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Liberia: Johnson Sirleaf in New York, Washington

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Mar 19, 2006 (060319)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"Listening to the hopes and dreams of our people, I recall the words of a Mozambican poet who said, 'Our dream has the size of freedom.' My people, like your people, believe deeply in freedom - and, in their dreams, they reach for the heavens. ... I ran for president because I am determined to see good governance in Liberia in my lifetime. But I also ran because I am the mother of four, and I wanted to see our children smile again." - Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, speaking to the U.S. Congress, March 15, 2006

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains documents from Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's visits to the United Nations and the United States, including the text of her address to the U.S. Congress. The first African woman to be elected head of state, she became the fourth African head of state to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress. (Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia was the first, in 1954, followed by Tunisian President Habib Bourgouiba in 1961. President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana addressed both the House and Senate separately on his 1958 visit. Nelson Mandela spoke to the U.S. Congress after his release from prison in 1990 and again in 1994.)

The e-mail version of this Bulletin is condensed for reasons of length. The full text of the press releases and speeches can be found in the web version of this Bulletin at http://www.africafocus.org/docs06/lib0603.php

For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins on Liberia, see http://www.africafocus.org/country/liberia.php

Additional background on the Johnson Sirleaf trip can be found at: http://allafrica.com/stories/200603100001.html and

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sc8666.doc.htm

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Note: Many thanks to those subscribers who have recently sent in a voluntary subscription payment to support AfricaFocus Bulletin. If you haven't yet sent in such a payment and are able to do so, please help AfricaFocus reach more people with reliable information on Africa. Send in a check or pay on-line by credit card. See http://www.africafocus.org/support.php for details.

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At UN, new Liberian President pleads for focus on the lives of her people

http://www.un.org/News

17 March 2006 - After receiving a warm welcome from the United Nations Security Council today, Liberia's newly elected President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, pled for closure in the matter of alleged crimes committed by former President Charles Taylor so that the country can get past the trauma of its long civil war and proceed with its development agenda.

"I wish the attention of the media and the international community would make the shift from one individual to three million people that desire a chance for a new life," Ms. Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman elected as head of State in Africa, said at a UN Headquarters news conference where correspondents pressed her on current reports that she has requested Mr. Taylor be extradited from Nigeria where he is in exile.

In her earlier Council presentation, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf urged that the UN stay engaged with Liberia to complete the work of peacekeepers who she said had made great sacrifices to help her country emerge from chaos.

"We must consolidate the gains achieved during the transition of the last two years so that the enormous investment made by the international community in the peace and stability of Liberia and the region is not put at risk," she told an open meeting of the 15-member body.

With the assistance of the UN and other partners, Liberia was determined to complete the reintegration of its war-affected refugees, internally displaced persons and ex-combatants while starting to address the most basic needs of Liberians, she said.

For that purpose, she said that she is seeking urgent contributions from donor countries and organizations for Liberia's recovery and development, including debt relief.

"Liberia is still a fragile State," she cautioned, urging the Council to maintain its support for the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (UNMIL), since the armed forces were being reconstituted and the restructuring of the police service was not yet completed.

In regard to former President Taylor, she told Council members that she has asked Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo to consult with colleagues in the sub-region and the international community to help resolve the issue.

Taylor, who was indicted by a UN-backed court in neighbouring Sierra Leone on charges of war crimes related to his support for rebels in that country, was exiled to Nigeria as part of a peace deal three years ago that helped bring an end to Liberia's decade of civil war, which killed some 200,000 people.


Press Conference by Liberia's President

United Nations, 17 March 2006

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2006/060317_Johnson-Sirleaf.doc.htm

In her first visit to the United Nations as President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said, at a Headquarters press conference, "The Liberian people are committed to the processes of change. They are committed to peace. They want to see their lives restored to normalcy. They want their country, once again, to be respected. They want to regain their dignity and to be able to pursue their potential in life, in an environment that is safe and responsive to their needs."

Pressed throughout the briefing on the situation of exiled former Liberian President Charles Taylor, President Johnson-Sirleaf told correspondents that the Liberian people would feel that justice had been served, once the attention of the world media moved from Mr. Taylor to support for Liberia's return to normalcy, peace and development. She implored journalists to "make the shift from one individual to 3 million people's quest for a new life".

