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Africa’s democratic ‘laggards’ must listen to calls for change – Liberia’s Johnson Sirleaf

KIGALI (Reuters | ) – African leaders resisting “democratic transformation” must heed their citizens’ calls for change, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said on Saturday after receiving an award aimed at promoting good leadership on the continent.

Without naming specific countries or leaders, she referred to “laggard” countries in the region of one billion people who are “not meeting democratic transformation”.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
“Their own citizens are making the call for change and I don’t think they can continue to resist or deny that call for change,” Johnson Sirleaf told Reuters after accepting the award in Rwanda’s capital Kigali.

Long-serving African leaders who have changed the law to stay in power include Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, 73, and Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, in power for 35 years.

Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the 2017 Mo Ibrahim award, designed to improve the quality of African political leadership, after handing over power in her West African country’s first peaceful democratic transition in seven decades.

“The pressure builds (for democracy),” she said. “The young people today are educated, skilful, demanding, and eventually we have to listen and I think that will happen to all those that are still lagging behind.”

Africa’s first elected female head of state, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Johnson Sirleaf stepped down as president of war-scarred Liberia last month, making way for ex-international soccer star George Weah.

She is only the fifth person to win 10-year-old Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, founded by Sudanese telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim, which has several times not been awarded for lack of a suitable candidate.

The prize is $5 million paid out over 10 years, with another $200,000 annually throughout the winner’s lifetime.

Johnson Sirleaf, a former World Bank and United Nations official, said this was unsurprising because many African nations do not meet the Foundation’s high standards.

“Democracy is now moving at a fast pace but it hasn’t got everybody yet,” she said in an interview.

“And even in stated democracies there is not enough … democracy in the sense of full competition, full support for those that have been marginalized from the political scene.”

But Africa continues to change.

In Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore was ousted by protests in 2014 after he tried to amend the constitution to extend his decades-long rule, while Gambia’s ruler Yahya Jammeh fled after regional pressure ended his 22-year reign last year.

Johnson Sirleaf said she was optimistic about recent transfers of power on the continent.

Earlier this month, Ethiopia swore in a new prime minister after Hailemariam Desalegn quit to clear the way for reforms.

In Zimbabwe, 94-year-old Robert Mugabe stood down as president in November, after the army and former political allies turned against him, ending nearly four decades of rule marred by allegations of corruption, human rights abuses and economic negligence.

Zimbabwe is due to hold elections in July.

Johnson Sirleaf defended her record in Liberia, saying her much-criticized efforts to fight corruption were hindered by a “culture” of graft “developed for many years of deprivation through conflict.”.

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8 comments

  1. The Mo Ibrahim award comes with an encouraging and reasonable retirement package that can guarantee a decent life after the presidency, yet the sit-tight presidents do not look in that direction.

    • ,,,so one may think it is the fear of not having a good retirement that motivates Grand Katika to cling to power for all these years! But I think it has been the Cameroon peoples capacity to accept or tolerate delays, their forbearance for trouble as well as their strength to exercise self-restrain during 73 years of suffering without getting angry and upset, Well, that time is up and even the heavens are on the Cameroonian side. I said it before that there will neither be peace nor tranquility in the Fatherland until a substantial amount of change is realized! The church bells of revolt will continue disturb the calmness of our Nation until Grand katika gives way. This will be the day when all Cameroonians will be able to sing with new meaning “O Cameroon, thou cradle of our Fathers…th

  2. Congratulations to her for the Win. It is indeed a Victory for All Liberians and For Liberian Democracy.

  3. this is a good american instrument of manipulation ochastrated using an african.what this insane award project is that,if our economies are not growing.it is because african leaders stay in power for too long.
    but this is to forget the aryan geo political agenda of maintaining us as a continent producing raw materials for their dying industries.
    china seems to have jump in this plan like a mad tembo,elephant,in a dry corn farm destroying all aryan plans.

    • Young man-wake up and grow..You seem to have a retarded disability that will never take Africa in 2018 forward..Today is a turning point in African history ..People like you dont even want to accept and recognize what is going on in Africa and cameroon.You keep playing your dirty games by diverting the peoples attention by saying our problems are caused by the west..
      What Africa and Cameroon need today is DIGNITY:
      -Create pathways that give citizens relevant tools to engage and participate in their governments – identify priorities, problems and find solutions
      -Invest in institutions and policy – sustainable improvement in how a government delivers services is only possible if the people in these institutions endorse sensible rules and practices that allow for change while making the best

    • ou have to wake up from Sleep..
      You should be a shame that a man moving with DIAPERS, who have no brain, no agenda, loves only power and is corrupt is ruling cameroon with a youthful population and still cant deliver anything..We have to:

      – Learn by doing: Any good strategy must be continually monitored and evaluated to make sure it can be easily adapted as situations on the ground change.
      -Solving the problem of poor governance in Africa will contribute to the structural transformation of its economies…
      I dont know why we cannot accept that we have a big Problem in our country/continent and start looking for solutions on how to come out of this mess..
      Its very easy to sleep, drink, dance watch football , sleep woman and say its the west responsible for our problems..How long?

  4. To me, the above is just to say that Africa, especially, is waiting for the sleeping
    dog called Cameroon, to wake up. The laziness to not stand for a right, is now not
    acceptable , even by those who have tested it.
    Therefore an old quack like Mr. Biya, can heed to the calls of others who have tested
    the gooddice, and gather some points from them. He doesn`t have to wait for the
    sleeping dogs, to get up by themselves.

  5. You? m?ans of telling t?e w?ole thing in thi? post
    is in fact good, every one b? capable ?f effortlessly understand it, Thanks
    a lot.