Nobel Prize 'honours Liberia struggle'

2011-10-07 20:07

Monrovia - Joint Nobel Peace Prize winner and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said on Friday the award was recognition of the West African state's "many years of struggle for justice, peace, and promotion of development" since a brutal civil war.

Johnson-Sirleaf shares the award with fellow Liberian Leymah Gbowee, a peace activist, and Yemeni activist Tawakul Karman.

"I believe we [Gbowee and I] both accept this on behalf of the Liberian people, and the credit goes to the Liberian people," Johnson-Sirleaf told reporters outside her private residence in Liberia's capital.

Gbowee was on a book tour in the United States, her Accra, Ghana-based office said.

The award comes four days before a tense presidential election in which Johnson-Sirleaf is expected to run a tight race against top opposition figure Winston Tubman and former rebel leader Prince Johnson.

The election will be the West African state's second since the end in 2003 of 14 years of civil war that claimed more than 200,000 lives. If it goes smoothly it could pave the way for billions of dollars in mining and oil investment.

"The Nobel Peace Prize for Johnson-Sirleaf will add momentum to her bid for re-election but could also reinforce criticism from opposition parties and civil society over the lack of a level playing field in the run up to polls," said Hannah Koep, head of Africa analysis at Control Risks.

While Johnson-Sirleaf has earned international fame as Africa's first elected female head of state and plaudits for maintaining stability, she faces criticism at home for the slow pace of rebuilding infrastructure and for failing to root out graft within her government.

Liberia's election commission said on Friday that the October 11 election will go ahead as scheduled.

"We are going to go ahead as planned, everything is on course. The Nobel Peace Prize award for the president in no way impacts the running of the election," said Nathan Mulbah, public information officer for the National Elections Commission.