The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to The Honorable Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia for her work in promoting peace, democracy and gender equality. Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president, has played an important role in reducing the country’s national debt and promoting investment in agriculture.
She shares this award with two other inspiring women activists, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee and Yemeni pro-democracy campaigner, Tawakul Karma.
The Nobel Committee paid tribute to Sirleaf for her contribution “to securing peace in Liberia, to promoting economic and social development, and to strengthening the position of women”.
Sirleaf, is campaigning under the slogan “Monkey still working, let baboon wait small” which is splayed across giant billboards in the capital.
In Liberian patois, this means she is the monkey, the clever creature in the tree (power) and the opposition needs to let her finish the job she started.
While feted abroad much like a female Nelson Mandela, Sirleaf has come under criticism at home and Liberians seem to be wondering whether the prestigious prize so close to the country’s closely watched second post-war polls was merited.
Before serving as President of Liberia, she served as Minister of Finance under President William Tolbert from 1979 until the 1980 coup d’état, after which she left Liberia and held senior positions at various financial institutions. She placed a very distant second in the 1997 presidential election. Later, she was elected President in the 2005 presidential election and took office on 16 January 2006.
Sirleaf is the first and currently the only elected female head of state in Africa.