Remarks With Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Secretary of State
Thank you for coming, Secretary Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. I am delighted to be here with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a leader whom I admire and someone who has provided great leadership for her country. I bring warm greetings from President Obama, both to the president and to the people of Liberia.
In our meeting, I conveyed a message to President Sirleaf that I’ve echoed at other points during this trip. The United States believes in America’s – in Africa’s promise and Africa’s future, and we particularly believe in the promise and future of Liberia. The relationship between our two countries goes back to the earliest days of your (inaudible).
Today, Liberia is a model of successful transition from conflict to post-conflict, from lawlessness to democracy, from despair to hope. For the last three years, the people of this country have been working to promote reform, reconstruction, and reconciliation. Liberia has adopted sound fiscal policy and seen strong economic growth. We just had a briefing about that, and it is impressive the way that Liberia has decreased its debt, which was run up, of course, during years of conflict, and has had a high rate of GDP growth over these last years. And the government is inclusive, especially for women, which I take great pleasure in noting.
President Sirleaf and I and her cabinet members and the members of government spoke about the work ahead. There is a very clear sense of direction that this government has demonstrated, and, of course, we have to continue to provide the support that Liberia so richly deserves.
Throughout my trip, I have underscored the reality that economic progress depends on good governance, adherence to the rule of law, sound economic policies. And the United States is proud to be contributing $17.5 million for programs to help Liberia ensure that the elections of 2011 are free and fair.
Later today, I will have the honor of addressing a joint session of the national legislature, and I will speak there about the crucial role of a legislature in providing responsible and responsive governance and championing national reconciliation. There is a lot to be done. And as a former senator myself, I know that effective legislating takes hard work, patience, and compromise, and (inaudible) is absolutely necessary. And Liberia today needs that kind of leadership from its elected representatives.
I will also visit the national police academy and speak to new police recruits, along with the president. Liberians need to know that they can rely on local authorities to protect them, and mothers should not be afraid to send their children to school, business owners should be assured that their shops will be safe, and investors confident that violence or corruption will not disrupt commerce. The local law enforcement needs the training and resources to do its job. And I am proud that the United States will be expanding its commitment to work with the Government of Liberia, the United Nations, and other partners to continue and complete the development of an effective, democratic (inaudible) police force here in Liberia.
We also are working to build new partnerships (inaudible) society and nongovernmental organizations and to encourage more trade and investment, and particularly the development of the agricultural sector. The people of Liberia have proven their strength, their resourcefulness, and their resilience. They hold their own future and the future of their country and their children in their hands. But the people of the United States are proud to stand with them and you, President Sirleaf, in working to deliver the kind of future that the people of this country deserve.
Thank you very much.
MODERATOR: (Inaudible) first question from the international press (inaudible) Jeffrey (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, let me say that this has been an absolutely wonderful trip. I am grateful to all of the countries who received me and my delegation. This was a very important trip that both President Obama and I wanted to make early in the Administration to send a very clear message that the Obama Administration is committed to developing an even stronger and closer relationship with not just the government, but especially the people of Africa. We are near the end of this trip, and it is only appropriate to be here in Liberia where our relationship goes back so many years. And at every stop, we have emphasized the importance of fulfilling what President Obama said in his historic speech in Ghana. The future of Africa is up to the Africans, just like the future of Liberia is up to Liberians.
But all of us know that given the conflicts and the challenges that have often prevented the African people from realizing their full potential, the United States stands ready to be a partner and a friend in helping to overcome the obstacles and create the environment for the kind of development that President Sirleaf is working on so hard here.
So I’ve had a great time on this trip. I opened this newspaper – I think she looks like she’s having a great time. And from my perspective, the most important part of this trip is the relationships that we have built, the commitments that we have discussed, the problems that we have honestly explored. We have not shied away from raising the difficult problems that exist and stand in the way of the people of Africa realizing their potential. And I think that will stand the test of time, and I’m very proud of the trip that we have made together.
PRESIDENT JOHNSON-SIRLEAF: (Inaudible.) I’m pleased that corruption – long influenced, long covered – is now being exposed (inaudible) catapulted so that we can deal with it. We have already adopted anti-corruption strategies, we have tried to strengthen the institutional (inaudible) the anti-corruption commission. We have (inaudible) program. What we now need is to enforce and to implement all of those laws and institutional arrangements that we have put in place. (Inaudible) that our judiciary is (inaudible) fight and has taken steps to get (inaudible) that is committed to doing all it can to enforce the (inaudible).
