Friday, November 11, 2005

Liberia Elects Woman as President, a First for Africa

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected as president of Liberia, the first democratically-elected female president in Africa. Johnson-Sirleaf won with 59 percent of the vote. When asked whether Africa is prepared for its first female president, Johnson-Sirleaf said, “Africa is ready for a female president… Women have the education, the character, the competence, and the integrity to lead the nation.” Nigerian politician Sarah Jubril was even more exuberant: “It's a historical phenomenon, which is going to be an example to other African countries... I could scream my heart out!"

By chance today I am at Cardozo Law School speaking at a conference on “International Mediation in Times of Conflict: Lessons from Public and Private Dispute Resolution.” The guest of honor is Kenyan female human rights advocate Betty Kaari Murungi. She received the 2005 International Advocate for Peace Award. (Previous recipients include Richard Holbrooke, Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu, George Mitchell, and Even Ensler). Murungi celebrated the news of Johnson-Sirleaf’s election saying, “The women of Liberia must be celebrating today!”

Indeed, with Condi Rice, Angela Merkel, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf now in positions of great leadership, 2005 is shaping up to be a vintage year for women in politics.