But of course! The new President of Liberia
was a charter member of Eta Beta Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
- our first international chapter.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia's former minister of finance, was one of only four government ministers to survive the country's 1980 coup d'état. On March 2005, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf resigned from her position as chair of Liberia's Governance Reform Commission in order to enter Liberia's presidential race. Ms. Johnson Sirleaf was, until 2003, chair of the board of directors of the Open Society Institute in West Africa, establishing a society marked by functioning democracy, full civic participation, good governance, and the rule of law. Ms. Johnson Sirleaf has represented Liberia at the African Development Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. She spent five years as assistant administrator and director of the United Nations Development Programme's Regional Bureau for Africa, later running for president of Liberia in 1997. In 1999, the Organization of African Unity named her and six others to a body that investigated the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Caught in a cycle of violence for some 25 years, Liberia has seen more than 200,000 people killed and half a million displaced, out of a pre-war population of three million. After the 1997 general elections, low-intensity conflict took hold and spread to neighboring countries. The head of Liberia’s Governance Reform Commission until March 2005 when she resigned to enter the presidential race, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
has not been insulated from the violence in her country. During the 1980 coup d’etat, she was one of only four government ministers to escape assassination, and she has twice been imprisoned for her politics. Over the course of her career, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf has held such prominent positions as minister of finance of Liberia, president of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment, and senior loan officer of the World Bank. Ms. Johnson Sirleaf has represented Liberia on the boards of the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank; she also served five years as assistant administrator and director of the regional bureau for Africa of the United Nations Development Programme with the rank of assistant secretary general of the UN. In the 1997 elections, she ran as a presidential candidate, finishing second in a field of thirteen. Ms. Johnson Sirleaf founded and continues to support Measuagoon, a community development organization with projects throughout Liberia. She is the recipient of numerous international honors, including the Grand Commander Star of Africa Redemption from Liberia (1980), the Franklin D. Roosevelt Freedom of Speech Award from the United States (1988), The Ralph Bunche International Leadership Award (OIC, USA – 1995), and Commandeur de l’Ordre du Mono
from Togo (1996). She holds a master of public administration degree from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Ms. Johnson Sirleaf’s peace-building activities include:
- investigating the Rwandan genocide in 1999 as one of seven international “Eminent Personalities” selected by the Organization of African Unity—the group later published the report The Preventable Genocide;
- co-authoring Women, War and Peace: The Independent Experts’ Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Women’s Role in Peace-building (2002), a project of UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for Women); and
- serving as a board member for the International Crisis Group and the Nelson Mandela Foundation and as initial chair of the board of directors of the Open Society Institute for West Africa, which disburses $10 million per year in grants to organizations working in the areas of human rights (including women’s political and economic empowerment), democracy and governance, media and technology (including information and communications technologies), legal reform and transitional justice, and HIV/AIDS.