Introducing President Johnson-Sirleaf, the Under Secretary General for Communication and Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, said she had the unique distinction of being the first woman ever elected President of an African country. Long before becoming President, Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf had an illustrious career; as Minister of Finance of Liberia, as President of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment, as a senior World Bank official, as Vice-President of Citibank's Africa regional office, and as the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Africa.

She left UNDP to run in Liberia's 1997 presidential elections, where she was the runner-up. In the intervening years, she was chairman of an investment company, chairman of the Open Society Institute in West Africa, and was a visiting professor of governance at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration. Then, she won the election for the presidency of Liberia this year and was inaugurated on 16 January, as her country's twenty-third President.

Reviewing Liberia's successes and problems, President Johnson-Sirleaf said she was grateful for the support of the United Nations and the country's bilateral partners in her country's transition in the last two years, culminating in free and fair elections. Now at the helm, she had begun the process of reform and of putting the country back on the track to peace, stability and development. She had started to secure the peace by composing an inclusive Government, able to work bilaterally and multilaterally. Efforts were under way to restructure the armed forces, but the Government would continue to rely on the United Nations and the peacekeepers for full assurance of peace, until Liberia's own security forces were fully professional and institutional.

She noted that the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission had been launched, as had the development process -- both importance stages in the transition from war to peace. While elaborating a long-term development agenda, quick-impact measures were already in play, to positively affect the lives of Liberians and respond to the thousands upon thousands of demobilized youth. Efforts were also under way to rehabilitate the infrastructure, both economic and social. That should all provide the basis for a resumption of normal life and encourage the return of refugees and internally displaced persons. Liberia was seeking to restore its international reputation and working to strengthen its relationships, not only with its neighbours, but throughout Africa and the world.

Her Government had also embarked on negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and was tackling its significant external debt problem, among other things, aimed at enabling it to manage its own resources and respond to the needs of its people, she said. She had thanked the Security Council this morning for the support the country had enjoyed to date.

Turning to the many questions regarding Liberia's former President Charles Taylor, she said she had consulted with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, and the leaders involved with taking Mr. Taylor to exile should now bring the matter to closure, meaning that a decision should be taken to allow Mr. Taylor to have his day in court. He should be given an opportunity for proceedings in an environment that was not hostile and that gave him the full right to self-defence. She had reported that to the Security Council this morning.

"Let me be clear," the President stressed, "Mr. Taylor was not indicted in a Liberian court; he was indicted in the Special Court of Sierra Leone supported by the United Nations. This is why we say the resolution of this must be in accordance with the United Nations and the international community." She added that time was of the essence in that regard. Liberia's peace was fragile. There were many loyalists to Mr. Taylor in Liberia, and he had many business interests there.

"Whatever decision is taken by the African leadership must ensure that the safety of the Liberian people and the stability of our nation is not undermined," she emphasized.

Another correspondent noted that Nigeria's President had indicated that President Johnson-Sirleaf had said that she had asked for former President Taylor to be handed over to the Sierra Leone Court, and that President Obasanjo was consulting with the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on that, but that President Johnson-Sirleaf had indicated to the Security Council that she wanted that to be a collective decision of the African leadership. Could she clarify whether Liberia or she, herself, wanted to see Mr. Taylor appear before the Court in Sierra Leone?

As the correspondent might recall, President Johnson-Sirleaf said, President Obasanjo took a position, some time ago, that Mr. Taylor would remain in exile in Nigeria until the elected Government made a request. Liberia's response to increasing international pressure, her sensitivity to the fact that that matter "continues to hang over our heads, constraining our effort to move our country forward and raise the resources that we need for our development, led us to meet President Obasanjo's request with the provision, in an agreement between he and myself, that, before this is done, there will be due consultation with the African leadership, recognizing that it is an arrangement, in which they participated, that took Mr. Taylor to exile".

Asked if she would have been more comfortable if the Nigerian President had handled the matter, she said that, not only would she have been more comfortable, that would have been the right thing to do; the pressure on Liberia had been "unfair". She had hoped that the international community and the United Nations would have sought to implement a decision of the Security Council, in that regard, long before the new Government took over.

