- Documents on Democracy
In a presidential runoff on 8 November 2005, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of the Unity Party defeated George Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change—becoming Africa's first democratically elected female president.Excerpts from her January 16 inaugural address appear below:
Vice President Boakai and I have just participated in the time-honored constitutional ritual of oath-taking as we embark upon our responsibilities to lead this republic. This ritual is symbolically and politically significant and substantive. It reflects the enduring character of the democratic tradition of the peaceful and orderly transfer of political power and authority. It also confirms the culmination of a commitment to our nation's collective search for a purposeful and responsive national leadership.
We applaud the resilience of our people who, weighed down and dehumanized by poverty and rendered immobile by the shackles of 14 years of civil war, went courageously to the polls, to vote—not once but twice, to elect Vice President Joseph Boakai and me to serve them. . . .
Committed to advance the spirit of inclusion, I assure all Liberians and our international partners and friends that our Government will recognize and support a strong democratic and loyal opposition in Liberia. This is important because we believe that our democratic culture and our nation are best served when the opposition is strong and actively engaged in the process of nation building. . . .
And so, my Fellow Liberians let us acknowledge and honor the sacrifices and the contributions of all as we put the past behind us. Let us rejoice that our recent democratic exercise has been a redemptive act of faith and an expression of renewed confidence in ourselves. Let us be proud that we were able to ultimately rise above our intense political and other differences in a renewed determination as a people to foster dialogue instead of violence, promote unity rather than disharmony, and engender hope rather than disillusionment and despair. [End Page 181]
My Administration therefore commits itself to the creation of a democracy in which the constitutional and civil liberties and rights of all of our people will be respected. . . .
And now, before I close, I would like to talk to the women—the women of Liberia, the women of Africa, and the women of the world. Until a few decades ago, Liberian women endured the injustice of being treated as second-class citizens. During the years of our civil war, they bore the brunt of inhumanity and terror. They were conscripted into war, gang raped at will, forced into domestic slavery. Yet, it is the women who labored and advocated for peace throughout our region.
It is therefore not surprising that during the period of our elections, Liberian women were galvanized—and demonstrated unmatched passion, enthusiasm, and support for my candidacy. They stood with me; they defended me; they worked with me; they prayed for me. The same can be said for the women throughout Africa. I want to here and now, gratefully acknowledge the powerful voice of women of all walks of life.
My Administration shall thus endeavor to give Liberian women prominence in all affairs of our country. My Administration shall empower Liberian women in all areas of our national life. We will support and increase the writ of laws that restore their dignity and deal drastically with crimes that dehumanize them. We will enforce without fear or favor the law against rape recently passed by the National Transitional Legislature. We shall encourage families to educate all children, particularly the girl child. We will also try to provide economic programs that enable Liberian women—particularly our market women—to assume their proper place in our economic process.
In January 2005, Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, lost a defamation suit the government had brought against him for comments he made during the 2001 election. Unable to pay the US$300,000 fine, he was declared bankrupt by the High Court on 10 February 2006. At the bankruptcy hearing, Chee submitted a statement criticizing the judiciary for its lack of independence, spurring the attorney-general to charge him with contempt of court. In reaction, Chee issued another statement...