Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday in recognition of her work promoting the rights and safety of women. Sirleaf, standing as the first woman president to be democratically elected in Africa, took office in 2005 following a 14-year civil war. The Washington Post credits Sirleaf with alleviating 5 billion dollars of international debt, improving access to education and healthcare, and fostering peace within a wounded political environment.
The New York Times voices the opinions of Sirleaf’s opponents who not only feel that Sirleaf has done too little for the country, leaving less than one in five people employed with a full-time job, but also resent the timing of the Nobel Peace Prize coming a week before the elections. Winston Tubman, Sirleaf’s opponent in the presidential race and a fellow Harvard graduate, calls the granting of the Nobel Peace Prize “a provocative interference in our election. ” Despite signs that the Nobel Peace Prize may not carry much political weight for the majority of Liberians, the motives of the West must be examined. Michael Keating, a professor at UMass in Boston, believes that the Nobel committee displayed “condescension toward an African political process which is very fragile, and really needs a different kind of support.”
The West has no right to try and tilt the Liberian election in the direction of their preference, yet it is perhaps dipping a little too far into the other side of paternalistic politics to state that the African political process “really needs a different type of support.”