Reconciliation job No. 1 in Liberia

Nov. 10, 2011 at 1:47 PM
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MONROVIA, Liberia, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- With incumbent Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf all but guaranteed a victory, her spokesman said the country must chart a path of reconciliation.

Sirleaf finished first in the October presidential contest, fending off a strong challenge by former diplomat Winston Tubman. Sirleaf didn't secure the majority needed to avoid a runoff, however and Liberians voted again, albeit in significantly lower numbers, this week.

"One of the first things the president has said she will do is try to reach out to people from all the different political spectrums in this country ... even those who did not endorse the president," her spokesman Cyrus Badio was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying.

The runoff Tuesday was part of an election process meant to heal wounds leftover from the country's 14-year civil war that ended in 2003 with 250,000 people dead. Tubman's camp boycotted the runoff, however, and violence greeted the start of the week in Liberia.

Sirleaf was a co-winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize, though her reputation was tarnished by ties to war crimes suspect and former Liberian President Charles Taylor and the support she earned from former rebel leader turned Sen. Prince Johnson.

Johnson, preliminary results indicate, took nearly all of the votes in the second round. Despite Tubman's claim the vote was rigged, election monitors said the voting process was largely fair.

Badio said that with victory in sight, however, the "first thing is to reconcile."

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