In August 1979, President William Tolbert, Jr. appointed Liberia’s first female minister of finance, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The vacancy arose in part due to the economic fall-out associated with the high cost of hosting the 16th summit of the Organization of African Unity in Monrovia the previous month.
When Liberian President William Tolbert was slaughtered on the top floor of his executive mansion on the early hours of Aril 12th, he knew that his presidency was under threat from several corners.
In July 1979, President William R. Tolbert Jr. of Liberia basked in glory in a purpose-built conference hall on the banks of the St. Paul River, which for over a century had served as an important conduit for the country’s Americo-Liberian settlers to penetrate the interior of a land which had attracted black American settlers since 1822.
Cecil Dennis had made waves a few years earlier during July 4th celebrations at the U.S. Embassy when, as his brother notes, “he made very sharp remarks” criticizing the U.S.’ lack of support for Liberian development, comparing it unfavorably to the efforts of the British and French to support their West African colonies.
If the publicity around Helene Cooper’s new book is a reliable indicator, one would be hard pressed to expect a biography that does anything but draw on the tried and true single story that paints Liberia as a land torn by violence, where accountability is a luxury, and in which there is little to celebrate except the novelty of its female chief executive.
Over the past week and a half, my social media feeds have been flooded with pictures and musings from Liberian journalists in the United States, primarily as a result of a meeting of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the United States.
According to the international travel guidebooks on West Africa – whose sections on Liberia are invariably the smallest – Robertsport is THE place to holiday in Liberia. I too was eager to visit Robertsport, but not for the same reasons.
A review of Choosing the Hero, a book by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Chief Lobbyist, K. Riva Levinson.