MONROVIA: For the most part of her 12-year national leadership, and years after that period, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had often opted to keep the celebration of her birthday modest and low-keyed. Whatever the reason, she did not say, at least not publicly, but it is surmised by some pundits that she had used the celebrations during the time to put the spotlight on ordinary Liberians who face postwar adversities rather than turning it on herself. This year, it seemed she wanted to repeat that tendency, but her admirers, supporters and colleagues (national and international) wouldn’t let her do it. Perhaps they think it is time, at her 85th birthday, to sufficiently hype and amplify her worth and value to humanity—to Liberia—whether she wanted it or not. And there it came in no small measure as swarms of guests, ordinary citizens and national leaders of all persuasions, flocked to her person, first at the United Methodist Church and then at her Fish Market residence. Amongst the guests, was Madam Sirleaf’s political successor, President George Manneh Weah, as The Analyst reports.
Former Liberian President and WHO Goodwill Ambassador, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, found herself in the pool of humans—supporters, fans, family members, religious brethren, national leaders and people from all walks of life on Sunday, October 29, 2023, as well as days to the buildup to her 85th Birth Anniversary.
If she had opted for a quiet moment yet again on her birthday, the 85th did not promise it. She suddenly got submerged in the seas of loved ones, supporters and fans as soon as another October 29 dawned, this time on a Sunday.
The necessary noises of compliments, adorations and salutations continued for the most part of the day, big ones taking place at her church, the First United Methodist Church on Ashmun Street, and within her gates in the Fish Town Community, Sinkor, Monrovia.
The home reception jostled as Liberians and international friends poured it, but the glittery of the day actually increased when President George Manneh Weah, himself on the wheels of his convey, drove gingerly into the walled home of his predecessor, the celebrant.
Prior to his arrival, the celebrant was pacing up and down the red-carpet aisle running through the huge yard, inspecting a line of catchy photos and other artworks nicely laid against the sidewalk and flowers of the walkway. As if she knew the President was approaching, the ex-President and her son, James Sirleaf, and other family members and friends, pushed upwards towards the main entrance.
President Weah and entourage disembarked, and there on hand to greet was the woman who passed on the gavel of head of state to him back on January 22, 2018.
The two have had some verbal skirmishes in the past, and as political tensions grew over the contentious 2023 elections, it appeared it was highly unlikely they would meet face to face before the next inauguration of whoever the next president would be in two months’ time.
But then yesterday, Sunday, there were the two states persons standing face to face, embracing each other, fondly exchanging pleasantries, and walking down the aisle into the house of the ex-president.
Though it is not known what they talked about exactly perhaps besides the normal Liberian greetings at birthdays, and asking “how is your family doing?”, Liberians via live cameras, and some in-person, saw in their life time their two popular leaders—one former and one current—talking to each other.
Liberia has not been blessed with former presidents being alive to interact with the current. That’s why most Liberians were glad when the transition of 2018 peacefully took place but later some citizens began to be astonished when both leaders were trading diatribes at some point.
The Sunday, October 29, 2023 encounter by the two leaders will have its own way of calming tension between themselves and their supporters over the past rough time and will contribute to national healing, according to political pundits.
But President Weah was not the only VIP that graced the 85th Birth Anniversary of former President Sirleaf. A horde of other statesmen and states women were on hand at the home of the Sirleafs, and some at the Church where an intercessory worship service was held.
At the ancient First United Methodist Church on Ashmun Street where the intercessory service for the Birthday Anniversary of Madam Sirleaf was held, a plethora of eminent citizens attended, including Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai, former Vice President of Liberia, serving with the celebrate for 12 years (2006 to 2017).
Ambassador Boakai replaced the former president as standard bearer of the Unity Party on which ticket they both served as presidents and vice presidents. He’s currently contesting incumbent George Manneh Weah in the 2023 elections.
Entering the edifice with the UP standard bearer were his wife Madam Boakai, running mate Senator Jeremiah Kpan Koung of Nimba County, and a couple of aides, including Jake Kabakollie.
Another VIP that attended the service with the former President was the Political Leader of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP), Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings and his wife, Teresa.
Both Ambassador Boakai and Mr. Cummings were given the stage at the church to make remarks, to tender tributes to the celebrant. Interestingly, Madam Sirleaf, Boakai and Cummings are all products of the College of West Africa, a secondary school run by the United Methodist Church.
In remarks, Ambassador Boakai reflected on how he grew up in the First Methodist Church, having attended the College of West Africa. He said, as a boy growing up in the church, he learned and appreciated leaders of the church who served there at various times.
“Today, I am here to honor a great lady, a lady who recognized me and chose me as her vice president for 12 years. I thank God for you, Madam Sirleaf, for the many years you served this country,” he said. “We are here to recognize your contribution to this country and the world. May God bless you, guide you, lead you. May he preserve you for the rest of our lives, in Jesus’s name! Amen!”
For his part, the CPP Political Leader said: “Madam Sirleaf, congratulations on your birthday. We thank God for your contribution to our country, our region and indeed the world. We wish you many more birthdays to come, and pray for God’s blessings and prosperity upon you. God bless you.”
Still, the lineup of important guests at the church service to grace Madam Sirleaf’s birthday were Senator Conmany Wesseh of River Gee County and his wife, Medina. Both are longtime allies of Madam Sirleaf.
Also were Dr. Togba Nah Tipoteh, and his wife, Fatu. Dr. Tipoteh, an ace economist and public servant, rendered a solo at the service.
Other melodious voices by the Church choir literally got the congregation spellbound while Madam Rosemarie T. Crusoe, delivered the sermon of the day.
Madam Crusoe, who is also a Lay Servant of the Church, spoke on the theme, “In The Midst Of The Storm” with text taken from Mark 4:35 – 41.
She told the congregation who were obviously in jubilant mood that no matter a situation one finds themselves in, there is a route that provides a solution.
She said Liberia could be going through a herculean electoral period, but God will surely find a way where the exercise will be peaceful and Liberians will live in harmony, stronger than ever before.
She continued: “Let me tell you that in the midst of the storm, there is an amazing miracle that will solve the problem. There is peace in the midst of the storm, as Jesus said there should be calm when there was a storm at sea with his disciple. Peace is not only to keep you calm, and remove you from trouble, but it is also re-enforce your strength.”
She praised Madam Sirleaf for her exemplary leadership in the country which greatly helped “to calm the storm the country was plunged into and how she helped to restore the peace Liberia now has.
The inspirational preacher of the day then prayed for more years and blessings to the former President and her family.
Retired Bishop of the United Methodist Church, Arthur Kulah who described Madam Sirleaf as “my little Sister”, said a lot can be appreciated from the dignified life of the former President and the sacrifices he made over the years especially during the difficult times of the country where she worked to restore peace and brought development of the country.
The 90 year cleric lamented how Liberia has declined over the years, stating, “those days people came here to learn civilization, to learn new things but you can’t say that right now and that shows how things have gone but we are hoping that our storm will be over one day”.
He said he was proud of the United Methodist Church which according to him has evolved over the years from being called “a spiritual church, an uneducated church, but today we are the most educated church with PhD holders in virtually all fields”
He praised the Preacher of the day Madam Crusoe for giving the inspirational sermon however said that if it was his own way, he would have prefer a topic delivered by someone who would told the congregation and Liberia as a whole how to have a nation and development it “because we have gone down the ladder that no one wants to come here to learn from us again”.