Outgoing Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, says Liberians are duty bound to maintain and consolidate the peace they have enjoyed over the last decade.
Speaking in an interview with the BBC, the 78-year-old, who is sub-Saharan Africa’s first female president, stressed that the west African country cannot go back to conflict. She said conflict had set them three decades back and that it was in the interest of Liberians to remain peaceful.
Asked about her topmost message to her fellow citizens, she responded: “Maintain the peace, we cannot go back to conflict. Our country was set back over 30 years because of conflict. The underpinnings of everything we have done is the peace that we have secured and that was not easy.
But today I'm so pleased that now, our first generation of children can say they do not know anything about a gun, they never have to run.
“It took a lot of managing, tolerance, compromises and everything that kept the peace because without the peace, we would not have done what we have. But today I’m so pleased that now, our first generation of children can say they do not know anything about a gun, they never have to run.
“And I think the Liberian people appreciate today (that) they have the freedom to talk, they can pursue their dreams, they are no more afraid and in the future there is great hope.”
She said she was happy to be abiding by the consitution and to step down later this year as voters go to the polls to pick her successor. She expressed happiness at having played a key role in restoring the country to the path of democracy and development.
“I’m feeling good, I think my purpose of bringing Liberia back to restore basic services, to promote democracy to maintain the peace – I think largely – those objectives have been met. I’m also committed to the democratic process which says after two terms you leave.
“I’m pleased I’m doing that, I think it sends a great signal to leaders all over the world and it’s time for (you know) the new generation to take over,” she added.
Liberians vote to replace her in 2017 after she spent two straight terms as president. She took over the country at the end of the civil war that saw former leader, Charles Taylor, jailed by an international court for war crimes. She is credited with returning the country to stability over the last decade.
Sirleaf has overseen a rising economy that was badly hit by the outbreak of Ebola years ago. Her critics accuse her of sheilding corrupt officials and also of engaging in nepotism. She received Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in Liberia’s return to peace.