The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winners were announced on Friday, and for the first time, three women split the prize. But, after a weekend of celebration, peace still isn't ubiquitous in either Liberia or Yemen, the homes of the laureates.
In Yemen, a group of women celebrating activist Tawakkul Karman in the city of Taez on Sunday evening were attacked by supporters of President Ali Abdullah Saleh's regime. Forty people were injured in the clash.
We were attacked by regime thugs with empty bottles and stones, an organiser told Agence France Presse on Monday on condition of anonymity.
Karman won the prize in part because of her involvement in the recent protests against the government in Yemen. The 2011 Yemen Uprising grew out of the soil of the Arab Spring, but after 250 days the struggle for increase freedom and civil rights is still being challenged by the government.
Karman helped organize student protests at the onset of the demonstrations in February, and even after being arrested and then released, she has continued her activism.
Many years before the revolutions started [Karman] stood up against one of the most authoritarian and autocratic regimes in the world, Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland told reporters in Oslo.
I am very very happy about this prize, Karman told The Associated Press on Friday. I give the prize to the youth of revolution in Yemen and the Yemeni people.
President Saleh has been in power for 33 years, and, for last nine months he has been holding onto that power using violence, intimidation and force. However, this weekend Saleh said that is ready to step down and broker a deal with the Yemeni people. Saleh has made similar promises before, and the speech is no indication of what might actually happen, especially if activists don't want to give him immunity to prosecution.
He is ready to leave power in days, yes, but whether this happens in the coming days or months will depend on the success of negotiations for a deal, Deputy Information Minister Abdu al-Janadi told Reuters.
Karman's upcoming task will be to make sure that non-violence prevails during protests and during a potential regime change.
In Liberia, the African nation home to Peace Prize winners Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee, a formerly exiled warlord is challenging the government and preparing to make a run for presidential nomination.
Sirleaf, who is the sitting President of Liberia and also the first and only democratically elected female head of state in Africa, will face off against Prince Yormie Johnson in Tuesday's elections. Johnson is currently a senator in Liberia, but his political record is far from typical.
Johnson played a major role in Liberia's 17 year-long civil war, and he has been accused of killing thousands of people. He was part of the violent coup that removed President Samuel K. Doe from power. He also ordered the torture and murder of President Doe, an act which sent him into self-imposed exile in Nigeria for 14 years.
“I am sorry I murdered the former President. I must be very frank, I regret it. I thought that the death of Doe would bring peace but it never brought peace, Johnson told South African newspaper The Sunday Times in 2003.
Both Sirleaf and Gbowee played a role in ending the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003. In 2005, Sirleaf created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a government organization mandated to investigate human rights violations committed during the war. The commission found 49 people it deemed should be specifically barred from holding public offices; elected or appointed for a period of thirty (30) years and for being associated with former warring factions.
Sirleaf and Johnson were once allies, and both supported and then abandoned President Charles Taylor. The two are now political enemies and Johnson has significant support from his home base in Nimba County. Despite a religious awakening, Johnson's brutal past could affect his election chances.
“Prince Johnson is not a sound person, because the blood of innocent people is on his head, said Madam Oretha Flome, a Monrovian witness to Johnson's brutality told Global Post. The only way he would become president is when those he killed can come back to life and vote for him, but it won’t be sensible people like me would vote for him. One day Johnson shot a man and asked people around to advise the dead body not to repeat the same mistake that lead to his death.”