It was a bitter and painful night for President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as it was for most American Democrats, especially women, even women around the world. Most of them wept bitterly as they, like Ellen, throughout last Tuesday night and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, watched state after state cast their votes for Republican Donald Trump to become the next President of the United States.
Ellen’s favorite candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was losing her fight to become the USA’s first woman President.
The Liberian leader’s grief spelled a remarkable display of loyalty to a friend she had come to admire, respect and honor over more than three decades. They were together in Beijing for the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The Conference was designed to empower women throughout the world and end their marginalization and subjugation by their male counterparts and by society. Both Hillary, then U.S. First Lady, and Ellen, then Director General of the United Nations Development Program, were already dreaming of higher office.
It was therefore no accident that Hillary in later years became a staunch backer of Ellen in her successful bid for the Liberian presidency.
In consistent loyalty to her friend and sister, Ellen did not hide her feelings as she gave support to Hillary in her electoral combat with Barrack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign. Hillary lost that race.
But the friendship between Ellen and Hillary continued, even as Obama tapped her to be his first Secretary of State, which she graciously accepted.
Now Hillary has, unfortunately, lost her second bid for the US presidency, to a man whom most people, including the Republican top brass, discounted as a credible presidential candidate. His overwhelming victory, in which the Republicans carried also the Senate and House of
Representatives, positions Trump to become one of the most powerful American Presidents in recent memory, with power even to remake, for decades to come, the Supreme Court a conservative Republican court.
So why is Ellen worried? The trade deals which the USA has concluded under several past Presidents, including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barrack Obama, are now at risk because Trump campaigned vigorously against them. He said those agreements caused Americans to lose jobs to other countries.
Ellen’s other worry is what will be Trump’s Africa policy. As Africa was never mentioned in his campaign speeches, it is far too early to tell.
There are three things that Liberia can do in response to this dramatic change in Washington. First, we must make the best possible diplomatic use of the historic fact that Liberia has the longest bilateral relations with the USA than any other African country. That is next to France, which helped America win its war for independence against Great Britain; and the next, Britain itself, the Anglo-Saxon origin of all of America’s Founding Fathers.
Second, Liberia is poised to make its own fresh start as we, too, are set to elect a new President next October. The new Liberian President will have a healthy advantage in Washington, for whomever he or she may be, no one will have anything against him, not even President Donald Trump.
That is why it is critical, very critical that our 2017 elections, coming as they are on the heels of the US elections, MUST be free, fair transparent and credible. Those who are foolish enough to think that nobody will be watching are fooling themselves. We Liberians are fond of saying that America has never taken Liberia seriously. The trouble really is, HOW SERIOUSLY HAVE WE TAKEN OURSELVES?
Let us now, in the forthcoming elections, prove to the world that we are a serious people.
Third and this is equally important, Liberia must learn to STAND ON HER OWN FEET. Let us gratefully acknowledge and effectively use the abundant resources which the God of nations has given us—mineral, forest, vast acreage of arable land, numerous rivers and abundant rainfall.
We, therefore, can definitely feed ourselves with rice, our staple, meats, vegetables, tubers and many more food crops.
Let us strive, now and into the new administration, to be SELF SUFFICIENT IN FOOD.
The next major economic sector the new President must tackle and push forward is a twin-fold one: to ensure Liberians a greater stake in their economy and to develop tourism.
The Daily Observer has always contended that Grand Cape Mount County alone could feed Liberia—why? Because of its vast tourist potential that can create thousands of jobs and a lot of development, including five star hotels. The county has a mountain, the picturesque Lake Piso and magnificent beaches along what Edwin Barclay called “the broad Atlantic’s golden strand.”
For once, instead of worrying about other people, let us take ourselves seriously and arouse within us the commitment, determination, faith, honesty, passion and patriotism to move ourselves and our country forward.