Rumble in the Jungle: Liberia’s Youthful Nobel Peace Laureate Takes Potshots At Her Elderly Co-Laureate Over Nepotism and Corruption
By Moco McCaulay
Almost a year to the day when two Liberian women, Leymah Gbowee, 40, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, 73, made history, along with Tawakkol Karman, a female peace activist from Yemen, as they were awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for their “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”, Ms. Gbowee has in one scathingly surprising swoop taken potshots at Madam Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, for blatant nepotism and failure to fight corruption in their poverty-beleaguered nation.
According to a story in the British newspaper, the Telegraph, Ms. Gbowee lashed out at Pres. Sirleaf for corruption and nepotism, and not doing enough to reconcile their war-ravaged nation.
Citing how past Liberian presidents, such as William R. Tolbert, who was killed in a bloody coup in 1980, had also appointed their relatives in prominent posts in the government, attracting scathing rebuke from the then much younger Sirleaf, Ms. Gbowee asked rhetorically:
“What has changed?”
“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,” Gbowee lamented.
Gbowee was referring to the rather disturbing strain of boldfaced nepotism being exhibited by Pres. Sirleaf with the appointment of one of her sons, Robert Sirleaf, to head Liberia’s newly-created oil company, and Charles Sirleaf, another son, who she appointed as the Deputy Central Bank Governor.
And as if that wasn’t disturbing enough, in an interview with a Liberian newspaper in July this year, Pres. Sirleaf, contemptuously thumbed her nose at her critics, basically telling them to stop whining and go take a hike.
“If I want a job done, and I know that a close relative of mine can get it done, I will put the relative there, because the results are more important to me than the noise in the market,” the paper quoted Pres. Sirleaf as saying.
Well, Liberians should be thankful that such a recognized moral authority like Ms. Gbowee - and I guess it would now be more appropriate to say, “a former staunch supporter” of Pres. Sirleaf - has joined the rank of those making “noise in the market”. Because with the international platform that she commands, Liberians can only hope that this will incite many others, especially Liberia’s international partners, to also add their voices to the noise in the market so that it can become so unbearably loud that Pres. Sirleaf will be forced to heed the noise in the market and end her crass display of nepotism; and also add some backbone in the fight to curb the unabated corruption in her government.
“I feel I have been a disappointment to myself and Liberia. Not speaking is as bad as being part of the system. Some may say I am a coward but the opportunity to speak out has come here. I will also speak about it when I get home,” the Telegraph quoted Gbowee as saying in Paris at an event launching the French edition of her book, ‘Mighty Be Our Powers’.
So now, after a devastating bloody 14-year civil conflict, it seems like Liberians will once more have to brace themselves for another conflict – one of Nobel proportions!
- Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee disowns fellow winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - Telegraph (telegraph.co.uk)
- Liberian peace laureates fall out (bbc.co.uk)
- You: Sirleaf Hit on Liberian Corruption (thedailybeast.com)
- Liberian Nobel laureate quits over government corruption (news.terra.com)