"So, we inherited a problem", she added. "We are faced with serious pressure. We are a small country. We have no powers that others have. We have no security forces to protect our people and the safety of our nation. So, we are caught in a situation, in which we have to take a major decision that should have been taken long before, giving us an opportunity to pursue our development agenda. But, that is the way it is. So, we have to get this behind us, because our people want to return our country to normalcy and they want to get on with their lives," she said.

She replied to a related question that the Council members had seemed to thank her for her rather courageous, but risky, decision to try to bring the matter to closure. What else they would do, depended on their own reflection based on what she had said, based on the security and stability of Liberia. Whatever happened, she knew that the Council would ensure that the fundamental rights of people were preserved and that security was protected to the degree possible.

In terms of the role played by Mr. Taylor, his potential influence and interference in the affairs of Liberia, she said she could not quantitatively assess his role, but Mr. Taylor had been in power for many years and he had many loyalists in Liberia. He had run a warring faction with thousands and thousands of young combatants who still felt solidarity with him, and they were still there. Until the new Government was able to respond to their needs and give them an alternative, they still had those ties. She could not judge the extent of the impact of those ties on the country's stability. She could only hope to manage and contain it. That was why she had appealed to the Security Council to ensure that the peace was maintained, should there be a response.

She said it was important to bring the matter to closure, but she was not in a position to talk about a precise date. The African leadership was being consulted.

She said that Liberia had not met all the requirements for lifting the sanctions on diamonds, but she hoped that at the next review in June, it would be possible for the Council to lift the bans on the diamond and forestry sectors, so that those important resources could "come back" into the country's own management, in support of its development agenda.

To another question, she said she believed that all African leaders were now embracing democracy and understood that impunity in violation of human rights must come to an end. The decisions being made by African, and all other global leaders, reflected their commitment to that objective.


Liberian President Sirleaf Thanks U.S. Congress, Asks for Continuing Support

March 15, 2006

http://allafrica.com/stories/200603150786.html

Speaking before a joint meeting of the United States Congress on Wednesday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf asked for American support to help her country "become a brilliant beacon, an example to Africa and the world of what love of liberty can achieve."

"The people of Liberia and the people of the United States are bound together by history and by values," Sirleaf said. "But our ties greatly exceed the historical connection," she said. She thanked President Bush for his strong stand against the former Liberian ruler Charles Taylor and the Congress for appropriating $445 million "that laid the foundation for a durable peace" in 2003.

The 35-minute speech, to a full chamber and packed visitors' galleries, was interrupted 33 times by applause, including a dozen by standing ovation. One of the loudest and longest ovations came when she said: "I stand before you today as the first woman elected to lead an African nation." Vice President Dick Cheney, in his capacity as president of the Senate, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert jointly presided, with members of the Cabinet and diplomatic corps in attendance. Sirleaf became the fourth African head-of-state and the eighth women to address a joint meeting.

The text of her address:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of the United States Congress distinguished guests,

I am deeply touched by the honor bestowed on my small but proud West African Republic of Liberia and on myself by inviting me to address this body of representatives of the people of the great United States of America. By this invitation, you have paid one of the greatest tributes there is to those who laid down their lives for my country to be free and democratic. I can only say a big thank you.

The people of Liberia and the people of the United States are bound together by history and by values. We share a deep and abiding belief in the power of freedom, of faith and of finding virtue in work for the common good.

The national motto of Liberia - founded, as you know, by freed American slaves - is "The Love of Liberty Brought us here." We became the first independent Republic in Africa. Our capital, Monrovia, is named for your president James Monroe. Our flag is a star in a blue field and red and white stripes - its one star makes us the lone star state in Africa. Our constitution and our laws were based upon yours. The U.S. dollar was long our legal tender and still is used alongside the Liberian dollar today.

But our ties greatly exceed the historical connection. I stand before you today, as the first woman elected to lead an African nation, thanks to the grace of Almighty God; thanks to the courage of the Liberian people, who chose their future over fear; thanks to the people of west Africa and of Africa generally, who continued to give hope to my people. Thanks also to President Bush whose strong resolve and public condemnation and appropriate action forced a tyrant into exile and thanks to you - the members of this august body - who spurred the international effort that brought blessed peace to our nation.

It was the leadership of the 108th Congress, more than two years ago, that paved the way for a United Nations force that secured our peace and guaranteed free and fair elections. It was your 445 million dollar addition to a supplemental appropriation that attracted additional commitments from international donors. With those funds, we have laid the foundation for a durable peace, not only in Liberia, but in the whole West African sub-region. Special appreciation goes to this 109th Congress for the effort, in recent weeks, to meet Liberia's development needs.

