The biblical adage that "a prophet is never appreciated at home" became true last week, when an elite British news magazine selected President Ellen Johnson as winner of its most revered titles reserved only for high performing or world leaders. With argument about performance versus claims of commitment dogging Liberian domestic politics, the questions many are asking is, "Does she merit it? What were the magazine's criteria?" But while those questions wait, President Sirleaf has meanwhile declared Liberia blessed, dedicating her recent trip abroad to the welfare of the Liberian people, The Analyst, reports.
A prestigious UK magazine, The Economist, last week, named President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the "Liberia's Best President Ever" during its annual award ceremony. The President has meanwhile declared Liberia "blessed by God" as she touched down at the RIA yesterday from a tour of Europe and the Americas during which she conferred with leaders of Switzerland, France, and US on her administration's successes and challenges.
In its story announcing the President's selection titled, "Another Round for Africa's Iron Lady" the magazine noted that "in the spectrum of Liberian politics, President Sirleaf is arguably the best president the country has ever had". This is not the first time the Liberian leader has earned the approbation of international mainstream media. Sometime ago, the New Statesman magazine selected her as one of the world's top 50 influential persons. The New Statesman placed President Sirleaf at number 33 in a list of movers and shakers headed by US President Barack Obama. The Liberian leader topped personalities like the American talk show queen Oprah Winfrey (#35), and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (#44), among others.
The magazine in its September 28 issue wrote this about President Sirleaf under the sub-title 'Political trailblazer': "If one good thing emerged from the civil war in Liberia, it was the leadership of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. When she took office in January 2006, she became the world's first black female head of state. In her three years as president, she has led the charge against corruption in her country and worked tirelessly to attract investment in Africa, particularly by building relations with the US. In 2007, George W. Bush awarded her the Medal of Freedom, the highest US civilian honor. In return, two years later, Johnson-Sirleaf made the US television host Jon Stewart a chief."
The Economist following the footsteps of the New Statesman said President Sirleaf deserved the Best President title because of her decision to seek second term in order to give a corruption a coup de grâce rather than running away from it. The magazine said the other feathers in its honoree's cap were the sharp increase in the national budget from US $80m in 2006 to US $350m in less than five years, in the wake of the plummeting prices of Liberia's export products and revenue, and the near wiping out of the nation's US $4.7m external debt. It did not comment on the effects of the budget increase and debt cancelling on the life of the average Liberian.
"Monrovia is witnessing a building boom, with beachside resorts and blocks of flats springing up, along with some conspicuously grand mansions belonging to well-known politicians. Ms Sirleaf has also freed Liberia's forestry and diamond sectors from UN sanctions and renegotiated a controversial contract with a steel giant, ArcelorMittal," the king-making article said. These achievements, the Economist said, should please voters to reelect the President. It was however quick to note that did not mean that the "voters are bound to agree".
Rousing welcome, blessed Liberia
Meanwhile President Sirleaf who arrived in the country yesterday at the end of three-week tour of Europe and the United States of America on behalf of the Liberia people said the trip has been successful because God "has blessed Liberia" and that she has dedicated the trip to the people of Liberia. The Liberian Chief Executive, a Methodist, made the Divine revelation during Thanksgiving and Intercessory services held at the Winners' Chapel in Monrovia, yesterday. The President promised to inform the nation about the details of the trip at the "appropriate time" but noted that the lush international goodwill that attended her tour was an act of God for which the Liberian nation should be grateful.
"The peace that today we enjoyed; the fact that those young ones who were in the trenches can seek peace is a blessing," the President said, her remarked drowned by resounding applauses. She then admonished Liberians that there should be no turning back, even in difficulties, because conditions were at the verge of improving for the better. "The United States of America, Switzerland, and France that I visited can help us, but it is our primary responsibility as Liberians to help ourselves," she said. She said in these difficult times when the need for reconciliation, peace, and forgiveness were paramount, Liberians needed to seek forgiveness because that was what "the Lord has commanded of us to do."
She extended condolence to the bereaved families of Liberians who lost their lives in a recent boat accident and then led the congregation to the observance of a moment of silence for the tragedy. Earlier at the Roberts International Airport, the Liberian leader briefly chatted with three members of the House and Senate committees on executive regarding the early passage of the Threshold Bill. It is not clear whether the three agreed with the President on that form the final bill must take in order to receive presidential stamp of authority, but what was clear that efforts would be doubled to have the bill passed early this month.
Many say the Threshold Bill, which is key to the new constituency demarcation law, is likely to delay next October's general and presidential elections if it is not passed in time for the National Elections Commission to begin mapping out constituencies and precincts. There are however arguments that the delay would have no effect on the elections. "We have had major elections, including the one that brought us out of the war, without setting a new threshold. We can use existing constituencies and precincts if we have to. But we cannot rush and make mistakes just for the sake of being on time," said one legislator recently.
Meanwhile, there seems general agreement between the parliament and the Executive Mansion on the early passage of the bill. But Liberians are waiting with bated breath to see what form it will take – whether smaller counties, now at the center of contentions, will lose, gain, or maintain their current seats. Thousands of Liberians swamped the RIA yesterday evening to give the Liberian leader a rousing welcome back home with cultural and civic performances. The President is expected to begin work this morning with lots of national issues before her to address.
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