President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will deliver her 12th and final Address on the State of the Nation to a joint Session of the Legislature at the William R. Tolbert Jr. Assembly Hall at the Capitol Building. And with the end of her two terms at hand she — Africa’s first democratically elected female President – will also reflect on many exciting moments of her administration.
While she will draw Liberians’ attention to the most difficult period, particularly in her first term when everything was broken down, it is, however, up to the Liberian public to decide whether the UP administration has lived up to its promises to the people to fight corruption which remains a clog in the wheel of progress.
The appreciation of the UP’s work by citizenry can perhaps be evidence if there will be similar turnouts like the one that greeted the inaugural State of the Nation address, when the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the Liberian people for a better country, improved living conditions, education and employment opportunities for the youthful population were so high.
During the President’s final State of the Nation address today, it is anticipated that she will try to catalog her successes since taking state power on January 16, 2006. She will also strive to tell the nation about challenges that still confront them, though Liberians are already experiencing the obvious.
Being the first elected female President of Africa, President Sirleaf took on a huge task of rebuilding a nation whose infrastructure was destroyed during a violent civil war.
President Sirleaf is aware that Liberians gathered in their numbers at various polling stations in October 2005 and 2011. Acknowledging this in her January 16, 2016 address to the nation, President Sirleaf said, “We know that your vote was a vote for change; a vote for peace, security and stability; a vote for individual and national prosperity; a vote for healing and leadership. We have heard you loudly, and we humbly accept your vote of confidence and your mandate.”
At that ceremony, President Sirleaf noted, “Today, we wholeheartedly embrace this change. We recognize that this change is not change for change sake, but a fundamental break with the past, thereby requiring that we take bold and decisive steps to address the problems that for decades have stunted our progress, undermined national unity, and kept old and new cleavages in ferment.”
But the unanswered question about whether the UP government actually brought the change it promised the Liberian people based on an evaluation of her overall performance, will be determined in October this year, when the future of the party she has led in the last twelve years as a standard bearer will be tested at the polls.
Many of the President’s critics continue to question her stance on corruption by public officials, although her supporters would point to her strides in the waiver of the country’s huge foreign debts and the construction of some infrastructural projects such as the Buchanan, Gbarnga-Ganta highways and the recent dedication of the Mount Coffee Hydro Plant. In 2006 the President signed a compact with her citizens, and said, “We must have a new understanding. Your job, as citizens, is to work for your family and your country. Your country’s only job is to work for you. That is the compact that I offer you today.”
On economic renewal, President Sirleaf began on the premise that Liberians are a wealthy people. “Our nation is blessed with an endowment, rich in natural and human resources,” she said.
She indicated that the country’s economy, as a result of several civil conflicts and economic mismanagement by successive governments, had collapsed, and noted the task of reconstructing the devastated economy, saying there would be no quick fixes.
Many may vividly remember one of President Sirleaf’s resounding commitments to the Liberian people at that historic inauguration eleven years ago. “Times were hard before. Times are even harder today. But I make this pledge to you: Under my Administration, we will work to change that situation. We will work to ensure that when our children say ‘papa na come,’ papa will come home joyfully with something, no matter how meager, to sustain his family.”
With these words, the President was speaking of creating jobs for every Liberian to be gainfully employed. “We will create the social and economic opportunities that will restore our people’s dignity and self-worth,” she said.
President Sirleaf edged out the Congress for Democratic Change of former soccer star George Weah in the tightly contested presidential election in 2005 for three basic reasons, namely: she had been a longtime socio-economic and political activist with in-depth knowledge of Liberia’s problems; she had just recently been an international civil servant well versed in banking and commerce; and her credentials and experience would give donors the confidence to rush to Liberia’s reconstruction and recovery efforts.
Even four years after her ascendency, the Sirleaf Administration’s “Lift Liberia Program” was still crawling on its knees as the gulf between donor’s pledge and delivery widened. The President then acknowledged the failure that borders on defeat, although she was not daunted.
President Sirleaf does not have to wait for anyone to blow her own horn, but rather she was over the weekend elated to do just that.
She noted at a one-day UP Retreat held at its national headquarters on Friday that her government has done well over the last few years of her administration.
“No government has done as much as we have, and no government will do as much as we have done,” she said boastfully.
The President didn’t name these achievements but noted that “those who do not believe – should go and check the records” as proof of the many developments and achievements under her administration.
She said Liberians will be proud of the UP and their votes when she gives account of her stewardship, “because no government has done as much as hers.” So as Liberians wait to hear what she has to say, they are hoping she gives an account of her stewardship today to determine why UP deserves another chance under Ambassador Joseph Boakai.