AfDB Probe: Ex-Liberian President Sirleaf Congratulates Adesina

A file photo of President of the African Development Bank, Akinwunmi Adesina
A file photo of President of the African Development Bank, Akinwunmi Adesina



A former Liberian President, Ellen Sirleaf is the latest in the list of those congratulating the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina after he was cleared of corruption allegations levelled against him by an anonymous group.

Sirleaf said the declaration of Adesina as innocent, came as expected, according to a tweet on her official handle, Thursday night.

“We rejoice that, as expected, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina has been declared fully innocent of all accusations by the Independent Panel headed by Mary Robinson,” the former Liberian leader said.

READ ALSO: Olumide Akpata Declared NBA President-Elect


Earlier in the week, President Muhammadu Buhari had in his message to the AfDB chief, said Adesina’s exoneration is further validation of his competence and integrity to lead the institution.


A file photo of President Buhari (right) and AfDB president, Adesina.


The Nigerian leader said the conclusion of the review should finally draw a curtain on the allegations that created distractions for the entire institution for a period and serve as an impetus for more diligence in handling responsibilities while fuelling the zeal to deliver on the promises of a greater Africa.


Cleared Of Corruption Charges


An independent panel of experts, headed by former Irish president Mary Robinson, on Monday completely cleared Adesina of all charges in an investigation that has spanned seven months.

The panel of three experts also had the Gambia’s Chief Justice Hassan Jallow and the World Bank’s integrity vice president Leonard McCarthy as members.

Dr Adesina became the first Nigerian to helm the AfDB in 2015 — but a 15-page report in January claimed that under his watch the bank had been tarred by poor governance, impunity, personal enrichment, and favouritism.

In May, the Ethics Committee of the Board of Directors of the African Development Bank (AfDB), charged with investigating the charges cleared Adesina.

But the United States, which is one of the bank’s biggest shareholders, demanded an independent investigation into the allegations.

The outcome of that investigation was the same – Adesina was exonerated.

“The Panel concurs with the Committee in its findings in respect of all the allegations against the President and finds that they were properly considered and dismissed by the Committee,” Monday’s report concluded.

Coronavirus: Obasanjo, George Weah, Other African Leaders Feature In New Song On African Solidarity


Top African leaders including former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, incumbent Liberian President George Weah, Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga have been featured in a new song titled ‘Alone but Altogether.’

The song, which starred Ugandan music star Bobi Wine and South African legend Robin Auld, encourages Africans to unite as the continent struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

It also starred Amuta Stone, Schalk Joubert, Lumanyano Unity Mzi, and Greg Mills.

“Different times are here; searching for the answer; don’t be a victim; be a solution; we have to persevere; all alone altogether.

“In our homes, for each other; I know we’ll find a way; in Africa,” they sang.

Ex-African leaders in the video include Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Joyce Banda, Pierre Buyoga, Kgalema Motlanthe, and FW de Klerk.

Others include Ernest Bai Koroma, Hailemariam Desalegn, Moeketesi Majoro, Salous Chilima among others.

The song was produced by SABI Strategy Group.



Former President Of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf Visits IGP, Calls For Free, Peaceful Elections


Head of the ECOWAS Election Observer Mission for the 2019 elections, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has asked the police to ensure a peaceful, free and fair general election.

She made the call on Wednesday when she visited the acting Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu.

Sirleaf, however, commended the police for what she described as their professionalism in the run up to the elections.

Read Also: Sirleaf Meets With INEC Chairman, Officials Ahead Of Elections

In response, the IGP said police personnel are fully prepared for a hitch-free exercise.

According to him, they have been trained in various aspects of election security matters, before, during and after the elections.

Later on, she visited the National Peace Committee where she met with the Director of the Kukah Center and head of the National Peace Committee secretariat, (Reverend Father) Atta Barkindo.

Barkindo briefed her on some of the challenges faced by the committee especially the arduous task of brokering peace accords among political parties at the state level particularly in violence-prone areas.

Madam Sirleaf thanked him for the work done by the committee especially the signing of the Peace Accord on December 11, 2018.

She said their commitments are well known across the continent and she would be looking forward to more engagements with the committee.

