Vickie Remoe Institute of Digital Communications

Liberia’s Leymah Gbowee from peace champion to “disgrace to womanhood”


Leymah Gbowee at an appearance on the Daily Show last year

Wherever Lehmah Gbowee is right now she is probably feeling very alone. She resigned her post as Liberia’s Peace and Reconciliation Commissioner last week and said that President Johnson Sirleaf is nepotistic and that her government is corrupt. For this, Gbowee is being vilified in the Liberian press.

In response to Gbowee’s statement 50 women’s groups together released a statement denouncing her in support of the president. Other’s have said that her actions are motivated by book sales. But President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf appointed 3 of her 4 sons to key government agencies. And these appointments have not been secret. Sirleaf even suspended one of her sons for failure to declare his assets.

A 24-year-old Liberian woman I spoke to today said Leymah Gbowee was well aware of the state of corruption in the current government before she took her post. She wondered why Gbowee waited all this while to speak up and why she took up the post in the first instance? Both are legitimate concerns that only Gbowee can answer.

But as someone who has held two government jobs next door in Sierra Leone. I can say that it is never easy to speak up against corruption especially if you have personal relationships with the perpetrators. I can’t say why Gbowee chose this very moment coinciding with the launch of the French language version of her book. But I don’t think that it matters when or where you decide to take a stand and speak truth to power. Publicity stunt or not, corruption in Liberia is real and it must take a lot of guts and spirit for Gbowee to speak up against her mentor.

We all worship on the altar of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf because of what she represents for women in leadership in Africa. But does this mean that we should be complicit in her wrong doing? We must make room for tolerance and dissent in developing democracies such as Liberia and Sierra Leone. So many people have their hands in government coffers that they become political sycophants intolerant of anyone who says anything contrary to the usual praise and worship of the president.

It is a sad day for Liberia to read that the same women who applauded Gbowee’s 2011 Nobel Peace Prize win now call her a disgrace to womanhood. Now they say  Gbowee did not deserve the Nobel Prize. They say she was a mere spokesperson. Oh Africa you noh dey fear? If membership to the “womanhood” club means that African women are not allowed to speak truth to power then count me out. Whether you agree with how Gbowee chose to speak up or not the facts remains that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is nepotistic and corruption is still a problem for the Liberian government.


1 comment

  1. Les 18 October, 2012 at 18:27

    a complex situation sure. both admirable women as far as I know though I’ve only met Leymah. why do we tend so strongly towards black & white? there is value in grey wherein much of the truth resides.

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