The violence that overtook Liberia’s capital on Nov. 7, in which one person was left dead, presented a grave omen ahead of the country’s presidential election runoff on Nov. 8. The vicious scene was too much for Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee to bear. So she took action.
Leymah Gbowee writes to the Daily Beast:
“I woke the next morning, the day of the election, in tears. I was crying for Liberia. Our nation had seen the worst, survived it and had just begun to redeem its image. Now it looked as if we were being plunged back into total madness.
I knew I had to continue doing what I do best: building peace. I couldn’t allow hate and anger to destroy what my sisters and I worked so hard for. I couldn’t allow the bitterness that swelled in my throat every time I thought about the previous day’s violence to immobilize me. I had to get a few of my sisters to work with me and engage very angry men from all sides of the conflict. We had to lead the way to peace and reconciliation — just as we did in the past.”
Gbowee said she rallied members from several political parties to lay a plan of peace ahead of the runoff, which she said was successful. Incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf would win the race in a sweeping victory.
Political tensions were strained in the country as Sirleaf, Liberia’s first female head of state, maintained a lead in the polls. Her opponents had accused her of rigging the election, including Congress for Democratic Change leader Winston Tubman, who called for a boycott of the Nov. 8 runoff.
Liberia’s general election was positioned by some as a beacon of hope for the country, which has struggled to rebound from a 14-year civil war and an equally uncertain future.
Gbowee shared the honor of receiving the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Sirleaf and Muslim activist Tawakkul Karman of Yemen for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.