Liberia. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took office in January as
president after a convincing election victory in December
2005. She is Africa's first elected female head of state. As
Finance Minister, she appointed a colleague from her time at
the World Bank, Antoinette Sayeh, while the country's most
experienced diplomat, George Wallace, became Foreign
CountryAAH, Johnson Sirleaf gave all members of the interim
government a travel ban, while auditors were set to review
their accounts. According to a UN investigation, in 2005
Liberia lost a sum equivalent to almost half the state
budget through "chronic corruption" and the interim
government's incompetence. A number of contracts that the
provisional government has entered into illegally or
legally, were revoked, and three former ministers were
indicted for gross embezzlement.
The disintegrated Liberia has tremendous tasks ahead of
it in order to become a normal country again. Only to
upgrade the electricity grid is estimated to cost more than
SEK 7 billion. During a visit to China in the fall,
President Johnson Sirleaf signed a number of infrastructure
upgrades. Chinese companies should building a new university
campus outside the capital Monrovia, modernizing the
national radio company's facilities, building a new road
between Monrovia and the country's other city of Buchanan,
and refurbishing the port there. An important source of
income will be the export of timber, which could be resumed
since the UN Security Council in June lifted the export ban.
It was introduced during the civil war to make it more
difficult to import weapons. For the time being, the UN
retains the ban on the export of diamonds from Liberia.
In December, the world's largest steel manufacturer,
Arcelor Mittal, signed an investment contract worth at least
SEK 7 billion in new mines.
Dutch businessman Guus van Kouwenhoven was sentenced in
June in his home country to eight years in prison for
violating the UN arms embargo. He was found guilty of
supplying arms to then-President Charles Taylor in exchange
for lumber harvesting licenses. However, he was acquitted of
charges of war crimes.
Charles Taylor was extradited from Nigeria in March,
where he lived in exile since he was forced to resign in
2003. He was immediately transferred to Sierra Leone, where
he was charged with participation in the civil war of the
1990s. For security reasons, he was later moved to The Hague
in the Netherlands, where the trial will be conducted on
behalf of the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone. The
process is expected to begin in April 2007.
A Truth Commission, led by human rights lawyer Jerome
Verdier, began this fall to investigate human rights
violations for two years between 1979 and 2003.
One small sign that Liberia is getting out of the ruins
was that the first post office in many years could be opened
in August. At the same time, Liberia received its first new
stamps since 1989, appropriately representing President
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.