Honorable ladies and gentlemen of this Congress, I want to thank you. The Liberian people have sent me here to thank you - thank you for your vision. Our triumph over evil is also your triumph.

Our special relationship with the United States brought us benefits long before the autumn of 2003. Thousands of our people, including myself, have been educated in American missionary schools and gone on to higher training in this country. You have generously welcomed tens of thousands of our people as they fled war and persecution.

I was among them. In 1985, after challenging the military regime's failure to register my political party, I was put in jail with several university students who also challenged the military rule. This House came to our rescue with a resolution threatening to cut off aid to the country unless all political prisoners were released. Months later, I was put in jail again, this time in a cell with 15 men. All of them were executed a few hours later. Only the intervention of a single soldier spared me from rape. Through the grace of Almighty God and the mercy of others, I escaped and found refuge here, in Washington, D.C.

But long before that, our country and I benefited from Liberia?s special relationship with the United States.

My family exemplifies the economic and social divide that has torn our nation. Unlike many privileged Liberians, I can claim no American lineage. Three of my grandparents were indigenous Liberians; the fourth was a German who married a rural market woman. That Grandfather was forced to leave the country when Liberia - in loyalty to the United States - declared war on Germany in 1914.

Both of my grandmothers were farmers and village traders. They could not read or write any language - as more than three-quarters of our people still cannot today - but they worked hard, they loved their country, they loved their families and they believed in education. They inspired me then, and their memory motivates me now to serve my people, to sacrifice for the world and honestly serve humanity. I could not, I will not - I cannot - betray their trust.

My parents were sent at a young age to Monrovia, where it was common for elite families to take in children from the countryside to perform domestic chores. They endured humiliations and indignities, but my mother was fortunate to be adopted by a kind woman, and both my parents were able through this system to go to school - a rarity at that time for poor people. My father even became the first native Liberian in the Liberian National Legislature.

I was not born with the expectation of a University education from Harvard or being a World Bank officer or an Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. When I was a small girl in the countryside, swimming and fishing with twine made from palm trees, no one would have picked me out as the future president of our country.

I graduated from the College of West Africa, a United Methodist high school. I waited tables to support my studies in the United States - college in Wisconsin and graduate school in Massachusetts. I went on to enjoy the benefits and advantages of a world-class education.

So my feet are in two worlds - the world of poor rural women with no respite from hardship, and the world of accomplished Liberian professionals, for whom the United States is a second and beloved home. I draw strength from both.

But most of our people have not been as fortunate as I was. Always poor and underdeveloped, Liberia is only now emerging from two decades of turmoil that destroyed everything we managed to build in a century and a half of independence.

The cost of our conflict run wide and deep, manifested in varied ways - mismanagement, corruption, bad governance, massive looting of public treasury and assets. Unlike the Tsunami in Asia and Katrina here in your own country, where the destruction and human casualty were caused by nature, we participated in or stood silently by in our own self destruction. Our country agonized with your citizens and victims and families of these natural tragedies and our country also agonized with itself over the effects of a senseless civil war.

In the campaign months, I traveled to every corner of our country. I trudged through mud in high boots, where roads did not exist or had deteriorated past repair. I surveyed ruined hospitals and collapsed clinics. I held meetings by candlelight, because there is no electricity anywhere - including the capital - except from private generators. I was forced to drink water from creeks and un-sanitized wells all of which made me vulnerable to the diseases from which so many of our people die daily.

I came face to face with the human devastation of war, which killed a quarter of a million of our three million people and displaced most of the rest. Hundreds of thousands escaped across borders. More - who could not - fled into the bush, constantly running from one militia or another, often surviving by eating rodents and wild plants that made them sick and even killed them.

Our precious children died of malaria, parasites and mal-nourishments. Our boys, full of potential, were forced to be child soldiers, to kill or be killed. Our girls, capable of being anything they could imagine, were made into sex slaves, gang-raped by men with guns, made mothers while they were still children themselves.

But listening to the hopes and dreams of our people, I recall the words of a Mozambican poet who said, "Our dream has the size of freedom." My people, like your people, believe deeply in freedom - and, in their dreams, they reach for the heavens.