Sirleaf Wins Prestigious African Leadership Prize

Former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday won the rarely-awarded Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership — the world’s biggest individual prize.

The prize only goes to a democratically-elected African leader who has demonstrated exceptional leadership, served their mandated term and left office within the last three years.

The award comes with $5 million (4.1 million euros), which is paid over 10 years, and $200,000 annually for life from then on.

Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female head of state, left office on January 22 after a maximum 12 years as president, served in two terms.

The 79-year-old won the 2017 Ibrahim Prize, only the second time it has been awarded in six years. In 2011, she shared the Nobel Peace Prize as a champion for women’s rights.

Former African Union secretary-general Salim Ahmed Salim, chairman of the prize committee, said Sirleaf had changed Liberia’s fortunes.

“Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institutions,” he said.

“Throughout her two terms in office, she worked tirelessly on behalf of the people of Liberia. Such a journey cannot be without some shortcomings and, today, Liberia continues to face many challenges.

“Nevertheless, during her 12 years in office, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf laid the foundations on which Liberia can now build.”

– First female laureate –

The prize, founded by Sudan-born telecoms tycoon Mo Ibrahim, has only been given five times in its 11-year existence.

The philanthropist has said in the past that making no award sent just as strong a message on African leadership.

Ibrahim said he was delighted by Monday’s decision.

“In very difficult circumstances, she helped guide her nation towards a peaceful and democratic future, paving the way for her successor to follow,” he said.

“I am proud to see the first woman Ibrahim laureate, and I hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will continue to inspire women in Africa and beyond.”

The prize’s four previous laureates are Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique (2007); Festus Mogae of Botswana (2008); Pedro Pires of Cabo Verde (2011), and Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia (2014).

Former South African president Nelson Mandela was made an honorary laureate in 2007.

The London-based Mo Ibrahim Foundation produces an annual index of African governance, allowing citizens to measure how well their countries are being run.

Since 2006, Liberia was the only country out of 54 to improve in every category on the index. Liberia moved up 10 places in the overall African ranking to 28th since then.

Former football star George Weah, the 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year, won last year’s Liberian presidential elections and took over from Johnson.

The handover has been seen as a milestone in Liberia’s transition from a civil war that killed around a quarter of a million people between 1989 and 2003.

Other major awards are the Fundamental Physics Prize, worth $3 million; the Templeton Foundation for spiritual contributions, worth £1.1 million ($1.53 million); and the Nobel Prize, which in 2017 was set at nine million Swedish kronor ($1.11 million) for each award.


Five Things George Weah Has Promised Liberians

Liberia’s president-elect and former football star George Weah delivers a speech during his swearing-in ceremony on January 22, 2018 in Monrovia. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP


Former football star George Weah promised to tackle Liberia’s economic and social problems as he was sworn in on Monday in the first democratic transfer of power for more than 70 years.

Here are five things he has pledged to do since his election:

Tackle corruption

Failing to tackle endemic corruption among public officials was a key criticism of the outgoing administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Weah said in his inaugural speech that voters had specifically tasked him with rooting out graft.

“I believe the overwhelming mandate that I received from the Liberian people is a mandate to end corruption in public service. I promise to deliver on this mandate,” he said.

“As officials of government, it is time to put the interests of our people above our own selfish interest. It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit among our people, we must end it.”

Help the private sector

Weah said he would remove “unnecessary restraints” on business in a country that ranks near the bottom as a place of doing business rankings despite abundant natural resources.

“To the private sector, I say to you, Liberia is open for business,” he said in his address.

“We will do all that is within our power to provide an environment that will be conducive for the conduct of honest and transparent business.”

However, he said he no longer wanted Liberians to be “spectators” in their economy, as Indian and Lebanese immigrants dominate retail and services while Western and Asian firms own the vast majority of rubber, palm oil and iron ore operations.

Youth training

Many Liberians missed out on a formal education during the 1989-2003 civil war, and lack the literacy or skills to get jobs outside the informal sector.

Weah said in a speech last week he believed vocational training was the answer to helping this lost generation.

“We need more and better-trained teachers not only for our vocational institutions, but equally so for our schools and universities,” said.

“Vocational institutions are the best way forward to enable young adults to enter the job market sooner, as most of them have already assumed family responsibilities.”

