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Liberia's president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf callsfor "partnership" rather than "patronage" relationship with U.S.
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
USAfricaonline.comand CLASSmagazine and The Black BusinessJournal
March 15, 2006, Washington DC (USAfricaonline.com): Dr. EllenJohnson-Sirleaf, Liberia's recently inaugurated president has calledon the U.S to relate with her battered country on a platform ofpartnership ratherthan patronage. Hoping that "with your prayers and with your help, wewill demonstrate that democracy can work, even under the mostchallenging conditions. We will honor the suffering of our people,and Liberia will become a brilliant beacon, an example to Africa andthe world of what the love of liberty can achieve. We will strive tobe America's success story in Africa, demonstrating the potential inthe transformation from war to peace; demonstrating the will to joinin the global fight against terrorism; demonstrating that democracycan prevail, demonstrating that prosperity can be achieved. Thepeople of Liberia have already rolled up their sleeves, despiteoverwhelming obstacles, confident that their work will be rewarded,confident in the hope and promise of the future."
USAfricaonline.com and CLASS magazine Publisher ChidoNwangwu who was in the gallery and saw the speech live reports: Shesaid with a certain, dignified lucidity that "I stand before youtoday, as the first woman elected to lead an African nation, thanksto the grace of Almighty God; thanks to the courage of the Liberianpeople, who chose their future over fear; thanks to the people ofwest Africa and of Africa generally, who continued to give hope to mypeople."
Her history-making, impactful 40-minute speech to the jointsession of the U.S Congress on Wednesday March 15, 2006 in WashingtonDC drew almost a dozen standing ovation from Washington power brokerslike U.S Vice President Dick Cheney (constitutionally, the presidentof the American Senate) who co-presided with House Speaker DennisHastert, influential Democrats Joe Biden, diplomats, businessexecutives, members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) andU.S-based members of the Liberian community.
She continued "Our abundant natural resources have been divertedby criminal conspiracies for private gain. International sanctions,imposed for the best of reasons, still prevent us from exporting ourraw materials. Roads and bridges have disappeared or been bombed orwashed away. We know that trouble could once again breed outside ourborders. The physical and spiritual scars of war are deep indeed."She encouraged Black Americans to come do business in Liberia,arguing no other group in America has more stake in Liberia'sstabilization and redevelopment. CBC's chair Mel Watts assured her ofthe commitment and support of the group. Houston congresswoman SheilaJakcson Lee spoke on the need to sustain the immigration status ofmany Liberians in the U.S. Congressman John Lewis, civil rights icon,recalled he went to Liberia in 1964 as part of a student group.
President Sirleaf, without a doubt, left an indelible impressionand sense of dignity despite the massive problems faced by herimpoverished and war-torn country. Additional features and reportswill appear her e and our related special events magazine, CLASSmagazine
"The first female in Africa, in the history of the[Liberian] nation," said Congresswoman Carolyn Kilpatrick."The continent of Africa is two-and-a-half times the size of the U.S.[and] not without its problems. But [this will be] anopportunity to build real communities and countries with resourcesthat can partner with the United States of America." In the regular2006 U.S. fiscal year budget, $128 million was designated forLiberia, a point driven home by Congressman Jim Kolbe who heads theHouse Foreign Operations Subcommittee. However, the funding has beenheld up and Kolbe says congressional appropriators have been waitingfor U.S. government agencies to come back with specific plans on howthe money will be spent in Liberia, which he agrees is at a crucialpoint.
"It is fragile, it is extraordinarily fragile," he said. "We havemade a tiny baby step forward with the election of the new presidentthere. And we should do everything we can to assist thatprocess."
Lawmakers will be pressing for more money for Liberia as part ofthe 2007 budget process which will be unfolding in coming months.South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn says the Liberian leader needsto be able to return home with some tangible results in the form ofaid commitments: "I believe it is important for us to show somesupport for this great woman, who was educated in this country, andwho I believe will be an outstanding symbol for freedom and justice,"said Clyburn. "We need to support her." Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.says while the United States has helped Liberia in its peacefultransition from former President Charles Taylor, to PresidentJohnson-Sirleaf, more needs to be done by Liberians "to ensure thatthis investment is not squandered."
