By Ivor S. Moore
|President-Elect Donald Trump||President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf|
The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States of America was obviously received with unprecedented anxiety shockwaves not only by citizens and immigrants within its borders but by all nations of the world. Despite his pacifying victory speech calling for unity and offering to work with all countries wishing to work with America, uncertainties reduction in the wide and threat-worthy statements of the Trump’s Phenomenon of making ‘America great again’ cannot be guaranteed in mere speech which was soon shadowed while still in flight by his recent confirmation to effect his campaign time deportation promise, thus striking strong attestation to his puzzling unpredictability.
Diplomacy compelled many world leaders to honor the will of the American people and offer congratulatory messages to President-elect Donald Trump, however expressing their uncertainties through the indirection of hoping to have cordial working relations with the United States. Even Xi Jinping, president of China, whose country Trump feels is threatening the American economy and hoaxing the climate change advocacy would “look forward to working together with the new US administration to push forward consistent, healthy and stable China-US relations which could be beneficial to the people of the two countries and to the world.”
Unlike the rest of the world leaders who sent best wishes to Americans and their president-elect, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf surprised the entire world with her responses. In her first response during a BBC interview she lamented:
“We are extremely saddened by the missed opportunity on the part of the people of the United States to join smaller democracies in ending the marginalization of women…We are concerned as to whether president-elect Trump will have an African agenda, will be able to build bridges with Africa…I’m worried about trade deals for Liberia, for Africa; I’m worried about investment and the special programs that have been put in place by President Obama and by President George Bush before him.
“And we just don’t know what the new policy towards Africa will be under a Trump administration. We’ll have to wait and see. Obviously, we are concerned but we have to just give him the benefit of the doubt.”
After numerous attacks from the press, public and key political actors, a Foreign Ministry release intimated that the president later congratulated the American people and their president-elect, expressing her delight to working together “to further broaden our historical relationship in all spheres and ongoing initiatives including the Liberia-U.S. Partnership Dialogue.”
Madam Sirleaf’s dispense with diplomacy in her initial response to the US presidential election result has been treated with both praise and condemnation-praise that she was bold enough to speak the truth what others could not say, and condemnation that it did more bad than good as it could worsen American’s relation with Liberia, something Trump might not have been thinking about as even Africa as a continent was kept out of his tough talks. The second response has further the debate. The argument continues to swear among Liberians, most times occasioned by heavy shouting matches of claims and counter claims at intellectual centers and on the media, especially on radio and Facebook.
Absolutely, the two remarks of President Sirleaf, the first stating her regret and concern over the election of Donald Trump or rather the defeat of Hillary Clinton and the second sending congratulations and seeking cordial and enhanced working relations, call for careful consideration. Its propensity to mean good or evil will affect the entire country as well. Thus we must set out to perform this task, leaving behind our own prejudices with the madam or Trump.
Let us dissect, first and foremost, the nature of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s initial statement over the US elections’ result and reconcile it with the second. In so doing, we will dismiss or accept one of the various claims and counter claims on the basis of the most acceptable hypothesis we shall form to test and derive at a conclusion of the matter. Otherwise, we shall form a synthesis of the thesis and anti-thesis.
With keen observation, we can derive at two assertions in Madam Sirleaf’s initial statement. In the first she plays to the gender card, holding America’s feet to it leading role as a global advocate of women rights. Thus, she is “extremely saddened by this missed opportunity on the part of the people of the United States to join smaller democracies in ending the marginalization of women."
In the wisdom of our president, the United States by not electing Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump has defaulted in its role as a leader in the fight for women political empowerment and has thus played the opposite by marginalizing women. What a charge?
For a fact, while a lady has not been elected to the two highest seats of office in America, there is no ground to assert to the contrary that Americans have long passed the question of women marginalization far beyond the average toward zero-sum. Women have as equal opportunities as men and women rights are strong as children’s rights. Women have been elected as governors and members of the legislature and have served in top positions of the executive and judiciary. Even Hillary has held high profile positions such as senator and secretary of state, a position that is equivalent president on foreign affairs.
Interestingly, gender was not the defining issue in the US elections. Hillary Clinton’s gender was not discriminated against. There is no evidence, whatsoever, to prove that Trump won on gender lines. The major contradictions during the US elections bordered on the questions of immigration, economy, security and so forth.
But whether in America or not, to not vote for a woman in an election does not just amount to marginalization of that woman. For a woman to contest against a male does not give her the clearance to win. Other intricacies are involved that she must address herself to in order to prove worthy of electors’ votes. This is not a question of affirmative action.
That Madam Sirleaf will say that she is deeply saddened with the American people by the presidential result which gave Trump victory over Clinton is unwarrantable for the fact that the latter won the popular votes and was never discriminated against as a lady. She lost because of the Electoral College system which was enshrined in the constitution of the United States by the country’s founding fathers with no prejudice to sex or whatever. The American people by number voted Clinton but the unbiased electoral law choose Trump.
In the second part of her first statement, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s is concerned over the relations of Liberia in particular and Africa in general with America under the presidency of Donald Trump. She is obviously not alone on this point. The statements of world leaders are full of indirect references to same. But by this concern, proceeding her initial charge of the marginalization of women, which bears close proximity or interrelationship than not with the initial from a careful contextual analyses of the two, places her far out of the matrix of the nature of the concern shared by other world leaders.
Our president must understand that for Trump to attempt to “make America great again” he is not going to play an isolation game. He will have to foster favorable international trade deals with nations, especially Africans nations with their emerging markets. Liberia has the necessary resources for American to want to enhance trade with. And we should not forget the long diplomatic ties. Isolation internationally will mean destroying America and giving clearance to China to grow as the world’s number one economic giant.
