Toni Randolph of MPR news had a chance to meet Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist, last fall as part of a trip sponsored by the International Reporting Project. Johnson Sirleaf is one of three recipients of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in November 2010
We asked Toni to tell us about her visit with the future Nobel winner:
She was our last appointment of a 10-day visit that took us from Monrovia to Bong and Nimba counties in the interior of the country. It was a great meeting — 90 minutes, no holds barred on any topic our group of 12 journalists could think of: why she was running for re-election, progress and safety for women, education, peace-building and more.
She struck me as strong and she struck me as genuine. No muss, no fuss. I’d read her memoir before I the trip. I was expecting it to be more like required reading rather than anything compelling. But it was very interesting and a good read. It provided not only historical information, but a good sense of what the country was like today…and a very good sense of the woman in charge.
President Sirleaf told our group that she was running again because the election (which takes place this month) “will be the defining event for Liberia’s move toward normalcy and move toward sustainable peace.” She said that Liberia will be “put on an irreversible course for democracy, development and peace.” Now, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has recognized her work and that of fellow Liberian Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman from Yemen. We’ll find out soon whether Liberians believe President Sirleaf’s work is worthy of a second term.
Some other perspectives on Johnson Sirleaf: