MONROVIA – The legacy of a leader’s greatness is often heralded and appreciated in post mortems, long after the person’s work has been etched in the annals of history, long after their bones are interred with their deeds. But it seems Liberia is exceedingly fortuitous to have and appreciate a former president who is still around to get her flowers and appreciate them while she’s still alive; and she’s not allowing anyone to tell her story but herself, as The Analyst has discovered.
After leaving office and attending the inauguration of her successor in January 2018, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf abandoned all protocols and amenities deserving of a former president, walked to her jeep and drove herself home, to the astonishment of a nation accustomed to paying homage and kowtowing to every whim and caprice of their national leaders who would either die in office or be forced to abdicate power ignominiously. Explaining the event yesterday when she appeared on her former Minister of Information Lawrence Komla Bropleh’s syndicated “The Liberian Renaissance: Changing Minds, Changing Attitude” program hosted at the Liberia Broadcasting System, former President Sirleaf said that singular event in January 2018 after President Weah’s inauguration epitomized her struggle to break the imperial presidency that plagued the nation for ages.
Explaining to the audience how she feels after leaving the office of the Presidency with all of the trappings of power yet remains humble, Madam Sirleaf said she feels accomplished as a former president.
“I feel very good. I believe I served; I served very well. But you know the one thing I am proud of is that I broke down the imperial presidency. I lived a simple life. Look at my lifestyle, look at what I do, look at where I live. It’s all that. That is why when I turned over the baton in January 2018, I got in my car and drove myself home to send people the message that imperial presidency was finished. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have an honorable life, that you don’t deserve respect. It doesn’t mean that you don’t expect to be revered. So, I look forward to that.
“And thank God, my service went beyond my country, because I served in the international community, and I left a good record with them. Today, I am respected by the international community. They ask me to do lot of things. I sit on several boards; I do special assignments for the United Nations Secretary General; I do special assignments for the agencies of the United Nations. I am a part of other movements of promoting women, responding to jobs for young people. There is string of things that I do that keep me very busy to the point where my staff get constrained because sometimes, we do the Zoom at 4:00am because of the time differences for the many participants in all these programs. But it makes my life full. And so, I can feel proud of myself, and proud of the role I play and the fact that I am still a major contributor to development – not only development in Liberia, but development internationally that I get respect for that.
Expounding on the prevalence of rape in the Liberian society, former President said the issue of rape needs to be tackled at the level of communities, to the extent that perpetrators are named and shamed in their communities, to serve as deterrent to would-be rapists.
“There are other ways of going about the rape issue, like naming and shaming in the communities; putting the perpetrators’ photos on walls so people can see it, until you can touch the hearts of men, particularly when you’re dealing with small children, young girls, babies, you’ve got to be able to get to their conscience. I want to thank all the women out there, women groups, the female lawyers’ association who are also following these cases and going to the court houses.
“My appeal would be to continue the discussion in the communities. We must continue to tell the stories. You cannot deprive a young girl, a young woman of reaching her aim and objectives in life,” Madam Sirleaf lamented.
Speaking on other issues especially those bordering on respect for the office of the presidency, former President Sirleaf cautioned Liberians to be mindful of desecrating the highest office in the land, because doing so would also reflect negatively on the image of the nation.
“People should remember to respect the office of the President. I faced the same disrespect; but when you disrespect the Presidency you disrespect the nation,” she stated thoughtfully. Madam Sirleaf stated how during her tenure, some people willfully lied that she had built a hospital in South Africa for her son who had never traveled to South Africa.
Responding to a question whether she has been in conversation with President Weah since she handed over power to him, Madam said they are not in any conversation but they both exchange brief compliments from time to time, adding that she does not have any problem with it.
“When it was announced that I had this operation in the States, he sent me a message and said I wish you God’s blessing”, so these are the kinds of exchanges we do have but not conversation.
Madam Sirleaf said the possibility of a conversation has not been made possible because there has not been anybody to initiate it.
When asked whether she was aware of the sanction placed on 3 former officials of government by the United States Department of Treasury as the result of the 2022 Magnitsky Act and what she made of it, Madam Sirleaf said she got to know about the sanction just like any other citizen in the country got the news and that she has no statement to make about it since she has no idea about it and besides that the case is purely that for the US government to decide.
“To be frank with you, I can’t also make any statement about it because I have got no information about the case and besides that is the case involving the United States, our strategic partner”, she said.
On the issue of whether she would campaign for any political party or candidate in the ensuing 2023 presidential and general elections, Madam Sirleaf said her current focus is to lead global campaigns on issues that affect humanity, so she doesn’t see herself going to campaign grounds to support any candidate or party. She however indicated that she is always willing to provide professional counsel to any political party that seeks her expertise with regards to their agenda or manifesto.
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