Infrastructure is key for progress in Liberian elections

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf hasn’t gone out once to show support for her deputy during the whole of the election campaign. She’s been calling for generational change and saying that she wants the country’s youth to take over the mantle of leadership. This, according to many observers, is a clear sign that Sirleaf favors any candidate over 72-year-old Joseph Nyuma Boakai. Liberians believe that the rift between Sirleaf and her deputy was caused by the party’s decision to force Boakai on her. She hadn’t wanted him for her deputy for another six-year term when elections were held in 2011. In an interview with Boakai this week Boakai said that he didn’t know what he had done to hurt Sirleaf, Africa’s first female president.

DW: You’ve been part of this government for the last two terms, but most Liberians say they have not seen any development. Why should Liberians vote for you in order to get the same government policies as before?

Boakai: Well, if the Liberians say that they haven’t seen any development. I think they may not have been very honest with you because this government has done quite a lot. This government is on record with having surpassed all governments that have come before it in terms of achievement. You are not going to resolve all the difficulties of 170 years in just 12 years. Generally we know that the government has achieved a lot.

What do you think are some of the pressing issues that need to be addressed by whomever becomes the next president?

My belief is that our infrastructure needs to be fully developed, and that we need to move up. I am also experiencing during my campaigns that it’s difficult to get around in this country, even with all the resources we have. We believe first and foremost that we have to open up this country.

Do you mean to say that the Unity Party didn’t realize that in the past 12 years?

The Unity Party has its own limitations. You know very well that apart from the general global economic situation, we had a setback because of Ebola, and we also had a setback from the fact that this society lacks the relevant human capacity for development. We have a huge number of young people who need to be brought on board; they need to be educated and given vocational training to be able to contribute to nation building.

What do you make of the president’s call for a generational change in government considering that you are in your 70s?

The president is older than I am, so it might be another generation that she is thinking about. The one thing that I know is that our constitution spells out the number of years you have to attain before you can run for presidency. So she’s not the one to define that.

How do you intend to deal with the people who committed atrocities in Liberia in case you become the next president?

It’s a whole process. When the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] came out with a report – they made recommendations and some of these recommendations have been addressed. I don’t believe that reconciliation in this country is going to be difficult because Liberia is a country I know very well, whose people are willing and ready to reconcile under conditions that we know we can handle very well.

The TRC also recommended that people who committed atrocities during the war should be prevented from occupying public office. But we’ve seen candidates notorious for serious atrocities campaigning for the presidency like Prince Johnson. What’s your take?

A lot of people who have been accused of atrocities are already in public office, so the next government will decide the way forward. I am not going to talk about the past – I will talk about the future.

Joseph Boakai is Liberia’s vice president and the ruling party’s presidential candidate

Interview: Abu Bakarr Jalloh and Evelyn Kpadeh

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Deutsche Welle 1
Guest Author

‘My biggest fear was getting the virus and dying in...

South African Wuhan evacuee speaks about his nine-week ordeal

Border walls don’t stop viruses, but a blanket amnesty might

Why South Africa should consider amnesty for undocumented migrants in the time of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mail & Guardian needs your help

Our job is to help give you the information we all need to participate in building this country, while holding those in power to account. But now the power to help us keep doing that is in your hands

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories