President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has acknowledged tremendous progress in spite of challenges since the Unity Party-led government took power in the 2005 and 2011 elections.
She, however, called for greater unity and peace as the party galvanizes energies ahead of the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.
President Sirleaf made the call on Thursday, July 7, when she addressed the just-ended National Convention of the party in Gbarnga, Bong County.
Describing the history and formation of Unity Party as rich, she noted that the “Old Unity Party and New one have all combined to give the party a good history of hills and valleys, failures and successes, sorrows and joys.”
She paid tribute to founding fathers Gabriel Kpolleh of the Liberia Unification Party (LUP); Jackson Fiah Doe of the Liberia Action Party (LAP); and Jabaru Carlon, Joseph Koffa and Dr. Edward B. Kesselly of the UP, describing their political efforts as landmark achievements that over three decades ago brought to bear the unity of the country.
In the 1997 elections held to herald peace, UP and the LUP combined efforts, along with other broadminded nationalists, and came together thus becoming ‘runners up’ in said elections, she said. President Sirleaf praised the courage of her fellow partisans as they came close to the ‘finish lines’ in spite of the odds of war “because of the conviction of our leaders and the people who were united behind a cause to see democracy at the ballot box.”
She extolled the bravery of those comrades still holding on to the fort as well as those who took the great leap into eternity and have joined the saints in heaven and continue to watch over Liberia in its stride to embrace democracy and bring peace to its people.
The 2005 elections gave hope to the Liberian people and brought forth women, first time voters, the young and the old, a moment that changed desperation into hope, the President said.
Reflecting on the party’s first term, she conceded challenges, reckoning: “If we look back at where we came from, a shattered economy, broken and severely devastated infrastructure, bad roads, low and unpaid salaries for government employees, very low wages for the few in the private sector; dysfunctional school systems at various levels, lack of basic services and on and on from where we were in 2005, we could go down the rough edges of memories.”
She reminded partisans that: “Today, it is easy to forget that sad past, but we know as a party and a people we have persevered and we have overcome. We restored Liberia’s credit worthiness and reputation today and we can be very proud once again to be called Liberians. At the international level, we transfigured a pariah nation into a place that the young could see a future in which the pen and the voice replaced the guns.”
She alluded to the political confluence, which took place in Ganta in 2010, “when the three legs of our political future were once again firmly united into what is today the new UP with the proud red rooster of LAP, the firmly clasped handshake of LUP merged into the earth green white and brown colors of peoples of various persuasions blended together to lift up Liberia.”
As a result of the administration’s stewardship, she said, “We won our second term; have come out stronger; we have done much in a short time given from where we came,” adding, “it is always with a brush of history and philosophy that we are reminded that those who are not guided by their history, do not know their past, will see no path to the future for they only live for today.”
President Sirleaf noted the expansion in Liberia’s democratic space, worked with all Liberians, have been able to show tolerance as a very rare gem to be maintained and kept in the public glare including peace, freedom, integrity and democratic values are intangibles we hold and must carry on.
“We have a government that shows respect for the rule of law, and over the years the judiciary and the entire justice system is active and everywhere to give confidence to the people,” she clearly stated. “This record is a record you can be proud of, you can work on with so many others to bring so many people together and around it to win elections and once again win and warm the hearts and minds of the Liberian people yet again around the symbols and ideals of unity.”
She said: “We are reminded that the ‘Ellen-Joe Team’ resolved to be responsive and responsible, determined in collective commitment to an all-encompassing aspiration for the betterment of our country and people. We resolved that with Joe Boakai as our running-mate, victory was indeed assured as manifested in 2005 and 2011 respectively.”
President Sirleaf paid homage to Vice President Boakai for his loyalty and unqualified support throughout what she termed as a herculean journey to contribute to the growth and development of the party and the nation. She said, “It is a result of that loyalty that we have pledged our support to your candidacy to lead our party in the 2017 polls.”
“The UP, like any human institution cannot be divorced of the politics of disagreements in order to finally agree for the greater good. We call this creative tension that does not degenerate into acrimony or bitter exchanges. But what must always remain clear is our collective commitment to put the interest of the party above all other considerations,” she indicated.
President Sirleaf said: “The battle for 2017 is likely to be tumultuous! We cannot fold our hands, let alone take anything for granted. We must reach across the political aisles to break new grounds, cover more territory, forge new alliances, make new acquaintances, re-calibrate previous strategies and align and amalgamate our forces if victory must be ours.”