Liberia: Mixed Reviews for Johnson-Sirleaf’s Nobel Peace Prize

Monrovia — As the Norwegian Nobel Committee named Liberian President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf a joint winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, opposition party supporters were flooding the streets of Monrovia to demand that she be voted out of office in the upcoming election.

Friday’s announcement immediately became political fodder in a highly charged presidential campaign, highlighting the wide gap between the glowing reception Johnson-Sirleaf receives abroad and the mixed one she receives at home.

The Nobel committee announced that the prize would be divided into three equal parts. Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist who organized a women’s movement calling for an end to civil war in the West African nation, was also named a winner, as was Tawakkul Karman, a Yemeni journalist and activist who has played a prominent role in that country’s Arab Spring protests.

But in Monrovia, the focus Friday was squarely on Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state who is running for a second term in a vote scheduled for Oct. 11. The prize was awarded on the same day that supporters of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the leading opposition party, marched in support of political change.

In a statement, the Nobel committee said Johnson-Sirleaf had “contributed to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women.”

On the contrary, the CDC has consistently accused Johnson-Sirleaf of bringing war to the country, citing her early financial support of former President Charles Taylor, now on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity at The Hague.

Taylor launched a coup in 1989 that plunged Liberia into 14 years of civil conflict that claimed more than 250,000 lives. In 2009, Liberia’s South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission report included Johnson-Sirleaf on a list of 49 politicians who should be barred from politics for 30 years owing to their ties to warring factions. Johnson-Sirleaf issued an apology to the nation shortly thereafter, saying she only supported Taylor in the hope that he would overthrow dictator Samuel Doe.

In an interview late last month, however, CDC presidential candidate Winston Tubman highlighted the president’s ties to Taylor, saying: “The government that we are seeking to replace is a government that oppressed the people. It is a government that brought war.”

Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist who has previously worked for the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank, has been accused by her opponents of courting international favor at the expense of voters back home.

Speaking to IPS by phone on Friday, Tubman said the prize was further evidence that the views of the international community did not match those of Liberians.

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Posted by on Feb 11 2012. Filed under African News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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