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Pres. Ellen Sirleaf Responds to President Obama’s Speech in Accra
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Pres. Ellen Sirleaf Responds to President Obama’s Speech in Accra

(Jul 13, 2009)
In a recent interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), The Liberian leader, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, responded to some of the defining themes of President Obama's Speech to the Ghanaian parliament, in Accra, Ghana, on July 11, 2009. 

Please read below transcript provided by the Presidential Press Secretary, Cyrus Wleh Badio. 

BBC: We now have on the line, President Johnson Sirleaf, what do you think of this speech?

Sirleaf: I think the speech is very consistent with the things that President Obama has been advocating over these past seven months. I put them in three main categories: he talked about governance and the need for a leader to be able to have accountability, transparency; he talked within the context of governance, about capacity building…when he said US commitment is more than dollars; it’s going to be partners for building capacity for transformational change. He talked about foreign assistance, and how that foreign assistance policy will be shaped by the US and he spoke of trade and investment, energy, public health and then he talked about conflict and so we find all of these very, very consistent…but there were few things he also said--he talked about each nation determining its own destiny and that the US will support those that went on the path of preventing conflict, evolving conflict, promoting good governance and making show that foreign assistance create conditions were it’s no longer need. 



                       Full Text (Video) of Obama Speech Delivered in Accra, Ghana

BBC: Basically, President Sirleaf, if I could summarize, Barrack Obama was saying to you, the leaders of Africa, that you need to step up your game, will you rise up to the challenge

Sirleaf: Yes, I think that’s exactly what he was saying, and I think that each African leader myself included, will be charged to rise to the challenge, of promoting good governance, and that means vibrant civil society as he said, that’s freedom of the press, accountability, transparency, honesty, fighting corruption, the rule of law… and so yes I think each African Country will determine the policies and measures they use to meet the challenges, but I think those challenges are being met in many Countries already, and more, I think ,will be able to do so, because that’s the only way that we will also meet the call for an inter-dependent world. That’s what he talked about… 

BBC: I’m listening to President Obama there, if I may interrupt you there, this speech makes it clear that for him, democracy and good governances is not just about holding elections, it’s about leaders not enriching themselves, getting rid of bribery and corruption, can you do that?

Sirleaf: we must do that! Each of our Country has to face this in different measures, Liberia is facing it, it’s been entrenched, systemic for a while, we are taking measures to do that, we must! because if we don’t then we will not be able to get the transformation that we all seek, and so in that respect you are absolutely correct. 

BBC: What about when President Obama mentions that history is on the side of these brave Africans, not with those who used coups or change constitutions to stay in power? He says Africa doesn’t need strong men it needs strong institutions. Here in your own back yard, in West Africa, we’ve had two coups in Guinea, in Mauritania and we’ve got in Niger now where the president is doing everything he can to extend his stay in power, will what the President said there, empower you to be able to look the other leaders in their faces outright and say to them what you are doing is wrong? 

Sirleaf: Well, let’s put it this way, yes we do have in certain places, where there are attempts to take us back to some of the old ways of doing things but don’t forget that our regional institutions today are taking a very strong leadership role in trying to not only talk to those countries that fall back but to get them back on the right track, by taking strong positions of responsibility in those cases where we feel countries have moved away from the regional and international order of good governance and so I think that has to be played in the context that these are now the exceptions in our continent rather than the rule, and those exceptions are being addressed through our national and regional institutions. 

BBC: President Johnson Sirleaf, the reality of African leaders in conflict states like Liberia is that very often they are tainted including perhaps yourself, because there are calls for you to be banned from politics, because of your admission before Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that you supported Charles Taylor who is now facing charges of war crimes in The Hague. You have been named as part of the people who created the problem in Liberia. Do you think President Obama understands the realities of African politics, that politics may be allowed or mean that people like yourself one way or the other might get yourself muddy.  

Sirleaf: Well, let’s put it this way.  When it comes to the particular issue you mentioned, I think we’ve asked everybody to now leave that in the hands of the Liberian people, we’re dealing with that and I think President Obama understands the African political complexities and understands why there are times when things have to be done to be able to set the right course.  We are all grappling with that, we all hope that all things and actions that have been taken have now put all of our countries on the road towards true democracy, where the people’s will, will prevail, where there will be no need for anybody to have to take action against despots, and autocracy and dictatorship, and so we hope that the lessons we all have to learn will put us on the path where we can all reject violence.

 

 
 
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