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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Sirleaf, Ellen Johnson (sĭrlēfˈ) [key], 1938–, Liberian economist and political leader. Educated in the United States (Harvard, M.P.A., 1971), she worked in the Liberian government (1964–67, 1977–80), at the World Bank (1972–77, 1980–81), and in private banking (1980, 1986–92) before before joining (1992–97) the African bureau at the United Nations Development Program. Also active in Liberian politics, she was jailed in the 1980s by Samuel Doe's regime, charged with treason by Charles Taylor's regime, and twice went into exile. She ran for Liberian president in 1997 but lost to Taylor, whom she had supported when Doe was in power, and returned to the private sector as a financial consultant. Running again in 2005, she defeated former soccer star George Weah after a runoff, becoming the first woman to be elected president of an African nation. She was reelected in 2011 after her runoff opponent, Winston Tubman, boycotted the contest. Also in 2011 she shared the Nobel Peace Prize with two other activist women, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakul Karman of Yemen. Gbowee, a political ally of Sirleaf, broke with her in 2012, accusing the president of nepotism and not doing enough to fight corruption and poverty and bring about national reconciliation.

See her memoir, This Child Will Be Great (2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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