Liberia’s Election

Final results are a little ways away, but it looks like Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is going to be the “new president of Liberia”: She holds a solid lead with 56% of the votes counted over George Weah, international soccer star.

I mentioned Weah “a while back”:; at the time his potential as a unifying force in Liberia seemed pretty attractive. But the dark rumor I indicated back then — that Weah’s a front for some run-of-the-mill, bleed-the-country-dry political opportunists — is one that’s kept banging around. Who knows.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is a name I had forgotten, though when I first came across it in election coverage I remembered again. Hers was a household name even back in the mid-80’s when I lived in Monrovia. That she’s still around at all, having served as an opposition leader in politics across two dictatorships and untold years of civil war, is a testament to her tenacity if nothing else. And she’ll be the first woman elected as a head of state in Africa. That rocks.

Liberia needs to do so much to get back on its feet that it’s hard to know where to begin. The sine qua non of any long-term reconstruction, though, is a government that is not paralyzed by corruption. Liberia hasn’t had that in decades, but things are now looking hopeful in that regard.

Next big question: Once in power, will Johnson-Sirleaf ask Nigeria to hand Charles Taylor over to stand trial, either in Monrovia or in the UN Special Court in Freetown? Stay tuned.