U.S. Secretary of State Extols President Johnson Sirleaf’s Government

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf  and Secretary of States Hillary Clinton during her recent visit of Liberia
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Secretary of States Hillary Clinton during her recent visit of Liberia
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Secretary of State Her Excellency Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday, August 13, 2009 offered high-profile support for Liberian President Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first democratically elected female leader.

Secretary Clinton says the U.S. proud to support Liberia and at the same time proud to be your partner and your friend, and we are proud to work with you to realize the full potential of Liberia and its people.  “You have begun to attack corruption and promote transparency”, she added and continued: Liberia has made progress on debt relief, and the economy continues to grow despite the global economic crisis.

Secretary Clinton says to Liberia as a model of a successful transition from lawlessness to democracy, and despair to hope, stressing that   Liberia is on the right track, as difficult as that might be. “I am very supportive of actions that will lead to the peace, reconciliation and unity of Liberia,” she said, and urged the people of Liberia to continue to speak out against corruption.

  Secretary Clinton who and delegation landed in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia in the driving rain on August 13, 2009 and sent a strong message of support to the Liberian Government headed by President Johnson Sirleaf. She was met upon arrival at the airport by Her Excellency Mrs. Olubanke King-Akerele, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Chief of Protocol of the Republic of Liberia, Ambassador Edward Dunn.
Despite of the Torrential rain which met Mrs. Clinton as she arrived in Monrovia, the capital,  thousands of drenched people lined the Tubman Boulevard and other principal streets  to welcome the U.S. Secretary of State to Liberia, thus waving American and Liberian flags and holding banners, some of which proclaimed that she was a "woman of substance for Liberia."

 Mrs. Clinton was presented with the key to the city by Monrovia City Mayor, Madam Mary Broh and went immediately into talks with President Johnson Sirleaf at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which temporarily hosts the President. She also held talks with other top Cabinet Ministers and lawmakers to reaffirm U.S. Government backing for the recovery of the country that was embroiled in back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003.

  During the visit, Secretary Clinton promised more supports, saying the United States would help fix up Roberts International Airport and train officers of the Liberia National Police Force, adding that lawlessness was still a serious problem. “I look at what President Sirleaf has done over the past three years and I see a very accomplished leader,” she said.   Mrs. Clinton also said, “We think Liberia is on the right track, as difficult as that might be.”

Mrs. Clinton also spoke at Liberia’s national legislature, telling lawmakers, “I know some of you in this chamber bore arms against each other,” which drew nervous laughter. “But your being here, committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes, is a great message.”

 According to report, since 2003, the United States has spent more than $2 billion trying to stabilize Liberia, a country of 3.5 million people. Per capita, that is about as much foreign aid as the United States has given any country.

Highlights of Secretary Clinton Address to Legislature

   Addressing the 52nd National Legislature during her trip in the country last Thursday, Secretary Clinton said in just three years, there are encouraging signs of progress, adding that your nation has adopted sound fiscal policies with the support of this legislature.

    She said that was not easy, and it is noted around the world, noting that we encourage your legislature to continue developing your budgetary oversight role.

  Speaking further, Secretary Clinton said the land tenure issues that remained persistent impediments to economic progress have resulted in the legislature taking the important step in passing the Land Commission Act.
    “Your President is working hard to build a competent and professional security sector, and all of Liberia can take pride in the fact that this nation now has free and compulsory education for primary school children, including your girls,” she also noted, adding “So you have been climbing up that mountain that sometimes looks like there is no end in sight.”

     Although she acknowledged that Liberians still face huge challenges, she added, “… we stand ready to help you in partnership and friendship. There are forces at work trying to undermine the progress and fuel old tensions and feuds.”

    According to her, “I know that the suffering of the people of Liberia has been broad and deep. But now, you each have a chance, both personally and publicly through your service here, to make a stand against the past and for a future that is worthy of the sacrifice and the suffering that went on too long.”

     The fact that the 14 years of bloodshed and lawlessness could produce peace, free elections, and a democratic government, Mrs. Clinton said is not so much a triumph of might, but noted that it is a triumph of the human spirit, further that President Barrack Obama considers himself a son of Africa, and in his historic speech in Ghana, said much about what he hoped for on his heart.

      Counting on President Obama’s Ghanaian address that the future of Africa is up to the Africans, Secretary of State Clinton also said, “The future of Liberia is up to the Liberians.” She said it is also true that there are paths toward that future which will lead in a positive direction, and there are others that will lead in a negative direction. The choices that are made every day will determine which path Liberia chooses.

   The U. S. Secretary of State recalled that when President Johnson-Sirleaf gave her inaugural address to this assembly just three-and-a-half years ago, she identified the core ideals that have guided Liberia’s democracy movement through this nation’s darkest days – peace, liberty, equality, opportunity, and justice for all.

   “The challenge for every democratic government, whether it is three years old or 233 years old like ours, is how to translate those ideals into results in the lives of people,” she asserted.

