Misanet / IRIN, 23 November - Harvard-educated Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf stamped her name in the history books today, when she was confirmed Liberia's, as well as Africa's, first female president. Investigations into alleged election fraud are still being conducted.
Amid tight security enforced by UN peacekeepers and newly-trained Liberian police officers, the National Electoral Commission officially pronounced Ms Sirleaf winner of the final round of the presidential poll on 8 November, with 59.4 percent of the vote against her challenger, football hero George Weah, with 40.6 percent.
"I declare Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf winner," proclaimed Commission head Frances Johnson-Morris at a formal ceremony held in the same building where she is to be sworn in on 16 January. Mr Weah, whose party has challenged the result though international observers gave the process the thumbs up, did not attend.
"I feel very pleased and excited, but humbled by the awesome challenges that we are facing to rebuild our country. It is a victory for the Liberian people," said Ms Sirleaf after the ceremony.
Mr Weah's Congress for Democratic Change party has complained of fraud during the historic vote closing an era of unrest, and the National Election Commission is still conducting hearings into the complaint.
Ms Sirleaf, an economist by training, has worked for the UN, the World Bank and in the 1970s served as Liberian Finance Minister, a job that nearly cost her her life when the government was overthrown in a 1980 coup by Samuel Doe. Most of the cabinet were stripped, tied to poles on the seafront and executed by firing squad.
She is also no stranger to the inside of a Liberian prison after serving two jail terms on charges of treason in the 1980s, earning her the nickname of "Iron Lady".
In 1997, she took on former warlord Charles Taylor in elections held during a brief break in the country's 14 years of fighting. But the bespectacled grandmother lost by a landslide amid fear of recriminations if the rebel leader did not get his prize.
Ms Sirleaf's critics accuse her of being part of the elite that drove the resource rich Liberian economy into the ground, sparking Mr Doe's military take-over. She is also criticised for initially backing ex-President Taylor's march on Monrovia, though she maintains that her support for his rebellion was short-lived.
Now, Ms Sirleaf will have to turn some of her tough traits to rebuilding a broken country smashed by years of brutal civil war that ended when ex-President Taylor took exile in Nigeria in 2003.
First on the new President's to-do list is restoring electricity to the tired seaside capital Monrovia. Liberia has not experienced any regular power supply for five years. Ms Sirleaf has promised to switch the lights back on within six months, and says she has found private investors ready to do the job.
Schooling is another priority in a country where youngsters were pulled out of classrooms by errant warlords, armed, pumped with drugs and sent to the frontlines to fight. Some 45 percent of the population is illiterate, according to the UN, and Ms Sirleaf wants to provide free primary school education for all.
Congratulatory messages began to arrive for Africa's first female President-elect even before the official announcement was made on Wednesday, and pressure is mounting on Mr Weah to retract his fraud claims.
The mother of four and grandmother of six, who will be sworn in as Liberia's 23rd president, now has to choose her cabinet. She has previously told reporters that Mr Weah may be offered a ministerial post if he is interested in cooperating.
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