Tough test for Nobel Peace prize-winner in Liberia vote

view gallery VIEW GALLERY



Liberia goes to the polls tomorrow in a tense contest that pits this year's Nobel Peace prize-winner against a former world footballer of the year in a country still recovering from a prolonged and savage civil war. The incumbent, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, must see off a strong challenge from an opposition counting on the popularity of its vice-presidential candidate George Weah, who has a passionate grassroots following.

Africa's only freely elected female president was boosted by the return of her compatriot and fellow Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee yesterday, who cut short a promotional tour of the US to come and campaign for her. She said Mrs Johnson Sirleaf had "done a great job" in the six years since winning the first post-war election and should be returned to office. "I cannot be a hypocrite, I am for women and peace and women in politics," said Ms Gbowee.

The prize jury in Oslo has faced criticism over the timing of such a high profile award so close to polling day in the West African nation but Mrs Johnson Sirleaf said that was "mere coincidence".

Ruling party supporters rallying in Monrovia yesterday waved banners proclaiming their candidate as a Nobel winner but she tried to play down the importance of the prize. "At the end of the day it will not affect our election," she insisted. "The Liberian people will choose on the basis of the many years of knowing who we are and what we have done, not because of any Nobel peace prize."

Her supporters were gathering last night at the national stadium for the final rally of an often acrimonious campaign in which both sides have accused each other of war-mongering. Tens of thousands of opposition supporters had thronged the capital on Friday braving torrential rain in a peaceful show of strength.

The opposition has cited Mrs Johnson Sirleaf's support for Charles Taylor during the civil war – which she now says she regrets – as evidence that the Nobel prize was a mistake.

Former football star Mr Weah accused the Nobel jury of getting it "all wrong" in calling her a peacemaker. "The Nobel prize is for people with credibility, with dignity," he told The Independent. "Not Ellen Johnson (Sirleaf)... who did not respect human rights. It baffles me."

Mr Weah said it was his opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) who were the real peacemakers before the last elections in 2005. The 1995 world footballer of the year lost that election in a run-off against Mrs Johnson Sirleaf, having led in the first round. This time he has handed the CDC leadership to Winston Tubman, the nephew of a former president, but he is still the opposition's star attraction.

"We gave her the opportunity to show her inability as a leader," said Mr Weah. "We don't care about the Nobel prize, it doesn't help the Liberian people and she doesn't serve their interests. All we care about is to vote her out of power."

International observers are concerned that there may be clashes between rival camps when the results of tomorrow's voting come in. Ruling party supporters have been told to expect the President to win outright in the first round.

Unity Party activists paraded through the capital yesterday with T-shirts reading "Operation No Second Round". But the opposition has told its backers that a one-round victory for Mrs Johnson Sirleaf would be evidence of a rigged election.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Secondary teachers required for supply roles in Sudbury

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary teachers re...

Senior Marketing Executive (B2C, Offline) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successfully con...

Marketing Executive (B2C, Offline) - Wimbledon, SW London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An established and highly...

Financial Controller

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is a busy and varied role w...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style