   She indicated that democracy has to deliver, “…and both President Obama and I believe that dignity is central to what is at the core of successful democracies: a voice for every citizen in the decisions that affect your life, your community, and your country; the opportunity to earn a decent wage and provide for your family and live without fear; an equal chance, no matter what your background, your gender, your faith, ethnicity, or station in life; to combine your motivation and ambition with the opportunity that every society should present to its people; and a government elected freely and fairly, accountable to the people it serves.”

    In a rather positive appraisal of President Ellen Sirleaf’s administration, Secretary of State Clinton said: This vision of a democratic society is at the root of the democracy that began to flourish just those three-and-a-half years ago. It is still the vision that should guide not only presidential leadership, but parliamentary leadership as well.

    She added, “Now, I have been on both sides of the street, so to speak. I have been in the White House when my husband was president. I have been in the Senate for eight years in both the majority and the minority for most of the time. And now I am back in the executive branch, working for President Obama.

    “So let me tell you that sometimes it appears to be from both sides of the street. When I have been in the executive branch, I have wondered what the Congress was up to and worried about the Congress. When I was in the Congress, I wondered what the President was up to and worried about the President. Where you stand is often determined by where you sit.

   “But what I know is how important it is, especially in the beginning, to have a level of cooperation toward meeting the common goals to serve the people, and that no matter where that service finds you, to be resolved, to try to constantly ask yourself what I think is the most important question for any of us in public service: Is what I am doing today – the decision I’m making, the bill I’m writing, the vote I’m casting – likely to make life better for the last and the least among us?

  “So it is, I think, important to note that given the progress you’ve made, you must hold on to that and continue up that mountain together because there is no guarantee that the progress remains.”

      While addressing a joint session of Liberia’s National Legislature, she reminded lawmakers that while hard fought elections are part of a democracy. Opponents must close ranks when the election is over.

    Ending corruption is necessary to growing and sustaining such institutions and restoring the public’s trust. I have been to countries that are far richer than Liberia. These democracies have been in existence far longer, but because they never tackled corruption, their future is repeating before their eyes.

  I will say to you what I said in two days in Nigeria, a country that has the fifth-largest supply of petroleum and gas, so many riches, and yet the number of people living in poverty is growing.
  Nigeria is now further away from achieving the Millennium Development Goals than they were ten years ago. That is a travesty. That does not have to be either Nigeria’s future, and it should not be Liberia’s future.

  So how do we recognize the importance of ending corruption? I think steps are being taken with the Anti-Corruption Commission. But this legislature should also decide to pass a code of conduct. It is something that allows you to hold not just yourselves but each other accountable.

  We have over the years in our Congress realized that human nature being what it is – and I’m a Methodist so I know human nature gets us into most of the trouble we get into – we have to have codes of conduct, regulatory frameworks, ethical standards that guide the pursuit of the common good.

  It is also critical to have an electoral system that is credible, that will produce free and fair elections in 2011. The world is watching, and we take a personal interest in the elections to come in Liberia because we know that this election, where there will be a peaceful transition of power from one civilian authority to another, will set in motion the future legitimacy of elections for years to come.  The legislature can and must do its part by acting on the threshold bill so that the process can move forward.

  You’ve already taken steps in rebuilding effective institutions, and I congratulate you. Conducting a census in the last three years was a very important accomplishment, registering voters, ensuring that the three branches of government are both competent and independent, demonstrating a unity of purpose.

  We also know that there must be more done to enhance security for the people of Liberia. Later, I will visit the National Police Academy, where I will announce additional and accelerated U.S. support for the police.

  As you know, our government is also training the Liberian Armed Forces, and in my meetings with the president and ministers of your government today, we talked about additional ways we could provide security, particularly maritime security, so that the coastline of Liberia, one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, one of the –treasures of this country, will be protected.

  We are committed to supporting you as you move forward on this positive, progressive agenda. W e supported you for many years, but now our support is really grounded in our confidence in your capacity, your competence to deliver.

  Since the peace accords in 2003, we have provided over $2 billion in assistance. We have supported the United Nations security effort. We are committed to helping lift Liberia by building a stronger economy that can spread opportunity and prosperity to more people.

  Right now, only 15 percent of the Liberian people work in the formal sector. So job creation and raising incomes is a critical task before you. So we will work with you to strengthen the private sector, enhance trade opportunities, and rebuild infrastructure, including roads, electrification, and information technology.
  We are assisting your government with natural resources management, food security, education for children, and adults who missed the opportunity to go to school because of the war. And this country is a focus for our Malaria Initiative.

   I want to congratulate Liberia for recently gaining eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I started my trip in Africa in Nairobi at the AGOA conference, and I and the U.S. Trade Representative and our Secretary of Agriculture emphasized that we want to do more to help countries access and utilize AGOA, and we want to help Liberia to work to achieve more products that can be exported duty-free into the United States market.

  I also applaud your efforts to qualify for the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative that will complement the progress that you have made in bringing greater transparency to the management of natural resources.

