Africa's women hail female Liberian leader
African women on Friday acclaimed Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as a beacon of greater influence for their sex and a source of new hope for peace in a continent wracked by male-dominated conflict.
Activists hailed the presidential vote in favour of Johnson-Sirleaf, who held an unbeatable lead in the West African state of Liberia, torn by years of civil war.
Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist, gained 59,4% of votes cast in Tuesday’s second round to 40,6% obtained by her opponent, Liberian-born international soccer star George Weah, according to official figures.
If confirmed as president, she would be Africa’s first elected woman leader.
“This shows that if we put our minds to things, we can get to the highest positions,” said Tsitsi Matekaire, director of the Women in Politics Support Unit, a Zimbabwean group lobbying for increased participation of women in decision-making in politics.
“We can actually fight and make it ... that’s really tremendous.”
“Other African countries should learn from Liberia and give women responsible jobs,” said Shamin Khan, Tanzania’s Deputy Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children.
“With women in leadership position, Africa will see a difference instead of continuing conflict and wars during the rule of men.”
Marie-Madeleine Kalala, Human Rights Minister in the transitional government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, another country recently gripped by civil war, said Johnson-Sirleaf’s victory is a cause of joy and pride to the women of Africa.
These, she said, “were henceforth determined as never before to reverse the trend and influence their countries’ politics”.
Asha Ahmed Abdalla, a woman who once vied for power in yet another war-torn country, Somalia, said: “The world is a better place when run by a woman.
“The presidency in Liberia and the first woman chancellor in Germany are glorious moments for the whole female community in the world,” she said in a reference to the appointment of Germany’s first woman government leader, Angel Merkel.
“If I were elected president, I would have promoted peace and democracy rather than supporting continuation of civil strife like the male leaders in Somalia,” Abdalla added.
“Margaret Thatcher, Benazir Bhutto and Mary Robinson contributed to the advancement of civilisation in their country as well as in the world,” she said referring to past women leaders of Britain, Pakistan and Ireland, respectively.
“Women are less corrupted than their male counterparts,” Abdalla said.
In Uganda, lawmaker and woman activist Miria Matembe said Johnson-Sirleaf’s victory is “great and wonderful. It would have been terrible that such a highly qualified and competent person could be defeated by a mere footballer.”
In the Liberian capital, Monrovia, angry supporters of Johnson-Sirleaf’s rival, Weah, protested on Friday at what they said were fraudulent results.
Thousands marched past the headquarters of the National Elections Commission, under heavy guard by riot gear-clad United Nations and national police officers, even as results from 97% of polling stations were announced.
Another Ugandan activist, Sarah Mukasa of the NGO Akina Mama wa Afrika (African Mothers), called Johnson-Sirleaf’s victory a landmark fight for women in Africa.
“She has endured a lot of abuse and ridicule just because she is a woman,” Mukasa said. “I am happy that for the first time at the summit of African leaders one out of the 53 heads of state will be a woman.”
In Abidjan in CÃ´te d’Ivoire—yet another strife-torn state—Salimata Porquet, of the International Forum of Women for Peace, Equality and Development, said: “If the Liberians have placed their faith in Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, it’s because they know they can always withdraw it ... she is a woman who has shown her mettle in the politics of Liberia.
“We are convinced this woman will bring peace to Liberia because she is first of all a woman, then a mother, she has her woman’s intuition and she’s got brains.”—Sapa-AFP