A bigger funding commitment to schools and training “will be submitted to the National Legislature later this year,” he promised.


The opaque nature of political deal-making, especially over the use of public land, has led to frequent disputes between the local population and private companies in Liberia.

Weah said freedom of speech had strengthened under Sirleaf and promised a more “co-operative” government that was more direct with voters.

“Together we owe our citizens clarity on fundamental issues such as the land beneath their feet, freedom of speech and how national resources and responsibilities are going to be shared,” he said after being sworn in.

Respect for rights and democracy

Weah paid tribute to the hundreds of thousands of people who died during back-to-back civil wars and said the “immeasurable cost of the lesson” was the value of equality and freedom.

“These are the fundamental human rights that our people deserve, and that must be held up and measured against our actions, policies and laws,” he said.

He also urged the population to look beyond tribal and regional affiliation and to consider themselves “Liberians first”.


Liberia’s Boakai Confident Of Victory As NEC Tallies Votes

Joseph Boakai


Liberia’s Vice President Joseph Boakai said on Thursday he hoped Tuesday’s presidential election was free, fair and transparent, and also expressed optimism that he could still win.

Liberians voted on Tuesday in a second round run-off for a successor to outgoing President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, meant to usher in the first democratic transfer of power in more than seven decades.

Backers of Boakai’s opponent, soccer star George Weah, said on Thursday he was poised to declare victory in presidential election after their data showed him winning more than 60 percent of the vote – an assertion dismissed by his rival.

Unofficial tallies by media outlets have consistently shown the former AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain player ahead in the vote.

Electoral authorities did not confirm the figures from Weah’s campaign team.

Liberia’s National Elections Commission (NEC) was expected to start announcing official results later on Thursday, though the process has been beset by delays.


Liberians Hopeful Of First Democratic Handover Since 1944

Supporters of Liberian presidential candidate and ex-football international George Weah dance near his home in Monrovia. Photo: SEYLLOU / AFP


Liberians were awaiting Wednesday the result of a presidential election they say represents far more than the choice of a successor to Africa’s first elected female head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Sirleaf’s predecessor Charles Taylor fled the country in 2003 with hopes of avoiding prosecution for funding rebel groups in neighbouring Sierra Leone, while two presidents who served prior to Taylor were assassinated.

The tumult of the last seven decades in Liberia, a small west African nation where an estimated 250,000 people died during back-to-back civil wars between 1989-2003, means a democratic handover has not taken place since 1944.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf delivering a speech during the opening of the 2017 International Conference on the emergence of Africa in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP

“No matter the results, we will accept it without causing problems. We don’t need trouble here anymore,” said Samuel Nuahn, 46, who voted for establishment candidate Vice President Joseph Boakai in Tuesday’s presidential run-off.

Boakai faced former international footballer George Weah in the vote after neither man gained the requisite 50 percent of votes to win in a single round on October 10.

The results are due on Friday, the National Elections Commission (NEC) said, though local media is already saying the sportsman, the only African ever to have won FIFA’s World Player of the Year and the Ballon D’Or, is ahead.

Liberian presidential candidates, former international footballer George Weah (L) and  Liberia’s Vice President Joseph Boakai (R). 

As observers hailed a credible election held without a single major incident of violence, despite weeks of delays caused by legal challenges, Liberians said they were looking foward to the baton of peace held for 12 years under Sirleaf being handed over.

“Since years of civil war this is the first time we see the transition of power from one person to another. So today is an exciting moment for me especially as well as an exciting moment for Liberia,” voter Oscar Sorbah told AFP after casting his ballot on Tuesday.

The Sirleaf administration, elected in 2005, guided the nation out of the ruins of war and through the horrors of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis, but is accused of failing to combat poverty and corruption.

Weah’s CDC party has watched their icon miss out on the presidency in a 2005 bid and was similary frustrated when he ran for vice-president in 2011, but has repeatedly urged its young and exuberant supporters to keep cool.

“No matter what the provocation will be, CDC will not respond with violence,” Jefferson Kotchie, head of the youth wing of the CDC, told supporters assembled at the headquarters of the party.

The ballot was delayed for seven weeks due to legal challenges lodged by Boakai’s Unity Party against the electoral commission over the conduct of the first round, but many of the complaints appeared to have been addressed in the second round.


Liberians To Choose New Leader In Delayed Presidential Vote

Liberia Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai (L) posing in Monrovia on March 20, 2017 and former football player and candidate in Liberia’s presidential elections, George Weah in Paris on September 25, 2017. JOEL SAGET, Zoom DOSSO / AFP

Liberians are set to go to the polls on Tuesday to select either former international footballer George Weah or Vice President Joseph Boakai as their new president, in a vote that analysts say is too close to call.

After seven weeks of delays caused by legal challenges against the country’s electoral commission lodged by Boakai’s party, polling stations will open at 8:00 am (0800 GMT) for the West African nation’s 2.1 million voters.

They will choose a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who is stepping down after serving 12 years as Africa’s first elected female leader, representing Liberia’s only democratic transfer of power since 1944.

Trucks filled with voting materials were escorted by police around the capital Monrovia on Monday, after leaving the offices of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), which has rushed to clean the national voter register to avoid allegations of fraud.

“For three days now I have not closed my eyes. We are making sure that nothing goes wrong because this election is a crucial one,” a stressed-looking policeman told AFP.

Both contenders have already announced they are confident of victory but the final result is not expected to be known for a few days.

From Pitch To Palace?

In the first round of voting on October 10, Weah topped the poll with 38.4 percent while Boakai came second with 28.8 percent, triggering a run-off as neither made it past the 50 percent needed to win outright.

Boakai then accused the NEC of fraud and incompetence grave enough to have affected the vote, delaying proceedings while the complaints were analysed by the Supreme Court. His party’s arguments were ultimately rejected.

Whoever wins the delayed vote faces an economy battered by lower commodity prices for its main exports of rubber and iron ore and a rapidly depreciating currency.

Both candidates have been accused of offering vague platforms, beyond assurances on free education and investment in infrastructure and agriculture.

As Liberia’s most famous son, Weah attracts huge crowds and has a faithful youth following in a country where a fifth of the electorate is aged 18 to 22, but he is criticised for his long absences from the Senate, where he has served since 2014.

Weah’s endorsement by warlord-turned-preacher Prince Johnson, who is extremely popular in the populous county of Nimba, may boost his chances, while he was pictured at a public event with Sirleaf on Thursday, heightening speculation a feud with Boakai has pushed her to support his opponent.

“You know I’ve been in competitions –- tough ones too and I came out victorious. So I know Boakai cannot defeat me,” Weah told AFP on Saturday. “I have the people on my side.”

Weah has also polled well in Bong county, the fiefdom of Liberian warlord and former president Charles Taylor and his ex-wife, Jewel Howard-Taylor, who is the former footballer’s vice-presidential pick.

Charles Taylor is serving a 50-year sentence in Britain for war crimes committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone, but his presence has loomed over the election.

‘We Cannot Feast’

Vice President Boakai meanwhile is seen as a continuity candidate and has won praise for his public service stretching back four decades, when many elites fled Liberia for the United States.

Boakai said Sunday he was “very, very confident” of winning, telling AFP: “Victory is mine”.

While ordinary Liberians are grateful peace has held through Sirleaf’s two terms in office, living standards remain dire for most.

She guided the nation out of ruin following back-to-back 1989-2003 civil wars and through the horrors of the 2014-16 Ebola crisis, but is accused of failing to combat poverty and tackle corruption.

Both issues have been a focus of the campaign, giving Boakai a difficult path to tread after serving at her side.

He faces accusations the government did too little on graft and focused on seeking donor funds rather than tackling issues at home.

The election date finally chosen in Christian-majority Liberia has sowed fears of lower turnout in a country where many travel long distances to see family, and alcohol flows particularly freely at Christmas time.

“Because of the election, we will not really enjoy Christmas this year. We cannot feast now because we have to go vote tomorrow. We have to postpone the Christmas celebration to another date,” complained Emmanuel Johnson, 27.

I’ve Never Experienced Anything Like Rochas Foundation – Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Liberia’s President, Mrs Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has commended the Rochas Okorocha Foundation for bringing together and impacting the lives of young African children from different nationalities.

