(GIN) – Leymah Gbowee, whose efforts to end war in Liberia were recognized with a Nobel Peace Prize shared with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, sparked a firestorm of controversy last week by resigning from the Peace and Reconciliation Commission and criticizing the President.
Ms Gbowee said she was frustrated by the administration’s failure to end high-level corruption and address poverty. Pres. Sirleaf is also facing charges of nepotism, with her sons holding key positions in the administration.
In August, President Sirleaf suspended her son, Charles, as central bank deputy governor for failing to declare his assets. Another son, Fumba, is head of the National Security Agency, while a third, Robert, is a senior adviser and chairman of the state-owned National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).
In September, Sirleaf drew fire when it emerged that much of the country’s forests and arable land had been sold to private investors, leaving small farmers suffering. Some observers called it “the second scramble for Africa” – an echo of the 19th-century colonial carve-up of the continent.
Ms Gbowee said the President was not doing enough to ease poverty. "In her first term she developed infrastructure. But what good is infrastructure if people don't have enough to eat?" she told the AFP news agency in Paris, where she is promoting the French edition of her book Mighty Be Our Powers.
"The gap between the rich and poor is growing. You are either rich or dirt poor, there's no middle class," she said. During Liberia's conflict, Ms Gbowee mobilized women across ethnic and religious lines to campaign for peace and encouraged them to participate in elections.
In 2003 she led a march through the capital, Monrovia, demanding an end to the rape of women by soldiers. Meanwhile, a group of Liberian women met last Friday at the Ministry of Gender and Development.
The topic was “the ill timed and most unfortunate statement reported to have been made by Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee.”