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New Liberian President


Liberia's new president has taken the oath of office. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is Africa's first elected female head of government. She has served twice as Liberia's finance minister and has also worked at the World Bank and the United Nations.

Ms. Sirleaf was elected to a six-year term in November 2005, having defeated former football [soccer] star George Weah in a runoff election. In her inaugural speech, President Sirleaf said that she will lead by example and intends to fight governmental corruption:

"We will confront it. . . .Any member of my administration who sees this affirmation as mere posturing, or yet another attempt by another leader to play to the gallery on this grave issue should think twice."

Liberia's last elected president was Charles Taylor. During his six years in office, unemployment and illiteracy rates rose to above seventy-five percent in Liberia. There was little economic investment. Rather than working to improve life for Liberians, Taylor supported rebels who wreaked havoc in Liberia and terrorized the civilian population in neighboring Sierra Leone. He was forced into exile in 2003. Now living in Nigeria, Charles Taylor is under indictment for crimes against humanity and war crimes by the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Jendayi Frazer is U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. She says that in 2004 and 2005 the U.S. provided Liberia with eight-hundred-forty-million dollars in assistance:

"But more important than U.S. foreign aid is to restore this economy, to restore this infrastructure so that Liberia can benefit from trade and from investment. And that's really going to be the emphasis in terms of the prosperity of the country, is to get them standing on their own feet and to encourage American investors to go in and to help Liberia to reestablish its productive sectors."

With the inauguration of President Sirleaf, says U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, "The Liberian people are trying to look forward." And, she says, "We owe it to them to look forward, not backward."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.

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