Liberia Could Elect First Woman President

Liberia could elect its first female president on Tuesday. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a 66-year-old economist who holds a Master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University, is among the top candidates vying for the Liberian presidency. She has served as the director for Africa at the United Nations, president of the Liberian National Bank, head of the Governance Reform Commission, and a vice president for Citicorp. A pioneer for women, although she is not the first woman to hold high positions in Liberia, BBC reports her saying in a heated debate, “We don’t want women second best; we want women best.”

Liberia still feels the effects of 14 years of civil war and the loss of 200,000 citizens under Charles Taylor. Johnson-Sirleaf has been under fire for early support of Taylor in their collaboration to remove Doe from power, although she maintains that after she became “disillusioned,” she spent years trying to remove him from power, according to the Washington Post. Nicknamed the “Iron Lady,” Johnson-Sirleaf has twice resigned from powerful positions in protest of corruption. The first time under former President Doe, she resigned from the National Bank in objection to numerous human rights violations. She served time in prison twice for speaking out against Doe, according to the Washington Post. In 2003, she stepped down from the Reform Commission due to government corruption.

More women than men are registered to vote in tomorrow’s elections, but only 14 percent of the candidates for parliament are women, according to IRIN News. Women’s groups unsuccessfully pushed for a guaranteed 30 percent representation.

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BBC News10/4/05; Washington Post 10/4/05; Liberian Daily Observer 10/5/05; Mail & Guardian Online 10/5/05; IRIN News 10/7/05

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