When Liberia’s youthful Nobel Peace Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, publicly criticized her co-Nobel Peace Laureate, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the septuagenarian President of Liberia, over corruption and nepotism, President Sirleaf responded by derisively dismissing Ms. Gbowee as “too young to know…”
Described by one writer as a “verbal slapping down,” President Sirleaf’s condescending rebuke of Ms. Gbowee, her 40-year-old co-Nobel laureate, was not unlike an adult chastising a child for inappropriately interjecting in an adult conversation.
“My fellow Nobel laureate is too young to know what we’ve gone through to achieve peace and security in my country, to reach the level of democracy that we all are experiencing today,” Pres. Sirleaf reportedly said of Ms. Gbowee.
Too Young To Know…Really?
But does Ms. Gbowee really deserve such an ignoble “verbal slapping down” by President Sirleaf because of her noble criticism of the President for appointing her three sons to key posts in the Liberian government?
And now that President Sirleaf has thrown age into the fray, what if Ms. Gbowee were to respond in kind with the age card and refer to her 74-year-old co-Nobel laureate as “too old to know…” that in Liberia, with over 65% of the population under 35, young Liberians are extremely eager to see their country emerge into a democratic polity where fairness, equity, and meritocracy take root in the body politics, would President Sirleaf be deserving of such an ignoble “verbal slapping down?”
You be the judge…
…just as nepotism was wrong in the past when President Sirleaf also vehemently castigated past Liberian leaders for appointing their relatives in government, so it is wrong today.
What is more, how come President Sirleaf never referred to Ms. Gbowee as “too young” when she publicly declared her support for President Sirleaf during her 2011 re-election bid? And if President Sirleaf really thought Ms. Gbowee’s age was such an issue, why did she appoint Ms. Gbowee to head the critically-important Liberia Reconciliation Initiative (LRI)?
Of course Ms. Gbowee is not “too young!”
And that President Sirleaf would so derisively dismiss her as such is not only absurdly disingenuous, but it is grossly reminiscent of the “so say one, so say all” epoch of Liberian politics when all and sundry were expected to toe the party line, or be banished and suffer “mob justice” from a maddening crowd of sycophants.
Today, in a not too dissimilar fashion, President Sirleaf and her minions have descended upon Ms. Gbowee, not stopping at dismissing her as “too young,” but some have tried to besmirch her reputation with all manner of despicable allegations, while others have gone to the extend of saying that Ms. Gbowee was not deserving of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
All this, it must be noted, only and only after Ms. Gbowee chose to take the high moral ground to stand up for the greater good of the Liberian people and raise her voice to fill the depressing vacuum of moral voices in the country bold enough to speak truth to power.
“What has changed?” said Ms. Gbowee, according to The Telegraph. “Her sons are on the board of oil companies and one is the deputy governor of the central bank. The gap between the rich and poor is growing. You are either rich or dirt poor, there’s no middle class.”
And for that, a morbid band of sycophantic ‘Ellenites’ have spewed all manner of slander upon Ms. Gbowee, not unlike the Pharisees and their followers did to Jesus with their rabid cries of “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
But the rectitude of Ms. Gbowee’s courageous moral stance in calling on President Sirleaf to end nepotism now in the interest of healing and reconciliation in Liberia cannot be dampened by their obsequious choice to serve the interests of one master over the interests of the Liberian people.
For just as nepotism was wrong in the past when President Sirleaf also vehemently castigated past Liberian leaders for appointing their relatives in government, so it is wrong today. That is why President Sirleaf’s appointment of her sons in government has only served to further engorge some of those same cleavages that have divided our nation.
A Chance To Turn A New Page And Reconcile the Nation
Now, following Ms. Gbowee’s resignation, President Sirleaf recently appointed her main opposition rival, Ambassador George Weah, as the new head of LRI. The President, and for that matter, Amb. Weah have both shown commendable magnanimity by putting aside their political differences to come together in the interest of advancing national healing and reconciliation in our post-war nation.
Most Liberians are cheering this union and hopeful that finally, meaningful efforts and resources will be expended to ensure that Liberians can reconcile so that our nation may become a more cohesive polity.
That said, I am reminded here of Ms. Gbowee’s words:
“It is only a shame that while Liberians are eager to lay the ghost of the past to rest and collectively chart a new beginning for a country so blessed by God, politics and some political leaders who see reconciliation as a threat to their personal interest would inject intrigues, innuendoes, and rumor mongering in what should be a moral and sacred journey. Liberians deserve far more than this,” Ms. Gbowee said in the press release outlining her reasons for resigning.
Therefore, to ensure that Amb. Weah succeeds; to ensure that our nation turns a new page to collectively chart a new beginning; and to ensure that this journey is moral and sacred, it behooves President Sirleaf to again display exemplary magnanimity by heeding the voices of Liberians urging her end the crass display of nepotism which has contributed to creating a wedge among Liberians.
Until such a time, Liberians and people everywhere who cherish democracy must not let up in calling on President Sirleaf to end nepotism now, even if their efforts seem only a drop in the ocean, because it will take many drops to create a consequential ripple to stir change.
And you can start making your voice heard today by signing the petition below calling on President Sirleaf to fire her sons and end nepotism now!