File Size: 12836 KB
Print Length: 337 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 7, 2017)
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Helene Cooper’s fascinating new book, Madame President, made me personally think of my good friend, the global girl rights advocate Chernor Bah (Ceebah). Chernor recently waged a vigorous campaign askin the government of Sierra Leone to overturn what he or she called “an unfair and unsound” ban against expectant girls from attending institution. Thousands of girls experienced become pregnant during the Ebola crisis that recently devastated Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea so that as universities were reopening, the us government of Sierra Leone announced that expectant girls should stay home. Chernor’s argument was that, apart from the injustice of banning sufferers of the Ebola crisis from school, pregnancy was not a condition and that these girls had the right to remain in school and could still achieve their fullest potentials. This individual should probably have just bought Madam President for the officials in Sierra Leone- who regrettably stuck to their position and refused to let expectant girls attend school.
They would have met a certain female, Baby Ellen, nicknamed Red Pumpkin who, at the age of 17, had her first child and by the time she was twenty-four, she had added three more kids. Still, she did not drop out of school. Rather, she experienced an insatiable appetite for a much better education.
Unlike those girls who were denied the possiblity to return and complete their exams during the Ebola epidemic, Madame President reveals Ellen’s motivation might have already been derived from a prophesy by a man who once visited their Benson Street residence in the Liberian capital, Monrovia and announced that this child (Baby Ellen) would be great.
Helene Cooper is Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and a native Liberian who conveys her fascination with Baby Ellen’s childhood story. Ms. Cooper situates Madame President within Liberia’s historical framework particularly of the 1980s. It is the history of a determined female who got married at 17, and like many women in Africa, experienced domestic abuse but battled through the vicissitudes of life to become Africa’s first democratically elected women President – the 24th President of the Republic of Liberia.
Ms. Cooper took a break from covering Barack Obama’s momentous presidency to chronicle what she described as a democratic coup orchestrated by women, most of them uneducated. Typically the author once made Air Force One her thoroughfare, reporting on the activities of US Presidents and Assistants of State. This time, her focus was on the woman Liberians call the O’l Ma. President Johnson- Sirleaf first ascended to power 5 years ago, after a run-off election against internationally renowned soccer celebrity, George Weah in November 2005.
Madame President is the extraordinary journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf interwoven into a historical fréquentation of how freed slaves from the Americas were delivered back to Africa to be resettled in nations such as Sierra Leone, Nigeria and Liberia. Within Sierra Leone, the Volkswagen Scotians were transported from England in 1787 to form the Crown Nest in 1808. The Maroons and the Liberated Africans later followed. In Nigeria, the Saros or Creoles (freed slaves) migrated to that country in the beginning of the 1830s and in Liberia, the first set of separated slaves arrived in 1822.
In Madame President, Ms. Cooper documents in fine detail President Johnson-Sirleaf’s childhood adversities: the President defied the odds to secure higher education on foreign soil, returned to her country only to be jailed, became a refugee following a damaging civil war and lastly was elected to the Presidency after defeating a crowded presidential field dominated by men.
I witnessed President Johnson-Sirleaf’s inauguration on January 16, 2006. Browsing entrance of a Liberian banner with her left palm on the bible and her now trademark head-tie, the 67-year-old pledged to execute the functions of the office of the president. I also fulfilled her on a few occasions, including in 2007 at a dinner she hosted in honor of Ms. Zainab Bangura who had just been appointed Sierra Leone’s Foreign Ressortchef (umgangssprachlich).
The President was also heavily involved in the UN outreach activities, especially the A Star comes into the world singing competition which I helped to organize. At several finals, she would get on stage and sing to the exhilaration of a jubilant audience.
Madame President may not have captured such details of the President’s interactions with the public nevertheless the book nonetheless portrays her as an astute politician without having to be overtly effusive in praise.
Readers will have to debate and judge whether it is appropriate for mcdougal to provide what is apparently ‘too much information’ on Ellen’s personal life. For example , she writes that when James “Doc” Sirleaf, her husband became harassing, Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf found comfort in the arms of a Chris Maxwell, a guy she had met at a party. Because the President was married at the time, that history hints at infidelity- an issue that is likely to be considered a recurring theme throughout the book. When Maxwel perished, Ellen’s own words were read as a Eulogy at the funeral.
Dame President portrays Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf as ambitious, who, from an early age, experienced her sight set on the presidency. She at first supported Charles Taylor’s rebellion. Both had met at a restaurant in a Paris Hotel she was staying. Later, she helped to raise funds to prosecute the war against then President Samuel K Doe. She also made a daring stop by at Mr. Taylor in the jungle and on BBC, she once said that if the Executive Mansion was to be destroyed during Taylor’s threat to invade Monrovia, it will be rebuilt. Many Liberians construed that statement as insensitive as well as one of the hallmarks of thirst for political strength.
Making sometimes very difficult decisions is another recurring theme in Madame President. About several occasions, the President left her children with her mum and other family while she travelled abroad to study. She performed the same when she resigned her job with the planet Bank. She parted ways with her husband having suffered abuse, still left her plush jobs in the US to go back and contribute to Liberia’s development, once acted against the will of the girl relatives to contest for the Presidency and controversially worked with Samuel Doe who had just overthrown a government in which she was the Minister of Finance and had executed some of her colleagues. The girl once refused to consider a Senate seat that she had clearly won.
Typically the core message in Dame President is that, a plenty of travails was rewarded with the ultimate prize- the presidency!
The author also echoes some of President Johnson -Sirleaf ’s challenges, including her efforts to get the market women off the streets, which was vigorously resisted. Challenges also include acute lack of jobs for the out of work youth and having to deal with the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, many of which did not flatter the girl. She has been accused of nepotism and the girl inability to tackle corruption, among others. Ms. Cooper writes: “Next up on the listing of Mesdames’ early-and -prevailing problems was corruption, an issue that would bedevil her for years to come. ”
Madame President is engaging and captivating, and chinese is accessible. It will likely be a historical resource, providing a window into the remarkable life of one of Africa’s top leaders, and through her, a much better appreciation of Liberia’s sociopolitical history.
Before making any view on the life and politics of President Johnson-Sirleaf, it is a good idea to read Ms. Cooper’s Dame President.
By Osman Benk Sankoh
About the writer: Osman Benk Sankoh is a Public Information Police officer with the United Countries. He was previously the Editor of Concord Times, one of Sierra Leone’s leading national newspapers. Sankoh has reported and written extensively on peace, conflict, politics and social issues in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Stay with Sierra Express Media, for your trusted place in news!, I read Cooper's first book so I was very interested in this book. It is hard to witness such barbaric behavior. But loved how the women worked together for change.
I did feel like " be careful what you wish for".... it was very " ME FIRST"!, Just starting reading it but I really like it. The girl has provided the true information about the formation of Liberia which did not match up with what I was taught., I purchased this book because I so enjoyed "The House on Sugar Beach".
Madame President performed not disappoint - a compelling story of the tragedies in Liberia, to building a democracy. Showing how a strong female at the helm can make a country around.... and it wasn't easy., I didn't know anything about Liberia and this remarkable leader. But learned a lot and enjoyed the book. Recommend it for sure, This book is offers incredible insight into Liberia and it's people. That is an amazing homage to a woman who had unbelievable courage., Just what a phenomenal and covering read. Author pours in the history and at the ending it's hard to believe one country has gone through a great deal and that anyone has been willing to take on the enormous challenge of rebuilding Liberia. A+ if you know absolutely nothing about Liberia. It's a wonderful character centric historical and cultural read as well, The presient's modesty is refreshing. It is usually picky.
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