   This will improve the business climate, attract investment, and stimulate the creation of jobs. And I want to add that if done right, if you create the legal framework for the exploitation of your natural resources, you will see a revenue stream that will help to build the roads and the infrastructure and the jobs that you’re seeking.

  There are examples of this around the world, but let me use one example from Africa: Botswana. When diamonds were discovered in Botswana, the Botswana Government, the then-president and the legislature, decided that they were not going to let outsiders or corrupt insiders exploit what was the natural right to the riches of their country of the people.

  So they created a legal framework, and they required that any company wishing to do business in the diamond industry had to provide significant revenue for the Government of Botswana.

  They then put that money into an airtight fund. And if you have ever been to Botswana, you can drive anywhere. The roads are in excellent shape. You can drink cool water anywhere, because every time you buy a diamond from DeBeers, some of that money you spend goes to pave roads in Botswana. That’s what I want to see for Liberia.

  But before I leave this afternoon, at the airport I will present equipment to help make the airport fully operational again. In addition, our Transportation Security Administration through its ASSIST program is working with the Liberian Civil Aviation Authority, the airport, and the Bureau of Immigration to ensure that the airport can meet international safety standards.

  This will increase domestic and international flights, including those from the United States. And I look forward to that day.

  It’s a particular honor for be to be addressing you, because I remember when President Johnson-Sirleaf addressed our joint session of Congress when I was sitting where you are sitting. Thank you. I love that. I want to take him with me wherever I go. Thank you.

  And I remember when the president described Liberia as a land rich with rubber, timber, diamonds, gold, iron ore, fertile fields, plentiful water, and warm and welcoming sunshine. That paints a really beautiful picture. But even more beautiful are the people of Liberia– hardworking, resourceful, and resilient, but damaged by years of conflict.

  We can’t mince words; you know that. In the briefing that I and my delegation received from the minister of agriculture, I was stunned when she said there are no livestock left. At the end of the conflict, anything that could be eaten was eaten.

   People rebuilding agriculture, rebuilding the tools that are needed for each individual to pursue his or her destiny is what this is all about. The talent and resources exist here (inaudible) overcome division, expand opportunities, and ensure that prosperity is more broadly shared across society.

  Some of you have seen a film that tells the story of a Liberian woman’s efforts to end the war. Tired of the killing and the conflict, she organized women at her church and then other churches and in mosques until thousands of Liberian women had joined a vocal, public movement demanding peace. I remember meeting some of those women years ago. These were women who woke up one day and said, “Enough, enough. We’re better than that.”

  Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” He could have been talking not just about these Liberian women, but about everyone in this chamber who has determined to make Liberia’s story be one of hope and opportunity

    And I think too that as a famous former governor of the state I represented for so many years (inaudible) and I know a place that many of you know well and even lived in from time-to-time, Mario Cuomo once said, “Politics is poetry, but governing is prose.”

Secretary Clinton Visit to Police Academy
  Visiting the National Police Training Academy (NPTA), where members of the new Liberia National Police (LNP) are being trained with financial and technical support from the United Nations and international partners, including the United States, Mrs. Clinton acknowledged that training professional police officers was one of the hardest jobs to do in post-conflict situations.

  “But you have been given some of the best training available. And it is important that you recognize the investment that has been made in you not only by your fellow Liberians, but by people who believe in the role you will play in securing a positive, prosperous, peaceful, progressive future,” Mrs. Clinton said.

  “For too long in Liberia, the police instilled fear. Today, you must fight fear. For too long, the police undermined the rule of law. Today, you must uphold it,” she urged the new police recruits. Mrs. Clinton praised the women who have joined this year’s training class and those who have come before stressing that it has been found around the world that women police officers are essential, along with their male counterparts, to provide the stability of peace and security.

  Special Representative Ellen Margrethe Løj thanked Secretary of State Clinton for visiting the National Police Training Academy and pointed out that the United States has been a “crucial partner” in the efforts to shape a national police force “that serves the people of Liberia with professionalism and dignity.” 

  She noted that the United States has contributed over 100 UN police advisors including a Senior Advisory Team, which has brought expertise to the LNP’s development at the strategic level. “The US is also taking the lead in the development of the LNP Emergency Response Unit”, she added.

  Special Representative Løj highlighted the challenges facing the Liberian National Police. “Even the best trained police officer needs means of transportation; means of communication; a police station to work from; a place to live – just to name a few of the logistical needs. Without that they will not be able to function.

   Without that they will not be able to respond to crime incidents and thus be able to gain the trust and confidence of the community they serve.”

     Stressing that the development of the LNP, other security institutions and the whole rule of law sector is indispensable for sustainable peace in Liberia, Ms. Løj hoped that “the men, women and children in Liberia can count on the continued support of the United States in this endeavour.”

  Since the restructuring of LNP began in 2004, over 3,700 officers have been trained so far at the NPTA, including ERU officers. A fourth class of 80 recruits is currently undergoing training to qualify as Emergency Response Unit (ERU) officers.

  The Academy also conducts specialized training, such as traffic, criminal investigation, women and children protection; and senior and junior management training. Currently, 14 per cent of all LNP officers are female.