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Liberia's Sirleaf: Reform in Africa

Speaker: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President, Republic of Liberia
Presider: Mark Whitaker, Washington Bureau Chief and Senior Vice President, NBC News
May 25, 2010

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Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations on May 25, expressed confidence in her country's ongoing efforts to rebuild infrastructure, rule of law, and morale.

"I think we've restored hope, hope for the Liberian people that they can see a future in which they can share," she said referring to the aftermath of a long period of war and domestic crisis. "That, I think, is our greatest success."

Johnson Sirleaf said the country had benefited greatly from U.S. aid but, with a minuscule budget, needs ramped-up foreign investment and continued assistance from UN peacekeepers and forces from the U.S. Africa Command (Africom).

When asked about democratic struggles in Africa, the Liberian president cited the resilience of democratic tendencies in her sub-region of Africa as well as the continent overall.

"There may be pockets of regression, but generally democracy is on course," she said. "We had three democracies in Africa in the 1970s; we have over eighteen today. We have countries that have had three successive transfers of power through the democratic process."

Johnson Sirleaf added: "We've come a long way, and we have a civil society today that is so informed and so enlightened and so demanding that it's going to be difficult to think that anybody can get away with the kind of things that we got away with before."

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