Liberian President Addresses Congress in Historic Joint Session

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first democratically elected woman head of state in Africa, became the eighth woman and fifth African head of state to speak in front of both houses of Congress on Wednesday. Between standing ovations, Johnson Sirleaf pressed the United States to continue to provide aid to her war-torn country, stating that it could become “America’s success story in Africa,” reports the BBC.

US aid to Liberia has declined roughly $270 million in the past two years, but a group of 14 members of Congress are looking to increase that figure in order to ensure that the country’s tentative peace can hold, according to Knight Ridder Newspapers. Congress granted an additional $50 million in aid after Johnson-Sirleaf’s appearance, reports the BBC.

Former president and warlord Charles Taylor’s administration left much of Liberia impoverished after years of civil war, and United Nations peacekeepers are still placed around the country. The BBC reports that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has asked that those 15,000 peacekeepers remain in Liberia as President Johnson-Sirleaf addresses the manifold difficulties that remain after the disastrous presidency of Taylor and the preceding political chaos.

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BBC 3/16/06; Feminist Daily News Wire 1/18/06; Knight Ridder Newspapers 3/15/06

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