Tony Blair and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf duck questions on LGBT rights
On March 7, 2012, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former British prime minister Tony Blair held a joint press conference in the nation’s capital of Monrovia. Blair was in town for his work with the Africa Governance Initiative.
After reporters had waited more than an hour, the politicians made their opening remarks, pledged their support for the efforts of the other, and then took four questions from a mix of Liberian and international reporters.
The first question was about gay rights in Liberia and was put to Sirleaf. She responded: “We have been trying to focus our work on the substantive things that drive our development agenda. Liberia will continue to preserve its traditional values.”
The second question was about gay rights in Liberia and was put to Blair. He said a lot of things, but nothing about gay rights.
The third question was about recent elections in Senegal and was put to Blair. He said a lot of other things but, as he noted while concluding his remarks, nothing that would help a reporter writing a story about Senegal.
The fourth question was mine. I asked about recent oil finds off the coasts of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and whether countries with such relatively weak state institutions could responsibly handle the sorts of influxes of revenue that can come with oil. The "Will Liberia’s find be a gift or a curse?" question.
Blair took the microphone first and said that he has every confidence that the Sirleaf administration is building the right procedures and mechanisms that will ensure the country uses oil revenues to develop the economy and the nation as a whole.
Sirleaf spoke next. She said that that was true.
I seldom attend press conferences.