President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who served as President of Liberia from 2006-2018, discussed her experience with Liberian democracy and the future of democracies on the African continent. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Liberia from 2008-2012, moderated a Q&A following President Johnson Sirleaf’s remarks. The event was hosted by the Global Human Development (GHD) Program, and cosponsored by the Master in Science in Foreign Service (MSFS) program, the African Studies Program, and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS).
President Johnson Sirleaf led Liberia into the consolidation of its democracy through economic growth, institution-building, and a progressive and optimistic approach. Despite facing major challenges during her presidency, including institutional corruption, the 2008 financial crisis, and the 2011 Ebola crisis, she helped facilitate a peaceful transition of leadership in January 2018. She says that although Liberia is still young and fragile, this transfer of power and the elections that preceded it demonstrate a democratic commitment in the country that is increasingly prevalent throughout the African continent.
“Democracy is never given on a silver platter. It has to be earned, defended, and nurtured every day, everywhere – in Africa, in Europe, in the United States. There is no alternative to having the freedom we want unless we prepare to work and sacrifice for it. That is the prevailing spirit in the world today, and for those of us who come from the old ways and are struggling to find new ways, we salute the enterprising young spirit which we hope will ensure that democracy, particularly in Africa, will remain secure for future generations,” said President Johnson Sirleaf.