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Thread: First Lady: Liberian Leader an Inspiration

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    Registered User bungatuffy's Avatar bungatuffy is offline
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    First Lady: Liberian Leader an Inspiration

    MONROVIA, Liberia Jan 16, 2006 First lady Laura Bush said Monday that the swearing-in of Liberia's new leader the first woman ever elected president in Africa symbolizes a push to empower women worldwide and marks a new dawn for the West African nation founded by freed American slaves.

    On her second trip to Africa, Mrs. Bush hooked up with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Liberia's dusty, depressed capital to attend the inauguration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The 67-year-old Harvard-educated grandmother pledged to restore peace after 14 years of deadly civil strife that has devastated the country, leaving even the capital with little power or running water.

    "I think women around the world are watching and they're proud of her," Mrs. Bush told reporters after the inauguration ceremony as she flew to Ghana to continue her four-day stay on the continent.

    "Women's empowerment, girls' education is the centerpiece of this trip because all of us know that educated girls lead much more successful lives," said Mrs. Bush, who made the trip with her 24-year-old daughter, Barbara, who recently worked on AIDS in a pediatric hospital in South Africa.

    "They can be better mothers for their children. They can make wiser, more informed decisions for their children's health as well as for their children's education plus they can contribute to the economy," she said.

    Mrs. Bush was the formal head of the U.S. delegation, but it was Rice who was greeted with loud hoots of approval by the crowd during introductions.

    "I think the people of Liberia are very, very proud of Dr. Rice," Mrs. Bush said, noting that the nation was founded by African Americans and that several of Liberia's first presidents were born in the United States.

    The outdoor ceremony, held on a muggy overcast day, was informal by U.S. standards. The platform was decorated simply with red-white-and-blue bunting and balloons. The program started late. Heads of state arrived mid-ceremony. Members of the local media shouted at officials on stage to move out their camera shots.

    Sirleaf's denunciation of corruption and her pledge to be a president of all Liberians resonated with Mrs. Bush. "And I thought it was really sweet that she told the children of Liberia that she loved them," she said.

    Sirleaf vowed to end the period of corrupt-male-dominated rule in Liberia, still reeling from a brutal 1989 to 2003 civil war that saw children as young as 10 take up arms. Fighting uprooted half the country's 3 million people and killed 200,000.

    Mrs. Bush landed at Roberts International Airport, which was controlled in August 2003 by U.S. Marines trying to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid into the country and stop the flow of arms to former Liberia President Charles Taylor. Taylor fled into exile that month, paving the way for a transitional government that handed over power to Sirleaf on Monday.

    "Charles Taylor is out of Liberia," Rice told reporters on her flight to Monrovia. "He is through raping and pillaging this country, and the Liberian people are trying to look forward."

    Taylor is in exile in Nigeria but is wanted on war-crimes charges in Sierra Leone, where he supported a brutal rebel group during that country's 1991-2002 civil war. Nigeria says it won't hand Taylor over to a U.N.-backed tribunal unless Sirleaf makes such a request. Rice and Mrs. Bush both expressed confidence that Sirleaf will work to bring Taylor to justice.

    "This is a time of reconciliation right now in Liberia with her inauguration following the contested very contested election," Mrs. Bush said. "And so I assume, and I think, that she will work to bring him to justice."

    Sirleaf, who has held positions at Citibank, the United Nations and the World Bank, defeated George Weah, a soccer star who first claimed that the election was fraudulent, but then conceded defeat after international election observers deemed the elections largely clean.

    During her more than hour-long drive into Monrovia, which was named after President James Monroe, Mrs. Bush's motorcade passed lingering reminders of the election a billboard that said "Vote George Weah," faded blue campaign posters for Sirleaf and a banner hung over a street that read: "Let's join hands in development. No more guns. No more violence."

    Mrs. Bush also got a close-up look at poor conditions in the nation, which has an 80 percent unemployment rate.

    Some residents waved, but most looked on curiously at her limousine from thatched huts, some with dirt floors and roofs covered with plastic held down by rocks. The concrete foundations of some shacks were supported by automobile wheels. Residents gathered around smoky fires and community water pumps. "A billboard read: "Prevent Malaria. Use treated mosquito nets."

    Congress appropriated more than $840 million last year to help reconstruct Liberia. Of that, more than $520 million has gone to support the U.N. peacekeeping mission. The United States currently is working on quick-impact programs to help rebuild courthouses, high schools and hospitals and provide skills training to youth and ex-combatants. The U.S. government also is helping finance efforts to rebuild Liberia's army.

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    L O S T .'s Avatar . is offline
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    She is not alone..........

    White House Congratulates Chile Socialist

    The Associated Press
    Monday, January 16, 2006; 6:48 PM

    WASHINGTON -- The White House on Monday congratulated socialist Michelle Bachelet on her election as the first female president of Chile.

    White House spokeswoman Christie Parell said the U.S. commends the people of Chile for yet another election that shows their strong commitment to democracy.



    President-elect Michelle Bachelet speaks during a news conference at a hotel in Santiago, Chile, Monday, Jan. 16, 2006. Bachelet, the first woman to be elected president in Chile, won 53 percent of the vote in Sunday's runoff, compared to 46 percent for conservative multimillionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera, according to official results. (AP Photo/Santiago Llanquin) (Santiago Llanquin - AP)
    "We have an excellent, long-standing relationship with Chile and look forward to working with the new president and her team," Parell said.

    Bachelet won 53 percent of the vote in Sunday's runoff, compared to 46 percent for conservative multimillionaire businessman Sebastian Pinera, according to official results.

    ...............

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    Registered User bungatuffy's Avatar bungatuffy is offline
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    yep... you are so right to point that out... it is very good to have such strong women as role models... I hope this encourages more women throughout the world to follow their dreams...


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