AFRICAN leaders should not only respect the constitution and the rule of law but also know that it’s time for leadership change, says outgoing Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. And President Sirleaf, who will be stepping down next month, twelve years since becoming the first woman to be elected Head of State of an African country, says the continent has not worked hard enough on women political leadership.
Responding to a question from CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who asked her what message she was sending by leaving office when the continent had many dictators for life, President Sirleaf said if African leaders were going to practice democracy, then they have to lead by example by leaving office in accordance with the constitution.
“I am sending a strong signal that not only should we respect the constitution and the law, but it also means that it’s time for generational change. There are young people that are vying for leadership, they have the capacity, they have the passion and
capability and it’s time for them to take over and we have to make way for them,”
President Sirleaf said.
Asked what she would like to say to Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, and President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea who have been in power for a long time, President Sirleaf said her message was that they should never keep the presidency for life.
“We have to set the example and if you look around, things have changed considerably,” she said.
President Sirleaf also said the fact that when she leaves office there shall be no female head of state was a sign that Africans haven’t worked hard enough.
“It tells that we haven’t worked hard enough for parity, particularly in political participation. It saddens me to say this because I represented breaking the glass ceiling in Africa and a lot of black African women out there haven’t quite reached there. But the queue is forming,”
President Sirleaf added that her presidency brought good aspirations to women and girls in Liberia and Africa. She said women in Liberia perceived male leaders as the ones who brought war, death and destruction since its independence in 1847 hence their decision to vote for her.
“In 2006, we inherited a destroyed nation, but managed to restore basic services that had been missing over two decades. We ensured that we brought Liberia back to becoming a viable nation,” said President Sirleaf.