President Johnson-Sirleaf who is in Owerri the state capital, visited the Rochas Foundation African College, where she met with the students, among whom were five Liberians.

She was accompanied by the State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, and signed a Memorandum Of Understanding between the Liberian government and the foundation.

In her address she recounted how much things have changed from previous years especially in her country and how initiatives such as this one have helped to improve the lives of less privileged children.

I’ve never experienced anything like the Rochas Foundation.

“I could do no less than reflect to 25 years ago, in my country when children like them couldn’t go to school because there were no schools.

“Children like them were conscripted into the army, where they held guns that were bigger than them.

“These ones can now have an opportunity to learn, to excel and to be what they want to be. It is an opportunity that not so many children around Africa and the world have, to come together as children of the global family, to share experiences, diverse but unified, there’s nothing more than that.”

According to her, the experience has birthed in them, new hope for the future.

“I see in each of their faces and as I listen to their voices, determination to build upon from where they have come.”

The Liberian leader is the third African President to visit Imo State in the last 2 months.

The governor, Mr Rochas Okorocha, in his address, narrated how the foundation came about and what inspired the initiative.

“When I started this foundation 20 years ago, it was a miracle. This foundation started in Jos, at a mosque where we went every Friday to help feed indigent children.

“We kept on giving alms, but the population kept increasing and later we decided that rather than giving just food and cash, we could empower them by building schools.

“Today we are proud to have 10 Rochas Foundation Colleges across this nation with over 15,000 children. 75% of them are orphans and that is the qualification with which you can come to this school,” he stated.

The governor also explained that he never really had it rosy while growing up, so he understood what suffering feels like.
“It was spiritual and contractual, and it was an oath I took – Remembering that I wouldn’t have gone to school, if it wasn’t for the mercy of God upon my soul.

“I know what it means to suffer, so what I do today is not a dramatization of affluence. Today, we have decided to take five children every year from each of the African countries.”

Speaking further, the governor expressed gratitude to Mrs Sirleaf, for honouring the invitation, while also being optimistic about her decision to become a member of the Rochas Okorocha Foundation board.

“We are calling all Africans to support this vision, we are lucky, and we are happy that President Olusegun Obasanjo is the Chairman of the board of this great institution and President Obasanjo personally was the one who nominated you, Madame President, as a member of this board, for which today I would want your acceptance or otherwise.

He also requested that the Liberian President spreads the word and supports the foundation in bringing in more less-privileged children from across the world.

Liberia’s Johnson-Sirleaf Leaves Mixed Legacy For Women

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf delivering a speech during the opening of the 2017 International Conference on the emergence of Africa in Abidjan. SIA KAMBOU / AFP

When Liberia became the first African country to elect a female head of state in 2005, many hoped that the win by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, would herald a win for women across the West African nation.

Liberian girls are still among the least educated in the world today.

Only 17 percent of them reach secondary school, compared to just under 40 percent of boys according to figures by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Lack of school fees in the struggling economy and traditional attitudes towards gender are mostly to blame – many parents still prioritize their sons’ education over those of their daughters.

Sixteen-year-old Bendu is a student at Christian Mennonite School.

“My father is paying my school fees. He has paid the first semester but he says he doesn’t really have the money to pay for the final school fee, so he’s looking for money,” she said.

Johnson-Sirleaf made tackling the education crisis one of her top priorities in office. Last year her administration started outsourcing government schools to private partners.

Read Also: Liberians Choose New President As Sirleaf Steps Aside

A recent survey by the Centre for Global Development and Innovations for Poverty Action found pupils at these schools made seven months more progress in English and maths compared with children at public schools.

‘More than Me Academy’ for girls is one of the private partnership institutions in Monrovia. It is tuition free, funded by private sponsors and donors.

For the girls here, just having a woman as president has inspired them.

“People are seeing girls as leaders, they are looking at her saying ‘Oh, if that woman can be a president then i can be a president’. We are looking at the woman, at the president and seeing what she is doing and what we can do, because she has made this nation proof to all nations and all men that women can be better,” said student, Give Fallah.

Johnson-Sirleaf, 78, has many accomplishments to boast during her term in office.

