Diametrically Differing with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf over President-elect Donald Trump’s Victory
By Martin K. N. Kollie
It has been barely three weeks since millions of Americans headed to the polls to elect the successor to President Barrack H. Obama, who served two terms (8 years) as Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation in the world, the United States of America. Even though the race for President is over between Trump and Clinton, the election sent a powerful message about politics and its dynamic nature.
On November 8, 2016 precisely, the American people through the Electoral College overwhelmingly made their choice known to the entire World by electing Republican nominee Donald Trump for the highest office. Out of 231,556,622 eligible American voters, 134,765,650 decided the fate of America by casting their ballots. According to available stats, Trump won in the Electoral College with 290 votes over Hilary’s 232.
After months of political contestation, Republican nominee Donald Trump emerged victorious as the presidential choice of the American people. Upon his victory over Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton on November 8, 2016, world leaders began to immediately react in diverse manner to Trump’s landmark victory. Surely, Trump’s victory took the entire world by surprise especially when most opinion polls suggested that Hilary was the favorite candidate prior to the Election Day.
While dozens of Heads of States and Prime Ministers were congratulating President-elect Donald Trump, the President of Liberia and Chair of ECOWAS, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf told BBC the following during an interview:
“We are extremely saddened by this missed opportunity on the part of the people of the United States to join smaller democracies in ending the marginalization of women. We are concerned as to whether President-elect Trump will have an African agenda, will be able to build bridges with Africa. We can only hope that he will do so in due course. I’m worried about trade deals for Liberia, for Africa. I’m worried about investment and the special programs that have been put in place by President Obama and by President George Bush before him, and we just don’t know what the policy towards Africa will be.”
I wonder why President Sirleaf could not even congratulate Trump before reacting in such a manner. When Trump won the election on the night of November 8, even Hilary Clinton congratulated him and offered to work with him on behalf of America. Unfortunately, the initial reaction of President Sirleaf was diplomatically erroneous and democratically unjustifiable. Even though some pundits and protégés of President Sirleaf’s regime have come in defense of her by proffering feeble analyses, but I want to diametrically differ with the President for making such statement. Let me endeavor to candidly analyze in segment what Africa’s first female President actually said after Trump’s victory.
“We are extremely saddened by this missed opportunity on the part of the people of the United States to join smaller democracies in ending the marginalization of women.”
This statement extremely opposes Trump’s victory and expressed serious disappointed in the people of the United States for electing Donald Trump as President. I am still finding it difficult to understand the point of President Sirleaf in relationship to the marginalization of women. Were women prevented from participating as candidates in the just ended electoral process? Were they deprived from voting for a candidate of their choice? No woman was ever deprived from contesting or electing a candidate of her choice.
The process was free, fair and transparent and voters (both men and women) expressed their choice through the ballots. So, where is the marginalization of women in all of these? In my opinion, this is far from marginalization as claimed by President Sirleaf. In fact, 54% of women voted for Clinton while 42% voted for Trump. Ninety-four percent of black women, and 68% of Latina women voted for Clinton. So, where is the marginalization when everyone had an opportunity to make his/her choice?
Women make up about 19% of the US Congress. In the 115th Congress, which is expected to convene January 3, there will be 21 women in the Senate and 83 women in the House. In the previous congressional session, there were 20 women in the Senate and 84 in the House, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. So, where is the marginalization? Liberia has 11 female legislators, which accounts for just 10% of the total number of lawmakers.
According to the ranking of women in national parliaments worldwide, the United States of America ranks 99 while Liberia ranks 148 (source: http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/classif.htm). In the 2012 Senate Pro Tempore race in Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf supported a male senator Gbehzongar Milton Findley of Grand Bassa County against two female senators, Jewel Howard of Bong Taylor and Clarice Jah of Margibi. Why didn’t President Sirleaf support either of the female candidates? Isn’t this the real meaning of women marginalization? The President does something different in Liberia, but reacts to a situation differently abroad.
“We are concerned as to whether President-elect Trump will have an African agenda, will be able to build bridges with Africa. We can only hope that he will do so in due course. I’m worried about trade deals for Liberia, for Africa. I’m worried about investment and the special programs that have been put in place by President Obama and by President George Bush before him, and we just don’t know what the policy towards Africa will be.”
The second segment of President Sirleaf’s reaction hangs a cloud of uncertainty over America’s relationship with Africa. It presupposes that Trump’s relationship with Africa will deteriorate, even though there is no empirical proof to validate such assertion. I think President Sirleaf’s pre-judgment of Trump’s administration towards Africa was unfair and hasty. The President ignored the fact that America’s foreign policy is not influenced or shifted by the presidency alone. The US Congress plays a pivotal role as well.
Even though I respect the opinion of President Sirleaf, but her opinion is likely to hinder Africa and Liberia’s relationship with the United States of America under a Donald Trump presidency. This could put the succeeding regime at odd with America and hurt our nation (Liberia) even further. I think President Sirleaf’s statement was predominantly driven by her longstanding and personal relationship with Madam Hilary Clinton. The outcome of democracy must never be questioned based on friendship. I see no objectivity in Madam Sirleaf’s statement. What I see is an expression meant to temporarily woo and console Hilary Clinton at the expense of Donald Trump and majority voters.
The President was never fair in her judgment to unjustifiably contest the popular will of the American people through such a demeaning characterization of Trump’s victory. In the eyes of the majority, electing Trump was never a mistake. Electing Trump was the path the American people chose and this is what democracy calls for.
Instead of our President being ‘extremely saddened’ by the missed opportunity on the part of the people of the United States, I think our President needs to be ‘extremely saddened’ by the fact that after 12 years of democratic rule under her presidency:
- Liberia has had 554 rape cases in one year (Ministry of Gender Report, 2014).
- The rate of teenage pregnancy is 38% (UNFPA, 2013)
- Monrovia was the least on the City Prosperity Index (UN Habitat Report 2012/2013) Besides, Monrovia and most parts of Liberia remain dark at night hours.
- The number of dropouts in Liberian schools is high, with 65% accounting for boys and 73% for girls (National Education Profile 2014 Update)
- The maternal mortality rate stands at 1,072 deaths per 100,000 live births (Ministry of Health 2014 Report).
- Out of US$8 billion worth of natural resource contracts signed by President Sirleaf since 2009, almost all (66 out of 68) violated Liberia’s Laws (Moore Stephens Report, May 2013)
- US$13.5 million EU funding meant to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates is yet to be accounted for (FrontPage Africa Report, 2013)
- Liberia was the most corrupt country in the world (Transparency International Report, 2013).
- The mass suffering of the Liberian people as a result of the lack of basic social services.
After 12 years, the government of Liberia has received so much but has done so little. Even safe drinking water and quality education are yet to be seen. Aren’t these facts about Liberia that our President needs to be ‘extremely saddened’ by? Madam President, I beg to differ. In this manner, I would like to congratulate President-elect Donald Trump for his victory as Commander-in-Chief of the World Superpower.
Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth activist, a student leader, an emerging economist and writer. He currently reads Economics with distinction at UL and is a loyal stalwart of the Student Unification Party (SUP). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org