MONROVIA - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave firm support in Liberia on Thursday to Africa's only woman president, a corruption fighter who has come under fire at home.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is trying to rebuild Liberia after a 1989-2003 civil war in the West African country founded by freed former American slaves in the 19th century.

President Sirleaf has been a very effective leader on behalf of the new Liberia. The United States officially supports what this government is doing, Clinton said at a joint news conference.

We think that Liberia is on the right track, as difficult as the path might be.

One of Clinton's main messages to African countries during her seven-nation trip has been the importance of tackling corruption and improving governance as necessary steps toward attracting aid and investment.

I think the people of Liberia should continue to speak out against corruption, said Clinton, whose arrival in the city was cheered by thousands of onlookers who endured heavy rains to welcome her.

Johnson-Sirleaf is widely seen by the outside world to be doing a good job fighting graft, but the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission wants her barred from office because of her association with warlords during the civil war.

Clinton, asked several times about the commission's recommendation, refused to comment directly on it.

I am very supportive of actions that will lead to the peace, reconciliation and unity of Liberia, she said.


The global economic crisis has come at a difficult time for Liberia as it recovers from years of conflict that ended in elections in 2005 when Johnson-Sirleaf became Africa's first female president.

The government is trying to rebuild an economy shattered by the war, buying back $1.2 billion of outstanding debt earlier this year, an important step toward attracting investment.

After meeting Johnson-Sirleaf, Clinton was due to address parliament and visit the police academy. The United States has provided funding for security forces in Liberia.

Clinton also praised what she called Liberia's sound fiscal policies.

While many Monrovia residents were glad to welcome Clinton, and applauded the affirmation of a long-standing relationship, others saw little benefit.

We cannot see what America is doing for us, businesswoman Marie Sumo said.
Look at Ghana, in terms of development. Take a look at us today. We are still behind today. For me, this is time that we make friends with our African brothers and sisters, she said.

After Liberia, Clinton flies to Cape Verde where she will stay overnight before returning to Washington on Friday.

(Additional reporting by Alphonso Toweh; Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Michael Roddy)