I represent those dreams. I represent their hope and their aspirations. I ran for president because I am determined to see good governance in Liberia in my lifetime. But I also ran because I am the mother of four, and I wanted to see our children smile again.

Already, I am seeing those smiles. For even after everything they have endured, the people of Liberia have faith in new beginnings. They are counting on me and my administration to create the conditions that will guarantee the realization of their dreams. We must not betray their trust.

All the children I meet - when I ask what they want most - say, "I want to learn." "I want to go to school." "I want an education." We must not betray their trust.

Young adults, who have been called our 'lost generation,' do not consider themselves lost. They, too, aspire to learn and to serve their families and their communities. We must not betray their trust.

Women, my strong constituency, tell me that they want the same chances that men have. They want to be literate. They want their work recognized. They want protection against rape. They want clean water that won't sicken and kill their children. We must not betray their trust.

Former soldiers tell me they are tired of war; they do not want to have to fight or to run again. They want training. They want jobs. If they carry guns, they want to do so in defense of peace and security, not war and pillage. We must not betray their trust.

Entrepreneurs who have returned from abroad with all their resources - risking everything to invest in their country's future - tell me they want a fair and transparent regulatory environment. They want honesty and accountability from their government. We must not betray their trust.

Farming families who fled the fighting for shelter in neighboring countries or found themselves displaced from their communities want a fresh start. They want to return home. They want seeds. They want farm implements. They want roads to get their goods to market. We must not betray their trust.

I have many promises to keep. As I won elections through a free and peaceful process, I must preserve freedom and keep the peace. As I campaigned against corruption, I must lead a government that curbs it. As I was elected with the massive vote of women, I must assure that their needs are met.

We are not oblivious to the enormity of the challenges we face. Few countries have been as decimated as ours. In the chaos of war, our HIV rates have quadrupled. Our children are still dying of curable diseases, tuberculosis, dysentery, measles, malaria and parasites and malnutrition. Schools lack books, equipment, teachers and buildings. The telecommunications age has passed us by.

We have a 3.5 billion dollar external debt, lent in large measure to some of my predecessors who were known to be irresponsible, unaccountable, unrepresentative and corrupt. The reality that we have lost our international creditworthiness bars us from further loans - although now we would use them wisely.

Our abundant natural resources have been diverted by criminal conspiracies for private gain. International sanctions, imposed for the best of reasons, still prevent us from exporting our raw materials. Roads and bridges have disappeared or been bombed or washed away. We know that trouble could once again breed outside our borders. The physical and spiritual scars of war are deep indeed.

So with everything to be done, what must we do first?

We must do everything we can to consolidate the peace that so much was paid to secure, and we must work to heal the wounds of war. We must create an emergency public works program to put the whole nation to work and give families an income through the rebuilding of critical infrastructure, strengthening security and attracting investment.

We must rehabilitate the core of an electricity grid to high-priority areas and institutions - and visibly demonstrate to the people that government can provide necessary services.

We must bring home more of our refugees, and resettle the displaced. We must give them the tools to start anew, and encourage more of our skilled expatriates, who have the knowledge and the experience to build our economy to return home. For those unable to come home now, we must appeal to you to grant them continuing protective status, and residency where appropriate, to put them in a condition to contribute to their country's reform and development.

We must complete the demobilization of former combatants and restructure our army, police and security services. We must create legal systems that preserve the rule of law, applied to all without fear or favor.

We must revive educational facilities, including our few universities. We must provide essential agricultural extension services to help us feed ourselves again, developing the science and technology skills to insure that we prosper in a modern global economy.

We must create an efficient and transparent tax system, to ensure the flow of government revenues and create a hospitable investment climate.

With few resources beyond the will of our people, I want you to know we have made a strong beginning. During my first few weeks in office, by curbing corruption we have increased government revenue by 21 percent, relative to the same period last year. We have cancelled non compliant forestry concessions and fraudulent contracts. We have required senior government appointees to declare financial assets; implemented cash management practices to insure fiscal discipline and sharpen efficiency; met the basic requirements for eligibility under the US general system of preferences and initial Exim Bank support. We have restored good relationships with bilateral and multilateral partners; commenced the process leading to an IMF Staff Monitoring Program; accelerated implementation of the Governance Economic Management Plan - the G-Map; and we have also launched a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the abuses of war.