It’s also (inaudible) benefit by increasing (inaudible), all of them has contributed to corruption. We now need for the public and the media to recognize the progress and to join us in this fight, which is not limited to government, but (inaudible) in all of the society. Together, we will win, we will slay this monster.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am very impressed by the steps that Liberia is taking to combat corruption. Corruption is a problem everywhere. It is a cancer that eats away at the strength of institutions and the confidence of people in their government and in each other. And the steps that the president has just outlined are very important, more advanced than many other countries.
And remember, this has been a democracy for three years. And I think that the people of Liberia should continue to speak out against corruption, to demand changes, not just from the government, but from themselves and their societies, because that is important as well. And so from the actions that have been taken, we’ve seen a commitment by President Sirleaf and her government and the legislature which passed the laws. Now they have to implement them. You’ve got good laws on the books. Now they have to implement them. So I think that the emphasis that the president places on implementation is exactly right.
I also believe that the steps that have been taken in this post-conflict democracy to bring the country together are absolutely essential. I am very supportive of actions that will lead to the peace, reconciliation, and unity of Liberia. And I believe that President Sirleaf has been a very effective leader on behalf of the (inaudible) Liberia, and the United States officially supports what this government is doing. That is why we have put in so much aid over the years. It’s why we’re going to continue to be a strong partner with the Government of Liberia, because we see, in a very broad perspective, the difficulties that are being overcome and the successes that are being achieved in both meeting the problems, but also in seizing the opportunities that Liberia now has.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Our official commitment is we support what this government is doing and what President Sirleaf is doing, and are supporting the steps that are being taken.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We can hear you. We can hear you, Michel.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m going to let the president address this, but of course, it’s a sign of support. We indeed have looked at the entire record that President Sirleaf brings to office, her performance in office, the accomplishments of the government she leads. And we are (inaudible) and will continue to be so because we think that Liberia is on the right track, as difficult as the path might be. And we will not underestimate the difficulties.
We just had a briefing from the agriculture minister, who is over there. (Inaudible) post-conflict era inherited a devastating agricultural sector. All the livestock were gone. They have been killed, eaten in the course of the conflict, which drives people from their homes, which forces them to have to survive. Many of the plant life was (inaudible) regeneration of agricultural productivity was decimated.
I look at what President Sirleaf has (inaudible) in the past two years, and I see a very accomplished leader dedicated to the betterment of the Liberian people, who has been consistent in her leadership on behalf of solving the problems that Liberia faces, to let Liberians (inaudible) a peaceful future with prosperity and opportunity.
MODERATOR: (Inaudible) final question (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, with respect to our aid, we have provided a great deal of aid, and a significant amount directly to the government (inaudible) government (inaudible) providing technical assistance and other kinds of support (inaudible) to increase the capacity of the government to serve the people.
We are working to train the police force, which is something that the Government of Liberia places a very high priority on. We are working to help train the military. We are working in just about every sector of society. And some of it is direct support and some of it is to experts who have experience in performing the jobs that Liberia needs performed.
So it’s a mix and it will continue to be a mix, but we work very closely with the Liberian Government. We take their lead on what their priorities are, and we will continue to do so. Later today, I’ll be announcing some help for the airport. We think it’s important to try to upgrade the airport so that you can get more flights in and out of Monrovia that can then enhance the economic growth of the country. We have a very large food security program that President Obama has announced, and Liberia will be a good partner state to work with. So we will be working with the government, with small and medium-sized farmers and food processors.
So there’s a variety of approaches that we try to do to find the best way to solve the problems or to deliver the results. We are constantly asking ourselves, as is the government here in Liberia: Is this the best way, and how can we do it better? And we will (inaudible) that, because our goal is to help you solve the problems and create the environment for further growth. That’s what we want to do, and to help you solidify democracy and good governance and the rule of law, and root out corruption and have a security force that will protect your people. All of that is what the Liberian Government and the Liberian people have requested. So we will continue to work on that.
And I have no other – nothing to add to your second question that I haven’t already said.
PRESIDENT JOHNSON-SIRLEAF: Secretary Clinton, let me not let that impression go unaddressed. It is not correct to say that U.S. aid has not had an impact. If you look at where we were two and a half years ago and you look at the development today under each of our four pillars in the poverty reduction strategy, you see roads being constructed, you see buildings that are (inaudible), you see farms starting to operate again. We do not enjoy direct budgetary support from the United States because that is the policy of the United States. But the NGOs and several other programs do (inaudible) with our development agenda and our (inaudible) priorities. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: (Laughter.) Thank you. Thank you very much.
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