President Johnson-Sirleaf addressed the nation on her fifth anniversary as President of Liberia on Monday, reflecting on the progress Liberia has made following three decades of civil war, and the challenges that still remain for the country.
In her last Annual Message of her presidential term, she said,
“We have an opportunity to look back not only at the last year, but also the last five years and remember where we have come from. And we have an opportunity to look forward, into the future to where we are going and the challenges we face. Our country stands at a crossroads, and together we must choose the right path.”
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first female head of state, was elected in 2006 in Liberia’s first democratic elections since the war. She congratulated the Liberian people for their ‘resilience, patience and understanding’, and said that in recent years of peace, the foundation for Liberia’s ‘rebirth’ had been laid.
Last year saw the cancellation of almost all of Liberia’s national debt through the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) initiative – some $4.7 billion, and foreign investment worth over $US 16 billion has been brought into the country over the past five years.
Liberia is now among the twenty fastest growing economies in the world, with growth forecast to reach 7.3% in 2011, part of an overall economic growth trend for the sub-Saharan Africa region that is seeing annual growth of 5%.
However, the President acknowledged that a long road lies ahead to rebuild the country, and paid tribute to the international community and the $920m of assistance it now provides to Liberia annually. Referring to the crisis taking place in neighbouring Ivory Coast, she said,
“I want to reassure the Liberian people that we will not let this sad situation threaten our peace. We will work with regional and international partners to find a resolution. We say a big thank you to our bilateral and international partners, including the United States and Libya, the World Food Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the Norwegian Refugee Council, that are providing critical humanitarian assistance to our Ivorian brothers and sisters in distress.”
The President urged the Liberian people to look to their government as partners in progress to rebuild the roads, schools and create growth in the country for the benefit of all.
The Africa Governance Initiative works in Liberia and elsewhere in Africa, to build government capacity to deliver the services which their citizens have a right to expect, to tackle deep-rooted poverty, and to attract sustainable investment to build strong economies for the future.
Photograph: European Parliament