Today’s message by the President is said to be characterized as a very ‘unique’ message simply because it epitomizes a crucial epoch in the history of Liberia when the first female elected president of an African nation will oversee the change of guard in a process that is expected to be transparent, free and fair.
Pundits believe that Sirleaf’s last message to her compatriots will be fiery, and a complete departure from the repeated Annual Messages of the past years.
But as Annual Messages usually dictate, she will most certainly touch both on her successes and failures since she became president.
Like all Liberians, we are anxious to hear from the president herself what she thinks about her own legacy. Even more so, we wonder what she considers her most crowning achievements these 12 years.
For better or worse, the Sirleaf’s government will be remembered for many things, some influenced by outside forces while others from within, thus impacting levels of failures and successes.
For instance, who can forget the devastating human and economic toll brought on by the killer Ebola Virus in 2014 and its accompanying horrors, some of which still linger on today?
Nevertheless, because of these and other unforeseen occurrences, Liberia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined to 0.3 percent in 2015 compared to the original forecast of 6.8 percent.
What to expect
Of course the President will speak of her government’s strive to bring running water and electricity to most parts of Monrovia, which had been without power for at 15 years. Emblazoned under the slogan, “Small lights today, Big Lights Tomorrow” Sirleaf’s pet project saw the Mount Coffee Hydro dam going online last December. When properly calibrated and distributed, the new electricity is expected to spur expansion of new businesses and economic growth.
She will also capture her government’s role in having the lion’s share of the country’s debt cancelled; as well as the institutionalization of fiscal and financial policy regimes that led to the attracted of huge foreign direct investments.
More on the domestic front, the president is expected to recap her government fight to increase civil servants’ salaries, wages and pensions.
She is also expected to highlight government’s enforcement of a free primary public school system resulting into an 80% increment in secondary school enrollment.
Regarding infrastructures, the President will speak again of the construction and rehabilitation of roads around the country as a means to spur socioeconomic activities.
Some of her downsides
(1) The legislature, a number of ministries, the justice system, and security services were partially paralyzed in light of internal strife and turf battles during the course of President Sirleaf’s tenure. She is expected to speak on the negative impact which this development brought to bear on the passage of pertinent legislations.
(2) Since upgrading corruption from Public Enemy Number One to a Vampire status, President Sirleaf continues to admit that corruption remains an endemic problem. The recent division in the National Legislature is just one example. The president cannot hold any serious national discourse that explains her exit strategy without telling us what blueprints are in the archives to nip this national scourge in the bud.
(3) In the midst of raging unemployment, galloping inflation and unchecked capital flight, President Sirleaf takes leave of the nation. The economy is bad. Liberia is still dependent on foreign investors for a complete lack of domestic investments. Aside from small shops, market stands, shoe cleaners and vendors of telephone cards, most medium-size enterprises are owned by foreigners. Furthermore, micro-finance schemes are rare. The president’s speech is expected to touch on the nation’s worsening economic shape.
In any case, whatever will be said today as she takes leave of us, the first female African president will be remembered long after she has left the scene. For us, the best legacy that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will bequeath a war torn but recovering nation is to safely pass the baton of authority to another elected authority without any political palaver.