As Liberians hurdle toward the possibility of voting in the first transitional elections in 46 years, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf continuous to send a message of who she prefer to be her successor.
As Liberia’s first democratically elected female President, as well as the would-be first free former President of the nation’s post-war era, she appears to be more active in the selection of the next President of the country which she has served and led for 12 years.
In Ellen’s Liberia, it’s time for “young people” to take over the country, and the time is now for generation change.
Few months ago, the harsh rhetoric of President Sirleaf’s response showed her annoyance when her Vice President, Amb. Joseph N. Boakai, who is currently the Standard Bearer of the ruling Unity Party, indirectly accused her of supporting Cllr. Charles W. Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP).
Ahead of the campaign rally of Vice President Joseph Boakai last week, she announced that she would not attend.
Barely a week later, on Thursday, September 22, in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, President Sirleaf, in her true political wit, sent a clear message to Liberian voters in respect to the generation presidential race on October 10‘s election, of which 20 candidates are contesting.
“I’m sending a strong signal; not only should we respect the Constitution and the law, but l also say it’s time for generational change.”
“We have young people that are vying for leadership, that have the capacity, that have the passion and the capability and it’s time for them to take over and we’ve got to make way for them.”
“If we are going to practice democracy which we all want to do and we all strive for do, that we’ve got to do it by example,” President Sirleaf said.
Amanpour’s broad treatment of the question gave the President, who avoided mentioning Amb. Boakai by name, an equally broad frame of reference in her response. Yet, political pundits believed her criticism was aimed at the Amb. Boakai, who is currently 75 years old— the oldest candidate in the race.
Her call for young leadership renews doubts over her support for the presidential bid of her vice president Boakai, who has also been her long and trusted friend.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, former finance minister Trevor Manuel a day before President Sirleaf ‘s interview told South Africans at the Stellenbosch University (SU) to vote for younger President.
Manuel, who was at the university museum to speak about the role of students as active citizens, agreed with an audience member expressing concern over the age of leadership within the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
“I don’t understand it. One of the reasons I stepped out of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC voluntarily [is because] I’d served for 21 years in the NEC and I said I can’t continue to serve, I mustn’t hang onto this position with white knuckles,” Manuel said.
President Jacob Zuma, like Mr. Boakai, is 75 years of age.
Manuel compared South Africa to the United States of America, saying the country managed to elect president Barack Obama while he was still in his 40s.
He said the ANC “has got to bring through a generation of people who want to be there and will be active and say to other people: you served us well, become part of a general reservoir of information and knowledge and a sounding board for what we do, but don’t sit in the chairs of those who need to be there”.
Manuel, however, acknowledged that his views about making space for younger leaders are held by a minority of ANC members.