The economy is four times the size it was when she took office in 2005. The gangs of drug addled youths who raped and mutilated their way across the nation during a civil war that ended in 2003 are a vivid but receding memory among other things.

Johnson-Sirleaf inspired women in the workplace too. Liberia’s market women helped get her elected. In 2006, Sirleaf set up a nationwide market women’s fund to support them.

The fund offers training and microcredit to women to expand their businesses.

Korpo Willigie says she now travels across West Africa to trade her traditional wraps.

“Women are strong now. Most women are very strong – before women couldn’t do anything. But now women take the lead… most of the time, even in the home, women take the lead,” she said.

But not everyone is convinced by Sirleaf’s efforts for women and girls.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and women’s activist Leymah Gbowee, who jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize with Sirleaf, says the outgoing president hasn’t done enough to advance women’s rights.

“Maybe the problem we have as women, is that our expectations were very high, and that’s why we feel the disappointment probably more than the other segment of the population. Education, health and justice issues for women – those are the three things I would personally say we haven’t gotten down,” she said.

Liberia also has continuing high rates of rape and sexual abuse, and there is the lack of progress in tackling it.

A 2006 Rape Law is rarely enforced. In 2012, the special criminal court for gender-based violence cases dismissed 93 percent of cases.

Meanwhile a domestic violence bill, submitted in 2015, has been considerably watered down by the legislature – and Sirleaf has still not signed it into law.

“There is no interest… because for many people they see the Domestic Violence Bill as a bill that supports primarily women, so it’s just political will,” Gbowee says.

Julia Duncan-Cassell, the country’s minister for gender, children and social protection, says the president’s efforts were thwarted by the disproportionate ratio of men to women in the legislature.

“We thought that that bill would have had an easy passage. But instead it lingered in the legislature. With almost 4-5 months to elections, everybody said ‘if we pass this bill, nobody will vote for us,” she said.

As the first female president in Africa, Sirleaf was a trailblazer for women. Activists say that the inspiration and change of mindset she has created will outlive her time in office.

She has built the framework, but much remains to be done, particularly in the way of education and justice for Liberian women.


Liberians Choose New President As Sirleaf Steps Aside

Supporters of Liberian presidential candidate Alexander Cummings attend a campaign rally in Monrovia on October 7, 2017, three days ahead of the country’s elections. ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP

Liberians head to the polls on Tuesday to elect a successor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, with hopes for a leader who will kickstart the economy and safeguard a fragile peace.

Sirleaf will step down after 12 years at the helm of Africa’s first republic, whose back-to-back civil wars (1989-2003) and Ebola crisis (2014-16) have stunted growth and left Liberia among the world’s poorest nations.

Twenty candidates are vying to replace Sirleaf, with footballing icon George Weah, incumbent Vice President Joseph Boakai, longtime opposition figure Charles Brumskine and soft drinks millionaire Alexander Cummings considered front-runners.

Just one woman is seeking to follow Africa’s first elected female head of state — model-turned-humanitarian MacDella Cooper — but she has near-zero chance of winning, diplomats and analysts told AFP.

The elections of a president, vice president and members of the House of Representatives are a “crucial test for the democratic process in Liberia,” Maria Arena, chief observer of the European Union, told journalists in Monrovia this week.

“A peaceful transition from one elected president to another is important not only for Liberia but also as an example for the region,” she said.

Such a transition would be the first in living memory after seven decades of coups, assassinations and exiled dictators.

– Infrastructure and aid dependency –

While ordinary Liberians are grateful that peace has held through Sirleaf’s two terms in office, living standards in Liberia remain dire for most and have become the focus of the campaign.

“We are doing everything ourselves to survive,” Emmet Garokapee, a market trader, said as his head was shaved with a single razor blade at a backstreet barber for lack of electricity.

Liberia ranks 177 of 188 countries in the UN’s Human Development Index and 174 of 190 nations in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, and every candidate has laid out their plans to change the nation’s gloomy outlook.

Vice President Boakai has made infrastructure, especially road building, central to his campaign.

But he faces accusations his government did too little on corruption and spent two terms pressing for donor funds abroad rather than innovate at home.

Sirleaf, in her defence, said in an October 2 speech that “if we did not have those (UN) agencies and those programs here, with our limited resources we would not have achieved the things we wanted.”