Congresswoman Nita Lowey says she expects the Liberian presidentto give President Bush, whom she meets next week, and othergovernment officials specifics about plans for reconstruction in thewake of Liberia's long and bloody civil conflict: "It is myunderstanding that President Johnson-Sirleaf does have a plan, inaddition to the $128 million," she said. "There are infrastructureprojects. It is critical that we respond positively, in my judgment,to her request." "Liberia is at a crucial turning point," saidCongressman Jesse Jackson Jr. "The next few months will be criticalin determining whether peace and democracy prevail, or whetherpolitical instability, the threat of violence, rampant corruption,and criminality burgeon anew." Among pledges she has made sincetaking office in Liberia, President Johnson-Sirleaf says she wants tobring back electricity to the capital, Monrovia, by this July's 159thanniversary of Liberia's independence. U.S. lawmakers say this andother reconstruction hopes may be dashed without a commitment ofsubstantial new U.S. aid.USAfricaonline.com reports withadditional info by Dan Robinson.
U.S. First Lady Bush, Sec of State Rice in Liberia forinauguration of the firstwoman elected President in Africa, Ellen JohnsonSirleaf. America's First lady Laura Bush witnessedhistory on Monday January 16, 2006 at the swearing-in of Liberia'snew leader, the first woman elected president in Africa who haspledged to restore peace after 14 years of civil strife in thisnation founded by freed American slaves. On her second trip toAfrica, Mrs. Bush is joining Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice toattend the inauguration of President-elect Ellen Johnson Sirleaf whohas called on women to help govern other African nations.
"I think it's really important worldwide," Mrs. Bush said aboutSirleaf's inauguration, which falls on the day Americans honor civilrights icon, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. "I think it'sparticularly important on the continent of Africa, becausetraditionally women have been excluded in many African cultures notall of them, but in many." Fullreport by Deb Reichmann in Monrovia/AP here.
Senator Udoma: WhyI oppose 3rd term for Obasanjo or anyone.
Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, (Nigeria's Senate Chief Whip from AkwaIbom State) on why "in good conscience" he cannot support the retired general Olusegun Obasanjo's controversial and thus farunconstitutional quest to seek a third term of office as Nigeria'spresident (ruling since 1999). It is titled 'WhyI am against third term amendment provision' Among otherpoints, he argues that "To permit the power of incumbency to be usedto extend term limits, by constitutional amendment, is to underminethe very purpose of the term limit. Why have a term limit whenit can be extended any time it is considered inconvenient for anincumbent... One of the fundamental principles of lawmaking is thatlaws should not be made for the benefit of a particular individual.Even if we pass the amendment and the President decides to contest,which decision, we understand, he is yet to make, all we would haveachieved is a maximum of four more years for Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.But at what price? His successor will be able to rule Nigeria fortwelve unbroken years..." Fulltext here
VIEWPOINT: Obasanjo,Go! Just go! Prof. Wole Soyinka
Why Bush should focus ondangersfacing Nigeria's return todemocracyand Obasanjo's slipperyslide. ByChido Nwangwu
Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, (Nigeria's Senate Chief Whip) on why"in good conscience" he cannot support the retired generalOlusegun Obasanjo's controversial and thus far unconstitutionalquest to seek a third term of office as Nigeria's president (rulingsince 1999). It is titled 'Why I am against third termamendment provision':
"Following my decision not to support the proposal to amend theconstitution to allow the President and state governors to be able torun for a third term, I have been contacted by one or twowell-meaning friends who asked me the reason for mydecision. In particular, they asked me how I reconcile mystrong support for the Obasanjo administration's economic programmesand policies and my reluctance to support an amendment that couldallow the President four more years to continue these programmes.
I wish to make it clear that there is no conflict at all.
Indeed,it is dangerous to allow one's support for Chief Olusegun Obasanjo todetermine whether it is in the national interest for the Presidentand state governors to be allowed three terms in office, as opposedto the current two term provision.
One of the fundamental principles of lawmaking is that laws shouldnot be made for the benefit of a particular individual. Even if wepass the amendment and the President decides to contest, whichdecision, we understand, he is yet to make, all we would haveachieved is a maximum of four more years for Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.But at what price? His successor will be able to rule Nigeria fortwelve unbroken years!
A period long enough to enable such a President to entrenchhimself, and using the precedent already established, supported bythe powers of incumbency, to even contemplate doing away completelywith term limits - a common enough occurrence in Africa.
