, but she must know that we remain a strong opposition party in Liberian” Tubman said in a News conference before her inauguration, Sir-Leaf faces a tough challenges of getting Liberia back on the rails in her second term, with the country still to recover from a 14-years civil war that ended in 2003. Accused critics of having little to show for her first term, Johnson Sir-Leaf vowed to use her new mandate to cut poverty in half, create jobs, nurture double digit economic growth and build up infrastructure and basic utilities. Regional Leadership including President Abdouaye Wade of Senegal, Alassane Quattara of Ivory Coast and Alpha Conde of Guinea, also attended the ceremony. Senior U.S official traveling with Clinton said Johnson Sir-Leaf second term came at a critical Juncture in Liberia history, as it is now experiencing nearly a decade of peace.
“This is an opportunity for the United States to express our appreciation and praise for the outstanding work that she has done over the last five years”. Clinton led an eight person delegation which also included General Carter Ham, Head of the Pentagons Africa command to the event.
HER PERSPECTIVE ON GENDER DISCRIMINATION
No, I have not and I must say that before I become President I was already a technocrat in the profession and already had good relationship with many of African leader while working in development fields and I really enjoyed it irrespective of the inconveniencies. So it has been difficult, even at home. I did not just catapult to the Presidency, it was hard way as a junior official working through ranks and running for the most difficult office, with that, people respect me for my vision, for my intelligence and for my commitment for the development up of Liberia” Dr. Johnson Sir-Leaf is a Harvard-trained Economist, at 73, she is mentally, physically alert for his second term. Noble prize was awarded to her recently with other two Liberian peace activist for their work on women right on non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s right to full participation in peace building work.
Though many criticized Sir-Leaf, who won the Noble Peace prize about a month ago, for campaigning side-by-side with an ex-warlord, Prince Johnson, who was number one on government’s list of “most notorious perpetrators” of violence during the country’s civil war, others believe she scored a point with her ability to strike a deal with tough militants; and action that presented her as “the iron lady of Liberian politics,
BACKGROUND TO PRESIDENCY
In her inaugural speech, on January 16, 2006, Sir-Leaf referred to her victory as an introduction of change and fundamental break from the past, therefore requiring that we take bold and desire steps to address the problems that have for a decades stunted our progress” she said.
Though she spoke to Liberians and referred to the change in the way of life in the country that had just ended a 14-years civil war, this part of her speech, analysts said, was to spur more African women to participate in politics.
It was said that Sir-Leaf also meant that her victory marked a “fundamental break” from the past when top public offices were seen as the exclusive reserve of men.
In Nigeria, women group have consistently demanded at least 30 percent, representation in government, while a few women who have taken up the courage to contest elective position, have little success.
A glaring example is Mrs. Sarah Jubril who is famous for aspiring to be the president of Nigeria five consecutive times without success. She was an aspirant on the platform of the defunct social Democracy Party in 1993, but lost the ticket to the late Moshood Abiola, she was an aspirant in 1998 on the platform of the People Democracy Party (PDP), losing to former President Olusegun Obasanjo. In 2003 Jubril emerge the Presidential Candidate of the Progressive Action Congress (PAC) but later returned to PDP to contest the party’s ticket in the 2007 Presidency Election. She got four votes at the convent on which was won by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
In 2011, Jubril surface again at PDP primaries as the only female contender; she got only one vote, even though scores of female delegates voted. Many political analysts believe that Jubril ordeal in politics is an indication of the level of support women in politics get, even from fellow women while women have been appointed as ministers at the Federal level and commissioners at the state level. Their participation in the mainstream politics is still low and this has been attributed to the level of violence that characterizes electioneering in Nigeria.
But world Sir-Leaf’s victory helps? Similarly, Senator Nenadi Usman, said she was elated to learn of Sir-Leaf’s victory at the poll, and described it as an encouragement for the African female politicians. “Her victory for the second term is a boost for us, African female politicians. It’s an encouragement. Every woman I have spoken to on this said they were encouraged by her victory. We are happy for her and we are happy for ourselves. It is an indication that somebody in Nigeria will have female president”, she said.
Neverthless, Usman said there were still a lot of factors limiting the progress of Nigerian women in politics. She pointed out that the most daunting of them all were lack of finance and the structure of political parties. She said, “I believe that women are advancing in politics but the limitations still exist. The number one limitation is the lack of economic power. Whether you like it or not, to contest an election in Nigeria, you need a lot of money, to mobilize people, transport them, print posters and so many other things. Another limitation is the way the political parties are structured, with all the executives of the parties being men except the women leader. So at the primaries you have very few female delegates. Until we reach that point where a reasonable number of the executives of the political parties are women, female politics will still be limited”.
