UPDATE: On Oct. 7, the Nobel Prize committee announced that Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was one of three women to win the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize for advancing the role of women in society. In April, the Monitor profiled President Johnson-Sirleaf – who faces voters in Oct. 11 national elections – and her record of erasing her Liberia's crushing debt after years of civil war.
Late last summer, the war-ravaged West African country of Liberia quietly achieved something the United States and many other Western countries have never managed to do: It got rid of its external debt. All of it.
A veteran of the international financial scene, Africa's "Iron Lady" made it her mission to gain international forgiveness of the debt, which by 2007 had ballooned to $4.9 billion, eight times the country's gross domestic product. And Liberia's newly sound financial footing makes the impoverished country much more attractive to foreign investors, who are pumping life into its economy.
"In three years, we met all of the conditionalities, which meant strong fiscal discipline," Ms. Sirleaf told the Monitor in a recent interview in her Monrovia office. "We were able to get that debt off our backs."
Sirleaf counts getting rid of that burden as her greatest achievement as president. And it was no easy task.
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