Term limits are critical to building and sustaining democracy. Itis generally accepted that the powers of incumbency, particularly inemerging democracies, are so overwhelming that there cannot be alevel playing field where any person challenges an incumbent withexecutive power.
It is for this reason that the framers of the 1979 Constitutionset a two term limit for incumbents holding executive offices. Thiswas retained in all subsequent Constitutions, including the currentone, the 1999 Constitution.
To permit the power of incumbency to be used to extend termlimits, by constitutional amendment, is to undermine the very purposeof the term limit. Why have a term limit when it can be extendedany time it is considered inconvenient for an incumbent!
In addition, the third term debate has led to such mistrust ofinformal political understandings and amendments that there is now aclamour for the principle of rotation, which had hitherto been leftto informal agreements within political parties, to be entrenched inthe Constitution. As a consequence, if the third term amendmentwhich allows 12 years for each President is passed into law, theearliest a person from the South-South political zone canconstitutionally aspire to be President of Nigeria will be in 16years time - and possibly 40 years time, if the South-East gets thePresidency first. For the South-West, it's even worse. If thethird term amendment is passed, no person from the South-West can beeligible to contest for the Presidency of this country, afterObasanjo, for 60 years! All this just to secure a possible four moreyears for Obasanjo!"
Finally, all those persons in the private sector who are anxiousto see the continuation of the private sector friendly policies ofChief Olusegun Obasanjo's administration should remember the wordsthe French Emperor, Napoleon 1 uttered from bitter experience in1815,"Men are powerless to secure the future; institutions alone fixthe destiny of nations."
Udoma, born in 1954, is a lawyer and represents Akwa Ibom Southin the Senate.
Why Bush should focus on dangers facing Nigeria's return to democracy and Obasanjo's slipperyslide. By Chido Nwangwu
"I hope I have shown it is possible to show respect to English and Igbo together. Chinua Achebe added that "The situation may well develop in the future, in which the different languages of Africa will begin to reassert themselves," he added. "I have made provision for that myself, by writing certain kinds of material in Igbo. For instance, I will insist my poetry is translated back into Igbo while I'm still around."
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Impeachment process shows Nigerian democracy "is alive... being tested." Nigeria's president retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the impeachment process shows that "democracy is alive, is being tested, and being tried.... What they (the legislators) have tried to do in the democratic way, which is not easy, would probably have been done by taking arms or by -- with bullets. So, but with democracy, of course, some people feel that this is the way this should be, and then I have an opportunity to defend myself. There is discussion. There is dialogue. There is a decision. There is fairness." He made these comments when he appeared on Tuesday September 17, 2002 on CNN International to discuss the issues of impeachment facing him, the allegations of corruption, abuse of the constitution and deployment of soldiers ina civilian environment which led to the "massacre of civilians" in Odi (Bayelsa) and Zaki Biam (Benue). On the charges by international human rights organizations and Nigerian media that his government has been involved in actions which have led to the deaths of thousands of Nigerians, the retired General gave a surprising answer. He was asked that "as many as 10,000 people, it's being reported, have been killed in Nigeria (in) communal rivalries, and the number is believed to be increasing. And people are saying that although President Obasanjo has done a lot of good for Nigeria, you're accused of not -- accused of failing to halt that spiraling violence."
Obasanjo: Let me say this to you, when you put the question of 10,000 -- 10,000 people dying in Nigeria, of course, for a population of over 120 million people...." But USAfricaonline.com Founder and recipient of the Journalism Excellence award (1997), Chido Nwangwu, who appeared on the same program as as a CNN International analyst (Africa) pointed out that "when (President Obasanjo) answered that in a country of 100 million that 10,000 people are said to have died, as if that was a small number, that in itself reflects a disconnect with the concerns of Nigerians. The second one is that when the risk is civil disagreement, the police are required to intervene in the country. And the deployment of the armed forces of Nigeria requires at least some consultation, however modest, with the parliament." Nwangwu, former member of the editorial board of Nigeria's Daily Times continued that "the third factor that is equally important to underscore is that the armed forces of Nigeria moved in for a punitive action rather than just containing a civil disagreement." He noted in USAfricaonline.com backgrounder "it was revealing and interesting interesting discussing Nigeria's issues with its leader - under the current circumstances of an increasingly out-of-schedule elections and the gathering storm of an impeachment process by a majority of the members of the National Assembly, predominantly by Obasanjo's party members." See rush transcript of the CNN International news program.
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