• Short Summary

    President William Tubman of Liberia, now 75, is at a turning point in the long success story of his 26-year Presidency of his country.

  • Description

    President William Tubman of Liberia, now 75, is at a turning point in the long success story of his 26-year Presidency of his country.

    Troubled with cataracts in his eyes, he underwent a successful operation in Monrovia recently, and was expected to tell his people before the end of the year whether he would accept another four-year term of office. His general condition of health is said to be satisfactory He was first elected in 1943, and took office at the beginning of the following year. After serving for eight years, he has been re-elected five time for further four-year terms.

    William Vacanarat Tubman was born on the 29th November, 1895, the son of a Liberian Methodist Minister. He became a lawyer, and in 1923, when he was 28, the country's youngest-ever senator. He has also been a Judge of Liberia's Supreme Court.

    His family are of the America-descended aristocracy of Liberia, who trace their origins back to the liberated american slaves who settled in Liberia in 1822. An important element in his policy since he became President has been to integrate these coast-dwelling Liberians with the tribal in the inland areas, and ensure the tribal peoples' equal political and social rights. He also brought the vote to women, and initiated spending on social improvements for the interior.

    Liberia became an independent Republic in 1847, and the link with the United States brought a constitution modelled on that of America with important powers concentrated in the hands of the President.

    President Tubman's long period of power has given him a standing on the African scene comparable with that of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and the country has benefited greatly from the stability of his rule.

    During the Tubman era, with the help of an "open door" policy for United States and European investment, the rate of growth in Liberia's industrial production has been among the highest in the world. The national budget has climbed from 750,000 U.S. dollars to more than 50 million, and the health budget relative to per capita income is also among the world's highest. One of the First foreign companies to begin the surge of foreign investment was the American Firestone company, which became a major employer of Liberian labour in the 1920's. Liberia also provides a flag of convenience for huge numbers of merchant ship of many countries.

    In foreign policy, President Tubman has been a wary champion of the cause of pan-Africanism. He organised the first successful meeting of African heads of state in Monrovia in 1961, and at a Lagos conference eight months later it was his position which won the largest support. The "Monrovia powers" later joined with the rival "Casablanca Powers" to form the Organisation of African Unity in 1963. President Tubman has throughout favoured the more practical forms of co-operation rather than African union.

    During his long period of office, President Tubman has survived an attempt to assassinate him, and two other attempts against his life were discovered by the authorities. He is often accused of paternalism, and of clinging to power as a head of the True Whig Party, which has ruled the country continuously since 1878.

    On his 7Ist birthday in 1966, he announced his intention to retire, but he has since been prevailed upon to undertake another term as President. In the absence of outstanding rivals, it seems that this may happen again in 1971. The True Whig Party's National Convention is due in late January, and it will then nominate candidates for President and Vice-President for the election in May.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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