But while we seek national unity and reconciliation, we must not sacrifice justice. I respect the life-saving role that our West African neighbors, particularly Nigeria, played at no small cost to them in accepting to host Mr. Charles Taylor. Liberians are deeply grateful. But I say here, as I have said before, Liberia has little option but to see that justice is done in accordance with the requirements of the United Nations and the broad international community.

I know that my government must go beyond these strong beginnings; must do much more than we have done so far, and we must do it quickly. Our people's courage and patience are formidable, but their expectations are high. And their needs are urgent.

This does not mean that we want big government. We cannot afford it, and we believe that government should not attempt to do what civil society and business can do better.

The people of Liberia know that government cannot save the country - only their own strength, their determination, their creativity, resilience and their faith can do that. But they have the right to expect the essentials that only a government can provide.

They have the right to a government that is honest and that respects the sanctity of human life. They need and they deserve an economic environment in which their efforts can succeed. They need infrastructure and they need security. Above all, they need peace.

That is the task of my administration. To meet that challenge, to do what is right, I ask for the continuing support of this Congress and the American people.

Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, my appeal comes with the recognition of all that you have already done. In addition to the financial assistance to disarm our fighters, to feed and house our displaced, the artful diplomacy of the United States was central to ending our long conflict. We thank you with all our hearts.

As small and as impoverished as we are, we cherish the friendship we have had with you. During the Second World War, we stood together, even if only symbolically, to fight Nazi expansionism and tyranny. At the request of President Roosevelt, we planted rubber trees after the Japanese seized the Indonesian supply. When U.S. laws prohibited sending ships to a Europe at war, we agreed to establish a shipping registry to help transport American goods.

During the Cold War, we hosted a submarine tracking center, an intelligence listening post and one of the largest Voice of America transmitters in the world.

Again, we ask that we continue working together but we do not ask for patronage. We do not want to continue in dependency. The benefits of your assistance must be mutual.

Honorable members of Congress, much is at stake for all of us.

Liberia at war brought misery and crimes against humanity to its neighbors - a toll that is beyond calculation. A peaceful, prosperous Liberia can contribute to democracy, stability and development in West Africa and beyond.

Nine times - nine times! - in the past 15 years, the United States has been forced to evacuate official Americans and their dependents from our country, at enormous cost to your taxpayers. Monrovia, I am told, is the most-evacuated U.S. embassy in the world. I am determined that you will not need to rescue your people from our shores for a tenth time. You contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to a UN Peacekeeping Force in Liberia. A fraction of this will be required to support a peaceful and stable Liberia.

Honorable Members of this great Congress, think with me about this. What is the return on an investment that trains young combatants for life, rather than death? What is the yield when our young men can exchange their guns for jobs? What is the savings in food aid when our people can feed themselves again? What is the profit from educating our girls to be scientists and doctors? What is the dividend when our dependence ends, and we become true partners rather than supplicants?

Honorable Members, we know that there is no quick fix for the reconstruction of our country, but Liberians, young and old, share their government's commitments to work, to be honest, to unite, to reconcile and to rebuild. A nation so well endowed, so blessed by God with natural resources, should not be poor. We have rubber and timber and diamonds and gold and iron ore. Our fields are fertile. Our water supply is plentiful. Our sunshine is warm and welcoming.

With your prayers and with your help, we will demonstrate that democracy can work, even under the most challenging conditions. We will honor the suffering of our people, and Liberia will become a brilliant beacon, an example to Africa and the world of what the love of liberty can achieve. We will strive to be America's success story in Africa, demonstrating the potential in the transformation from war to peace; demonstrating the will to join in the global fight against terrorism; demonstrating that democracy can prevail, demonstrating that prosperity can be achieved.

The people of Liberia have already rolled up their sleeves, despite overwhelming obstacles, confident that their work will be rewarded, confident in the hope and promise of the future.

The women of Liberia and the women of Africa, some in the market place and some in high level of Government have already shared their trust and their confidence in my ability to succeed, and ensure that the doors of competitive politics and professionalism will be opened even wider for them.

Honorable members, I will succeed. I will not betray their trust. I will make them proud - I will make you proud - of the difference which one woman with abiding faith in God can do.

God bless you.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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