23 November 2017

Liberia: Ellen - 'I'll Retire Gracefully, Remain Active in Society'

Photo: Liberian Government
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says cannot wait to see the end of the current electoral impasse and to see the runoff held so she may retire. In a conversation with LBS director general Ledgerhood Rennie on the Bumper Show yesterday, President Sirleaf said she hope to retire honorably and be active in private life in the interest of Liberia and Africa.

"I need to retire gracefully," she responded to her host as she laid down her post presidency plan.

Addressing a wide range of issues, including completed, ongoing and earmarked projects, she said Liberians will miss her for her resolve to get the country's broken system and infrastructure on the right trajectory.

"The liberties (freedom of speech, press, etc.) I have allowed and the construction of roads, as well as the improvement of the living standards of my fellow citizens through job creation, will make up my legacy," she noted.

Touching on projects, she said the new terminal at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) will have an initial dedication in December while the official dedication will take place in 2018 under the new administration. "The runway of the airport has been worked on and there is relief. We hope that more will be done before we step down," Sirleaf assured.

"When we came into office we promised small lights today and big lights tomorrow. Therefore, we have built the Mount Coffee Power Plant and it is now serving our people. I am told that there are hundreds of connections every day in and around Monrovia," she said.

Madam Sirleaf said electricity is now available for most of the southeast of the country, namely Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Maryland counties, as well as Ganta in Nimba County.

"One of the challenges we are faced with is power theft. People are tapping on the power system by illegally having access to it without doing the right thing," she noted, adding that the electricity project intended to connect Monrovia to Bomi and Monrovia to Harbel is underway, too.

The outgoing president said inasmuch as there were challenges over the years, the Monrovia to Ganta highway and many other road networks have been built and the construction of others are expected to get underway soon. "The Gbarnga to Mendekorma road, which is estimated at US$300 million, will kick off soon as preparations are already on the verge of completion," she assured.

"I did not promise to do everything in a short period of time or even in my full years of work at the presidency but I believe that we have achieved a lot more in building roads in the country than all the governments combined before me," she boasted.

About media reports portraying her as an ugly person, she said it is unfortunate that many people don't understand what they read in the newspapers or hear on the radio. "I hope that people will understand what patriotism and nationalism are. We need to love our own and refrain from denigrating our leaders and the systems that hold us together as a country.

"I welcome and respect professional criticism but a lot of our media outlets are so provocative. My own friend Kenneth Best has been and is still even writing tough editorials and publishing stories in his paper that are provocative, but I don't have anything against him, neither anyone else for what they are giving out there to the public in the form of news. He is a person of his own kind and lives in his own nook," she noted.

Sirleaf challenged Liberians with facts about the allegation that she has a hospital in South Africa. "It is so funny that our people don't know how South Africa as a country functions. It is a lie and it cannot be proven by anyone," Sirleaf challenged.

She pointed out that after turning power over to the next elected president she hopes to stay in the country and work to help build it. "People think I have so much money because I have become president, but this is not true. I was a Board Member of a financial corporation in the Diaspora for over thirty years. I have earned something for myself over the years as I served integrity institutions before 2006. Why then should somebody think that I have so much money because I am a president? In fact, I need to work for money and continue to make a living after the presidency," she said.

Discussing challenges that stalled Liberia's development in some aspects, she pointed out that the global economic challenges, which in most cases have led to the dropping of prices of the world's natural resources such as rubber, iron ore, diamond, and gold, are responsible for the slow pace of development. "Ebola came and challenged us as a people. We lost our loved ones but we stood firmly together and defeated it in a limited time (for) what many thought of us as a country," Sirleaf said.

She expressed satisfaction in Liberian women's resolve not to be backbenchers anymore in decision making and are working for the common good of Liberia. "After me as one in the capacity of a president, it may seem a far distant thing for another woman but one thing I am sure of is that there are women in the queue already who are demonstrating their preparedness to serve in many areas of national leadership.

"I pray that as Rwanda has the highest number of women representation at the parliament so one day we will get there. I have the hope and confidence in the women of Africa to rise above all odds and support their male counterparts in building countries on our continent," she said. Rwanda is the only African country in the world that has sixty percent female lawmakers in parliament.

Meanwhile, President Sirleaf remained tight-lipped on the current electoral dispute hearings and court proceedings. She said the justice system should be left alone to do its job.

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