My take on Johnson-Sirleaf

For starters, I’m among those surprised that the Peace prize didn’t go towards more players in the Arab Spring.

I’m also among those that wonder whether the Nobel peace prize has become the Nobel prize for puppies and warm fuzzies.

But I’m also among those that hope that Sirleaf gets re-elected next Tuesday. She hasn’t been a terrifically effective executive, but she’s far, far better than the alternatives.

But a force for peace? Yes and no, but mostly yes.

Six years ago, I’d hazard that a majority of Liberians figured their country could easily slip back to war. Today, they may feel poorer than they hoped, but few see a return to conflict. A lot of people deserve credit, but this is no doubt her greatest accomplishment as President.

Before her Presidency, mostly she was been a force for peaceful political change. Mostly. There’s that pesky initial support for Charles Taylor (for which she since apologized) and there’s credible suggestions she supported a rebel uprising against Taylor in 1999. The (admittedly inept) Truth and Reconciliation Commission she formed ruled her unfit to hold office as a result.

None of these trouble me too much. Look for inculpable politicians after 14 years of civil war, and you’ll find irrelevant expatriates. But it should have given a little peace prize pause.

With an election next week, what do we need to know about her as President?

Beyond solidifying peace, she can count debt relief and roads among her big successes. Outsiders fault her for being weak on corruption, but I say good governance takes a generation and not a Presidency to see real change.

I think her weaknesses are most apparent when you look at the persistent power problem. Eight years since peace and there’s not even a single and coherent plan to rebuild the hydro plants. The nation is run on generators. If you want a reason for a stagnant economy, that is a major culprit.

It’s less the power issue itself than what it symbolizes–difficulty finding focus and getting things done. I can’t shake the feeling that she spent more time getting feted international, and running a US book tour, than the big issues at home.

I nitpick a little. She has been solid and principled since she entered office, and strikes me as the best leader on the table. I will not be surprised to see her win the first round of the election next week. Let’s hope for a peaceful one.