Monday, January 16, 2006

 

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

The atmosphere in the streets today was more than jovial. The majority of the streets in town were shut down, and security was visible everywhere. Half the population of Monrovia lined the main street, and they danced and waved shouted at us for our two mile walk to the capital. Much of the crowd recognized us as Americans and would shout "Thank you for coming!" and "Thank you, Americans" or "It's is a good day!" to which we would shout our congratulations. There was a mess of people, with the majority of the women dressed up in traditional African dresses, brightly colored. The Liberians could not get up to the Captial building for the ceremony, but instead lined the street to watch the diplomatic convoys speed past and to listen to live reports on small hand-held radios. In several groups across town, men would beat on tribal drums while the women would swirl around in dances.

We made it to the gates of the Capital and were able to listen to the cremony from less than 200 yards away, but our view was blocked of the actual stage. When the seven foreign heads of state were being introduced, the loudest cheer for the president of Nigeria, who had initially come in in 2003 to stabalize the place. But after moving on to other DVs, the applause for Laura Bush was much louder; but nothing approached the reception for Condoleezza Rice.

Ellen's speech was good, talking at length about the desperate poverty in the country and the need of regular jobs for the heads of most households. But, she riled the crowd up the most when she spoke, at length, on the need to eliminate corruption in the government. After claiming that her words were not just the feeble promises of another politician, she announced a new policy that every single member of her administration must declare all their financial assets publicly, and this was the biggest applause line of the day. Then, to ensure that certain people got the message, she said that she expects that the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempe do the same. Here's to hoping that she can carry through on this.






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