Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is one of three Peace Prize recipients, including a fellow Liberian peace activist
Sirleaf looks on during a 2010 EU-Africa summit in Tripoli / Reuters
For all the good in this year's Nobel Peace Prize trio of recipients -- its affirmation of the growing global leadership of woman, its acknowledgment that neither peace nor democracy comes without their full support and participation, its deeply convincing suggestion that the efforts of peace in 2010 may have been due more to women than men -- the name Ellen Johnson Sirleaf seemed to draw mostly sighs from the academics and journalists who cover West Africa. "Most common complaint of Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia is she spends all her time pleasing the West and not enough building things at home," reported journalist Elizabeth Dickinson. Yale professor Chris Blattman wrote on his blog, "I can't shake the feeling that she spent more time getting feted internationally, and running a U.S. book tour, than [on] the big issues at home."
Sirleaf, the president of Liberia since 2006, is not exactly a controversial figure, but she's not the Dalai Lama either, and her inclusion among today's three Nobel Peace Prize winners might have as much to do with Liberia's domestic and international politics as about the transforming role of female leadership in the developing world. "Shocked response in Monrovia to Johnson Sirleaf's Nobel prize, there are serious misgivings about Ma Ellen in Liberia," UK Independent report Daniel Howden tweeted from the Liberian capital, noting Sirleaf's "murky" record during that country's bloody civil war and reporting "thousands of opposition supporters" rallying against the prize. A local told him, "[The International] Community put fine flowers atop the grave but there are dead bones underneath."