New Liberian President

With plans to initiate a “fundamental break” and to stabilize Liberia under her belt, the newly elected President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn into office on Monday (Jan.16) making her the first African female head of state.

Surrounded by supporting Liberians and foreign representatives, including first lady Laura Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, President Johnson-Sirleaf promised to unite the West African country which has been stricken with coups and war for a quarter of a century.

“We recognize this change is not a change for change’s sake, but a fundamental break with the past, therefore requiring that we take bold and decisive steps to address the problems that have for decades stunted our progress,” she said, according to the Washington Post.

Johnson-Sirleaf’s plans for Liberia over the next six years  include ending corruption and war in order to promote foreign donations, which she says is needed to redevelop Liberia. This also involves maintaining a governance and economic management program (GEMAP), which will oversee state spending. “We will accept and enforce the terms of GEMAP,” Sirleaf said. “We will ensure competence and integrity in the management of our resource.”

According to the Washington Post, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan congratulated the 67-year-old Harvard graduate saying she had a “historic mandate to lead the nation toward a future of lasting peace and stability.” Liberia, being the oldest African republic, was founded by freed slaves in 1847.

War erupted after Charles Taylor led a rebellion against Samuel K. Doe. Taylor became president in 1997, however after being suspected of initiating war crimes during the country’s civil war, he was exiled to Nigeria.

Johnson-Sirleaf was reported as a supporter of Taylor during his invasion in 1989, a decision from her past that still incites controversy till this day. Johnson-Sirleaf was also imprisoned during a 1980’s coup led be Samuel K. Doe, who ordered that all cabinet ministers be executed. She fled into exile and later returned as an economist.

“Let us begin anew,” said Sirleaf, “moving forward into a future that is filled with hope and promise.” Her words reassure change and peace for a country that has seen much internal strife.