/ 23 November 2005

Congratulations, Madam President

Election officials on Wednesday confirmed Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the winner in Liberia’s post-war elections, making her Africa’s first-ever elected female President.

”Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, having received the highest number of votes in the run-off, is hereby declared the winner,” National Elections Commission chairperson Frances Johnson-Morris said of the November 8 run-off vote whose results had been contested by Johnson-Sirleaf’s rival, soccer superstar George Weah.

Weah had charged fraud.

United Nations peacekeepers armed with batons and rifles were deployed in the heart of the capital, Monrovia, where angry Weah supporters have previously clashed with UN peacekeepers. Traffic was not allowed into the area.

With all ballots counted, election officials earlier said Johnson-Sirleaf received 59,4% of the vote to Weah’s 40,6%.

The election commission confirmed the tally on Wednesday — officially naming her Liberia’s president-in-waiting and first woman to win an election to date to be an African president. Her inauguration is scheduled for January.

Johnson-Sirleaf has served as her country’s finance minister and taken on top jobs at Citibank and the UN. She is a widowed mother-of-four who also has eight grandchildren. Last week, Liberia’s National Elections Commission opened an investigation into seven electoral fraud complaints filed by Weah’s party.

The elections were the first since a 1989-2003 civil war, and international observers have said they were largely free and fair, with only a few small irregularities. About 15 000 UN peacekeepers are now ensuring calm in Liberia. — Sapa-AP