But candidates such as telecoms tycoon Benoni Urey have lashed out at what he calls a “dependency” on foreign aid.

A former executive vice president at Coca-Cola, Cummings cites handling a budget larger than that of Liberia’s government as evidence of his competence to lead, and he is seen as the dark horse of the campaign.

Development, Cummings said at a rally on Thursday, “is not too much to ask of ourselves after 170 years,” in reference to the nation’s founding by freed African-American slaves in 1847.

Liberia’s most famous son, footballer-turned-senator George Weah, attracts huge crowds and has a faithful youth following in a country where a fifth of the electorate is aged 18 to 22, but is blamed for issuing vague promises and for his long absences from the country.

Liberians have praised the nation’s first presidential debates, which were held in Weah’s absence.

Some also question his pick for vice president — Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of Liberian warlord and former president Charles Taylor.

Charles Taylor is currently serving time in Britain for war crimes committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone, and rumours swirl he is issuing orders by phone from his jail cell. Weah denies contact with him.

– Praying for peace –

While campaigning has been “largely peaceful” according to the NEC, with just one clash between Weah and Brumskine supporters, some Liberians remain worried after sparks of violence at the last elections in 2011 that killed two people.

“We are just praying for free and calm elections,” said Tina Davis, a wigmaker working at a stall in the Joe Bar market of Monrovia.

One women’s group has even held fasting and prayer sessions for three weeks in an echo of their actions towards the end of the civil war, when they forced warring parties into dialogue.

The group coordinator Delphine Morris told AFP several premature “victory marches” could turn violent if there is a disputed result.

The election is the first national-scale test for Liberia’s police and army since the war after taking back control of national security from the country’s UN peacekeeping mission just last year.

Peacekeepers would only step up “in the event of a deterioration of the security situation that could risk a strategic reversal of peace and stability in the country,” UN spokesman Shpend Berbatovci told AFP.

Polls will open at 8am (0800 GMT) and close at 6pm (1800 GMT) for Liberia’s 2.1 million registered voters, with the first provisional official results expected within 48 hours, according to the National Elections Commission (NEC).


ECOWAS, AU, UN Congratulate Gambian President, Adama Barrow

ECOWAS, AU, UN Congratulate Gambian President, Adama BarrowThe ECOWAS Commission, African Union and United Nations have congratulated the President of the Republic of The Gambia, Mr Adama Barrow, on the occasion of his swearing-in and assumption of office.

This is following his victory at the presidential election of December 1, 2016 and in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia.

The joint statement was released on Thursday evening after Adama Barrow took the oath of office in neighbouring Senegal as incumbent Yahya Jammeh refused to leave office.

“The ECOWAS Commission, African Union and United Nations equally congratulate the people of The Gambia who have demonstrated patience, discipline, maturity and resolve to defend their popular will, as expressed in the 1st December, 2016 presidential election and during the post-electoral crisis.

“The ECOWAS Commission, African Union and United Nations once again commend the independence, professionalism and commitment of members of the Independent Electoral Commission of The Gambia and all political parties for exercising the needed restraint that paved way for the peaceful conduct of the 1st December, 2016 presidential election.

“The ECOWAS Commission, African Union and United Nations commend the leadership and commitment demonstrated by Her Excellency (Mrs) Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia and Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, as well as His Excellency  Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and ECOWAS Mediator, and H.E. John Dramani Mahama, former President of the Republic of Ghana and Co-Mediator, for the efforts undertaken for the resolution of the post-electoral impasse in The Gambia in full compliance with constitutional legality to ensure peaceful transfer of power.

“The ECOWAS Commission, African Union and United Nations urge His Excellency Adama Barrow to take all necessary steps to strengthen national unity, social harmony and peace in the Gambia with a view to addressing the socio-political and economic challenges that have hampered poverty reduction in the country.

“The ECOWAS Commission, African Union and United Nations once again urge the Security Forces to observe neutrality and conduct themselves in a civil manner, and to strongly support President Barrow by maintaining public order and security which are essential to the stability and development of the country.

“The ECOWAS Commission, African Union and United Nations reaffirm their commitment to continue accompanying The Gambia in consolidating democracy and rule of law in the country,” the statement reads.