Source: Saturday Tribune
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first elected female president whose steely nerves have been tested at the helm of a deeply divided post-war Liberia, has again  have been tested at the helm of a deeply divided post-war Liberia, has again  been sworn-in  for a second term in office, after wining  Liberia’s last election with high votes . A feather was yet added in her  cap recently   when she won a  joint Nobel Peace Prize  as a champion for women's rights. TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE looks into her activities.

LIBERIA'S Nobel Peace laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was on Monday   sworn in for a second term  in a lavish US$1.2 million ceremony.

In attendance  was  her  rival,  whose refusal to recognise her victory had threatened to undermine the country's stability.

The 73-year-old Nobel laureate addressed opposition leader Winston Tubman on Monday, thanking him for agreeing to attend the ceremony, where he was seated in a place of honour in the front row.

Tubman had called for a boycott of the November vote, after it became clear that he could not beat Sirleaf-Johnson, prompting many to accuse him of being a spoiler. His supporters repeatedly clashed with the  police and until last  weekend, he continued to say he would not recognise Sirleaf-Johnson.

He changed his mind only after a private meeting with her  last week Saturday where he declared that his party, Congress for Democratic Change   thought the best thing would be  to” negotiate  its  involvement in a government of inclusion,''  adding that Sirleaf-Johnson will be recognised by his party as the president.

Having  also in attendance the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton  among the  nine-member delegation from United States, the 73-year-old grandmother took the oath administered by the country's Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis as thousands looked on from the grounds of the Capitol building.

"We have earned our rightful place as a beacon of democracy, a country of hope and of opportunity," Sirleaf said, marking her ascent to a second term in office since the end of a brutal 14-year war. “We inaugurate a new beginning - a rebirth of our democracy,'' Sirleaf-Johnson told the crowd of thousands, as supporters blew horns.

"Today we can say with conviction that our country has turned the corner. Liberia is no longer a place of conflict, war and deprivation. We are no longer the country our citizens want to run away from.
"The cleavages that led to decades of war still run deep, but so too does the longing for reconciliation."

According to Sirleaf,  the nation needed a process of national healing not defined "by tribe, region, religions or ethnicity but by equality of opportunity and a better future for every Liberian."

This meant "creating jobs opportunities and giving our young people the skills they need to prosper and create the life they choose."

Before the ceremony, Sirleaf held private talks with Clinton, who visited the nation on a whirlwind four-country trip of Africa, and discussed the impact of corruption.

"Corruption is one of the roadblocks to greater prosperity here in Liberia," Clinton said after opening the new US embassy in Monrovia following Sirleaf's swearing-in ceremony.

She   continued, "Of course, it's something we deal with all over the world, so we need good ideas.

"We want Liberia to help lead the way in how you can eliminate the cancer of corruption, which just saps people's energies and undermines their initiative.

"We're going to do everything we can to make sure they get to the destination of democracy, prosperity, peace and security safely."

Clinton praised the West African nation's progress eight years after the end of a 14-year conflict that left some 250,000 dead.

"Democracy hasn't just sprouted in Liberia, it has taken root," she said.  According to her, "The real test of a democracy's strength isn't the first election — it's the second and the third and all the ones that follow."

Clinton  expressed her  pleasure at the outcome  of events  saying, " I was pleased to be here for the second inauguration of President Sirleaf, because I've known Ellen for a long time.

"I have a great deal of admiration and appreciation for the work she is doing, along with her other colleagues in government."

Sirleaf-Johnson became an international symbol of women's empowerment when she became Africa's first elected female head of state in 2005, just two years after the end of the nation's disastrous 14-year civil war.

Her popularity has continued to soar abroad, even as it plummeted at home due to endemic poverty and the country's crippling unemployment.

Days before last year's election, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, further underscoring the contrast between her image inside and outside the West African nation.

The opposition  party on  their part had  accused the president of having done too little to end the country's poverty. They had  declared that  Liberia remains one of the world's poorest nations, ranked nearly at the bottom of the United Nations' index tracking development.

Economists  however disagree, saying the country was on its knees when she took over. Nearly 80 per cent of its schools were destroyed and almost all the roads were impassable.

In the years since she took office, the government added nearly 3,500 miles of paved roads and people are earning double what they made when she was first elected, according to a report by the ministry of planning and economic affairs.

"We have laid the foundations for peace and prosperity, and must now hasten our true mission: Putting people— especially young people  first, and lifting the lives of all Liberians,''Sirleaf-Johnson  said in her inaugural address.



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