An awkward interview on gay rights in Liberia

Tony Blair is visiting Liberia through his Africa Governance Initiative (AGI). The Guardian did an amazing interview with Blair and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in part about legislation that criminalizes homosexuality.  In the interview, awkward throughout, Sirleaf clearly does not want to talk about the issue.  She says she will not sign any law decriminalizing homosexuality because Liberia has traditional values that she wants to uphold.  She uncomfortably repeats that line a few times, but says nothing else on the matter.

Blair looks on the verge of laughter (is this how he always looks?).  The interviewer then asks Blair what he has to say on the matter, given that human rights and good governance go hand in hand.  Blair explicitly refuses to comment.  The interviewer pushes him: “So good governance and human rights don’t go hand in hand?”

“Do you know how long I’ve been doing these types of interviews?”  Blair retorts.  “I’m not giving you an answer on it.”

Watch the video from 2:33 for an interruption by Sirleaf.  “AGI Liberia has specific terms of reference. Carrying out their function within those terms of reference, that’s all we require of them.”  Blair laughs out loud, and then bites his lip to stop.

Others points of note:

  • A bill to make punishment of homosexuality stricter has been introduced by Jewel Taylor, Charles Taylor’s ex-wife.  “We are just trying to strengthen our local laws. This is not an attempt to bash homosexuals,” she says.  Whatever one’s position on gay rights, that logic makes no sense.
  • The gay rights debate in Liberia began after Hillary Clinton announced that US aid would be tied to protection of gay rights.

It’s fascinating seeing the mixed reactions to this interview on my Facebook feed.


5 thoughts on “An awkward interview on gay rights in Liberia

  1. mas

    Would you be so kind to elaborate on what does make sense? Are you aware of current efforts to legalize same sex marriage in Liberia? With that back drop it seems to me like Mrs. Taylor’s position makes perfect sense because you can’t be for something without being against something else.

    If you read her explaination further, she explains that there are already anti-sodomy laws on the books in Liberia.

  2. Shelby Post author

    To be honest I found her responses a bit confusing. What legislation was she saying won’t make it to her desk?

    No, I was not aware of efforts to legalize same sex marriage in Liberia.

  3. curtrice

    It’s disappointing that Sirleaf Johnson would take this position, and it’s certainly not got anything to do with peace. She has some thinking to do, not least of all because of her status as a Peace Prize Laureate, but the most important thing at this point is probably not her but the younger generation.

    I was against last year’s Peace Prize award, but not against Johnson Sirleaf. Instead, I thought the award diminished the contributions of women. If you’re interested, have a look at “The Nobel Peace Prize’s problem with women” at

  4. Pingback: KELLY

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