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Questioning rationale behind Sirleaf’s Gandhi award, and many other awards

By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh     Ellen


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is a former financier of a deadly civil war who got away without ever been indicted for war crimes, for her role in the 14-year civil war that ended before she was elected President of Liberia in 2005.

The president’s international friends prefer not to see her that way. To them, she is the quintessential “iron lady” whom they can do political and financial business with conveniently in these times of global uncertainty.

To Liberians, however, Sirleaf represents many failures; one of which is a monumental failure to be a change agent who really could make a positive difference in the lives of many in post-war Liberia.

In a country whose history is riddled with oppression, Sirleaf sympathizes with the disgraced and discredited status quo that also ruled the Liberian people with overt discrimination and prejudice.

With time, of course, came healing. In terms of putting the centuries-old prejudicial and discriminatory history behind them, the Liberian people moved forward and seemed to have healed and forgiven their Americo-Liberian oppressors until the vestiges of the civil war ripped their hearts off.

The reported participation of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the deadly civil war opened old wounds; and the arrogance of the president hasn’t help her case either as she continues to dance around the incendiary charges of financing the civil war, as if she’s innocent.

Liberians, however, are divided over whether Ellen Johnson Sirleaf should resign, be put on trial or barred from political office, as suggested by her own Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

The latter was obviously rebuffed by a very cocky president who would rather have unlimited political powers and control than to actually embrace genuine peace, reconciliation and closure in a very troubled nation that truly needs competent, uncorrupt and genuine leadership to get those things accomplished.

As the war crimes charges drags on, Sirleaf, the globetrotting president continues to receive awards from her international friends for her trailblazing role as the continent’s first elected female president, who performed invincible miracles that changed the lives of the Liberian people and nation. Ha-ha!

I laughed sarcastically because nothing has changed in the lives of the Liberian people since Madam Sirleaf became President of Liberia.

Unemployment is over 80%, corruption is rampant; the education system and healthcare systems are in shambles; violent crimes are high, and hunger, poverty and disease are seen everywhere in the country. Not all: There is no accountability and transparancy in government, and the imperial president, Sirleaf, often manipulates decision-making, the judiciary and the electoral process.

However, the designation as the continent’s first ever elected female president and the countless awards Sirleaf has received from many across the globe, I guess, are far more important to her international friends than halting their recognition and looking seriously into charges that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did indeed financed the Liberian civil war that killed over 250,000.00 innocent people, destroyed a country, and sent countless others into exile and homelessness.

Remember, these same people or groups would have cringed and taken the so-called moral high ground had their perceived ‘enemy’ other than Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was implicated in the mass killings of human beings, in their preferred country somewhere around the world.

So what’s the difference between the Liberian civil war that Ellen Johnson helped financed, and other civil wars others fought or are accused of financing for which they were eventually pursued and brought to justice?

Are these global actors saying that the red blood that spilled from the Liberian people for 14 years that rewarded Madam Sirleaf the presidency, not red enough to warrant the halting of all recognitions and awards until she is exonerated of all charges?

Interestingly, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust doesn’t see it that way.

Like the Nobel Prize Committee that ignored charges of war crimes, poverty, nepotism, rampant corruption, record unemployment and the overwhelming suffering of the Liberian people under Ms. Sirleaf’s leadership, only to dwell on the notion of “women’s right to full participation in peace-building work,” the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust up the ante when that body blindly chose the polarizing and controversial Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for its 2012 Gandhi award. What a travesty!

According to the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took over office as the President of Liberia in 2006 acquiring a legacy of distrust, disharmony and mismanagement. She had successfully restored financial health to her country which was on the verge of fiscal breakdown,” a statement from the award committee noted.

Sirleaf was also chosen for the award, according to The Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, “for being an example and inspiration to women in Africa and beyond and for ensuring the return of peace, democracy, development, security and order in Liberia.”

Whether the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust studied Liberian history or studied the rugged and bloodstained roads Sirleaf traveled to reach the Liberian presidency is unknown.

What is known is the fact that the group that prides itself of promoting international peace has not been peaceful at all; and lacks the judgment when it overlooked war crimes charges and chose a key player in the Liberian crisis for its award.

When groups such as the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, and the Nobel Committee injects itself into Liberian politics to influence and undermine the democratic aspirations of the Liberian people, unmasked its respective missions as out of touch and not caring for the welfare of poor people.

Category: Editorial

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