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Ellen Eugenia Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Eugenia Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is hailed as the woman who ruled a patriarchal Liberia that was healing from years of civil war and negotiated a financial clemency for the country to the tune of $4,7 Billion. During her tenure as President, Ellen Johnson she did not opt to amend the constitution to lengthen her stay as has been the common trend in the recent past in Africa among presidents such as the young Joseph Kabila and Robert Mugabe. While having declared that she would only hold one of the constitutional two terms, like her South African counterpart Mandela, Ellen presided over both. The imperative to address nation building could have been the reason that necessitated the former action. Given how Liberia was in a volatile state, her departure from office could have opened a gap for administrative seizure thereby drawing the country back into a state of war.

Although benevolent, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been named in allegations of malpractice relating to the appointment of her one son to the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) Chairman with another holding the governor post in the reserved bank. This public display of graft under her leadership drew criticism as she did not portray the new Liberia that she promised to deliver. To absolve herself from this corruption, Sirleaf eventually suspended both her children from the top positions to the delight of the general populace with Rob Sirleaf going on to unsuccessfully contest as senator. Looking at the complexion of African politics and her leadership against her counterparts, what she did was unfortunately not unique to presidential office; however, the patriarchal status quo will remember her harshly for such a maneuver.

Her fellow comrade in arms, Leymah Gbowee is regarded as having disapproved of Ellen Johnson’s leadership leading to her resignation because she had seen traits prejudice but it took a public display of this sentiment for the country to believe.

Taking over leadership from a warlord who had succeeded a coup leader, Sirleaf navigated the ethnic disparities of Liberia making concessions and settlements that were not always regarded to be in the best interest of the people.  These include extending an olive branch to Charles Taylor, verbally empowering women and not following the words with action and her failure to eradicate extreme poverty. These are considered among the stains that follow her career.

Debatably, one may assume that as a ‘woman’, she was supposed to suit the ascribed norms of gender and be a passive gatekeeper while her nation was silently plundered. Contrary to the above, what prepared her for presidential office was her proclivity for being firm to which she suffered imprisonment for. From this backdrop it was expected that there would be more female presidential hopefuls after her office than just one isolated point of reference in MacDella Cooper.

Ellen Johnson can be portrayed as a woman who rose above domestic abuse to achieve political prominence by merit. She can also be depicted as one who associated with a known warlord and likely benefitted from that association to attain and maintain social power through tacit coercion

Post her presidency, Ellen Johnson has been sought on political roundtables to impart wisdom from experience and champion reform.