Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: We will not rest until the gains of peace are felt by all Liberians

When, on 16 January 2006, I spoke to the nation, I recognised that the vote for me was a vote for change. More than that, it was a vote for peace, security and stability; a vote for individual and national prosperity; a vote for healing and leadership. I expressed humility in the enormity of the challenges that lay ahead – to heal our nation's wounds, redefine and strengthen its purpose, make democracy a living and effective experiment, promote economic growth, create jobs, revitalise our health and education facilities and services, and quicken the pace of social progress and individual prosperity in our country.

Fellow citizens, as many of you know, I have dedicated my life to navigating a future for Liberia free from war and fear and grounded in individual freedom and opportunity. Sometimes, the circumstances were opaque, the distinctions between evil and good were not so clear – this is the nature of conflict and war.

Like thousands of other Liberians at home and abroad, I have always admitted my early support for Charles Taylor to challenge the brutality of a dictatorship. It was equally clear that when the true nature of Mr Taylor's intentions became known, there was no more impassioned critic or strong opponent to him in a democratic process. I have talked about this openly over the past 12 years and expressed remorse to the Liberian people for my misjudgment. In turn, the Liberian people rendered their judgment. In 2005, I was elected President of the Republic of Liberia. My mandate was to return hope to the country and to make the children smile again.

During the past three years, my administration has remained true to the faith that the Liberian people bestowed to me in that election. We have made gains toward restoring our security and our prosperity – and more importantly restoring our belief in ourselves, our potential, and our love of God and country. I know that there is much work to be done to bring the benefits of this work to all Liberians and my administration will not rest until the gains of peace are felt by all.

This is an edited extract from a speech given on Monday by the President of the Republic of Liberia to mark the 162nd anniversary of the African country gaining independence from the United States