But if the concern is turned to the aid question, it ought not to be an issue in the case of Liberia. Liberia needs to stop breasting on foreign aid if she must grow. She has to reconsider her macroeconomic policies and properly managed her abundant resources for the common good. If she ventures into renegotiating her backward concessions and ensures mechanisms for Liberians to take charge of their economic affairs, whatever package Trump has for Liberia and Africa, whether favorable or not, will be of less importance. A country like Cuba which has fewer resources was able to rise to prosperity for several years under worst relations with America.
Against the foregoing, the second response can be said to be a patch-up of the first. And it is clear here that the Madam knew she had blundered in her initial response. But this is late upon arrival as the gravity of the first has already been sustained and no cover up can reverse the situation. What she ought to have done earlier was done last, thus losing its weight. The contradiction is glaring.
We are thus posed to inquire: If Madam Sirleaf’s gender card is unfounded, what is the actual cause behind her being “extremely saddened” by Clinton’s loss of the American presidency? What relations has this got to do with her latter concern which also has got no strong ground? And why would she choose to make a cover or a damage control statement afterward?
Surprisingly, our president did not openly express grief over Hillary’s initial loss to Obama as the Democratic Party nominee for the presidency in 2008. She did not express similar pity when Joyce Banda lost the Malawian presidency? She was not extremely saddened when Amb. Miatta Fahnbulleh and other female representative and senatorial aspirants lost in various elections in Liberia. Unlike the case of America where the popular votes won by Clinton was subordinated for the Electoral College results, these were cases where the people actually voted against females. In the case of Liberia, President Sirleaf did not go beyond party lines to support these females if she really has been concerned about ending gender marginalization.
It is worthy of reminder that this is not the first time madam Sirleaf has been ‘extremely saddened’ by election results. In 1985 she was ‘extremely saddened’ with the victory of Samuel K. Doe instead of Jackson F. Doe that she refused to hold office as senator-elect of Montserrado County. Terming the president-elect as “numbskull” she left Liberia only to become a major lobbyist and financier of the NPFL to unseat the president.
The reasoning can still follow that she was “extremely saddened” by the 1997 elections results that brought Charles Taylor, another numbskull, to power rather than her.
The aftermath of her disfavor of these results saw the country plundered to nil. Today, Liberians are still deeply hunted by the psychological repercussions, among others.
Interestingly, President Sirleaf has held the mantle of power for close to twelve years and Liberians have barely got appreciably the opposite of what the numbskulls did that she was saddened by to the extend that she had to support a deadly civil war. The end is not very different from the means.
If her dismal performance as president of Liberia clearly contrasts with her numbskull charges against Doe and most possibly against Taylor, one would thus argue that the president had been saddened or frustrated all the while with her predecessors because of personal interest. Their election to the presidency meant a blockade to her personal ambition. Accordingly, we have a possible key to unlocking the puzzle of her frustration with the American elections’ result. With all other options reasonably dismissed, this is the only hypothesis we have to test.
It is an open secret that the Liberian president has been a friend to Hillary Clinton for up to three decades. In 1995, when Hillary was First Lady and Ellen was Director General of UNDP, they both attended the 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing. Over the years they became confidants. Hillary even played a major role in Ellen’s bid for the Liberian presidency. In return, the latter supported the former against Obama as the democratic nominee for the American presidency in 2008 and against Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
We can see that the women marginalization question is driving on the ‘friend lane’. But we must go further beyond the horizon for better view. This will therefore bring us to the only option that can fit the puzzle: Self Interest. How does this apply will require us to drive further.
If president Sirleaf’s government has barely performed in improving the material conditions of the masses of Liberians; if she has totally concessioned almost all resources to foreign monopoly capitalists at a long term detriment of the state and its people, it follows that her concern cannot really be about Liberia but personal. And this can only be explained from the perspective that, as an outgoing president who played in many muddy waters, she needed Washington’s protection for her family, cronies and herself from persecution either for war crimes or corruption. Unarguably, Hillary Clinton would have been the best person to do so.
For her, like Taylor and Doe, Donald Trump is another “numbskull” who wouldn’t care what happened to her after her tenure. He could not be trusted. Hence, she threw her lot for her friend whom she trusted would have done everything possible to give her all necessary protection.
Quite frankly, nothing has been of more concern to Madam Sirleaf than her personal fate and the fate of her family members and close allies. So, out of frustration with the American presidential election result, Madam Sirleaf elected to dispense with diplomacy at the very detriment of the relations she claimed to be concerned of. It was V.I. Lenin who said that “a man on the tip of a cliff does not reason.”
The final congratulatory, or better still contradictory, statement, arguably, was a tryout since the damage has already been caused, hoping that she could win Trump’s pity. However, this does not alter the truth behind her initial statement which, given all analyses, expressed her frustration and self interest over the national interest.
Indeed, the reverberating shockwaves over Donald Trump’s presidency have struck a devastating blow on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s hope of Washington’s protection of her and her cronies from prosecution for war crimes and or corruption in Liberia. With this hope hugely dashed in the defeat of her friend Hillary Clinton and all prospects of winning favor from ruthless Donald Trump in the immediacy or in the future hugely unlikely, she had to do the unwarrantable as head of Liberia. But her further pacifying statement does not guarantee that Trump will ever grant her personal desire.
The last button on Joe’s coat lies in doing all in her presidential power to have a successor who will favor or pity her. But this too is becoming ever unlikely as the political variables in the country are signaling that Liberia’s so-called “greatest political tsar ever” seems to be losing the power of her magic wane. And the victory of Donald Trump against not only Hillary Clinton but against the American establishment is the source of this impetus. Our Iron Lady is already feeling the deadly rusting breeze of time.
About the author: Ivor S. Moore is a young social activist and writer. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org