She added that the traditional sentiment that made a lot of men believe that only men should hold decision-making positions was still hindering women in politics. In her contribution, the president of the Campaign for Democracy and Women Arise, Mrs. Joe okei-Odumakin, said Sir-Leaf’s victory was in line with current trend in Africa, where more women were getting into elective positions.
On this recent in of Mrs. Joyce Banda as a President of Malawi following the death of President Bingu Wa Muutharika recently. Wife of Ekiti Governor, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi has described it for a reward for her resilience, consistence and commitment to the cause of the people of her country and urge her to take the country to greater heights. She said “the emergence of Mrs. Joyce Banda, the immediate past Vice President of Malawi, as the new President following the death of Bingu Wa Mutharika is indeed a triumph for constitutionalism and evidence of growth of democracy in Africa”.
“My joy new to bind when she was sworn in as a president of the Southern African country despite the sexism-induced implement put her way by some hanks and sexism in the late president administration”.
“Her reward inauguration is no doubt a reward for her resilience and consistence to the cause of the people of Malawi, urge her to use her wealth of experience in government over the years to ensure greater heights during her tenure”.
Banda had been Malawi’s Vice President since 2009. She is Southern African First Female Head of State.
“Sir Leaf’s victory is consistent with new trends on the continent regarding women’s political leadership. About 10 years ago, African women held just 10.7 percent of the seats in their legislatives, falling below the global average at the time of 12.2 percent. Today, women in Africa hold 17 percent of legislative seats, matching the global average. In several countries, women have made far greater progress: they hold 48.8 percent of legislative seats in Rwanda and over 30 percent of seats in Mozambique, South Africa, Burundi and Tanzania. The victory shows that the glass ceiling is broken and women cannot be stooped again”, she said.
In Ghana Rebecca Akufo-Addo of Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party said that effort to encourage more women into active politics stands defeated by the current trend of insults in the Africa political discourse. She fears “the more security gives free oxygen to dirty politics that seek to destroy reputation the less good people especially women, will find politics a career option worth pursuing”, “I find much of the politics we do in Ghana disheartening and a major disincentive for the many brilliant young women who have considered politics as a career option. I dislike what we do to ourselves in the name of politics. I dislike the kind of the politics we do that get in the way of the real politics about improving lives,” Mrs. Akufo-Addo said she made the statement during her address to the student of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology on the role of the modern women in politics.
Mrs. Akufo-Addo also said that some women in Africa had risen above the odds to become worthy example of how women excel in politics. She mentioned President Johnson Sir-Leaf of Liberia and opposition leader Hellen Zille of South Africa as a woman who has shown what it means to be bold as a woman in the man’s world of politics in her country. She said former first Lady, Mrs. Rawlings, “I was not a support of the 31st December coup but I must say that, as a woman I admire and respect the boldness and perseverance of Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings”.
Mrs. Akufo-Addo be moaned the fast decline in the number of women representation parliament, adding that it does not speak well of a nation that claims to be advocating women empowerment. “Women’s political role in Ghana may be growing but too gingerly. In 1992, there were 16 women in the 200 member parliament in 1996, and 19 in the 200 parliament.
In Ghana’s 2004 parliament, we made another modest progress with 24 women MPS in the 230 seats parliament. But in 2008, we moved five seats back wards, with only 19 women. With more women MPS not returning after 2012, we are not foreseeing any significant rise in the West parliament”, she noted.
NIGERIA INVOLVED IN THE RECONSTRUCTION OF LIBERIAN
Nigeria has been a strong supporter of Liberia. She made the statement during her last visit to Nigeria last year, “Nigeria has helped us to get the peace that we have, our Economy is small and per capital income is low, sometimes it is difficult to see Nigerian investors going in there in very a aggressive way, the purchasing power is low, it just begin now to start with the opening of the Economy we have been trying to attract business Nigeria trading more with Liberia now, and we are having trade volumes with other countries now.
Nigeria has supported our reconstruction; they have helped us in our army, now is the time for Nigerian business to reap the benefit. There was nothing there before now for them to go for Economy was not functioning now; it is because we have opened the sector, now it is time for Nigeria business to have a feel of our new sector. We just talked to some who are into housing Development, we have many Nigerians trading there individual Nigerians, business people, now that we have banks and we can now have access to capital.
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