President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf turns 77 today, 29 October amidst huge international accolades, but serious economic challenges at home.
The President’s 77natal day comes weeks after she was awarded the Global Champion Award by the US-based International Medical Corps for leading her country’s successful fight against the deadly Ebola Virus Disease that killed over 4,000 Liberians, including doctors and health workers.
The Global Champion Award is the second biggest international award President Sirleaf has received since the Nobel Peace Prize won jointly with Liberian peace advocate Lemah Gbowee in 2011 ahead of a runoff poll, which ushered in her second term.
A former World Bank bureaucrat, Madam Sirleaf, who won the presidency in 2005 against ex-soccer legend George Weah, continues to enjoy international recognition, while locals back home are bitter for lack of jobs and social services.
While chairing the nation’s task-force in the fight against Ebola in 2014, she cut-off most of her international trips and focused on visiting and motivating health workers and doctors at hospitals and various Ebola Treatment Units in Monrovia and its environs, until the World Health Organization declared Liberia Ebola-freed on 9 May this year and certificated the country.
Mrs. Sirleaf, who is currently attending an Africa-India Summit along with other African heads of state, was compelled to forego celebration of her 76th birthday in 2014, and it seems this may be the case this year not necessarily for Ebola this time, but apparently due to her international engagement in India where leaders from worst Ebola affected states mainly Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, may be advancing their countries’ quest for empowerment.
However, amidst her efforts in knocking on the doors of emerging powers like India, China and even the bigger powers for support, it seems the international attention her administration has enjoyed in the last 10 years is not being felt locally, as demonstrated by constant disenchantment and protest among young people often taking to the streets.
By Winston W. Parley – Edited by Jonathan Browne