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Conflict

'Inequality can break down social order'

Liberia's president is seeking better governance and conflict management in Africa. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf talked to DW in advance of Wednesday's summit between the European Union and Africa.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has been working on the Fragile States project together with the African Development Bank. A new report will look at conflict-torn African states such as Mali, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. At the EU-Africa summit, Johnson-Sirleaf is demanding that African states resolve their conflicts and work on lasting blueprints for peace.

DW: What are the main things Europe can do to help fragile states in Africa?

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: I hope the countries of Europe - many of which are members of the African Development Bank - will give the bank's program the fullest of support. It goes beyond just responding to specific needs of fragile states, it's about helping in all states to build that resilience that will enable them to respond to crises when they do arise.

What are the main reasons for the existence of fragile states in Africa, and how can such fragility be prevented?

A lack of viable institutions, the lack of diversity in economies, the lack of mature political institutions, the lack of equity in many of the societies, managing endowment of natural resources well. All of these create the inequalities in society that leads to the descent, and could lead to a breakdown in the social order.

Is bad governance one of Africa's main problems?

Anti-balaka fighters from the town of Bossembele patrol in the Boeing district of Bangui, Central African Republic, February 24, 2014 (Photo: REUTERS/Camille Lepage)

Conflict has led to numerous human rights abuses in Africa

We do have bad governance in Africa. We do have at times insufficiently strong financial and procurement management systems, accountability and transparency. We do have corruption, there's no doubt about it. I think many of our countries are trying to cope with that, trying to build the institutions and the laws and strategies to deal with it. It's a continuing battle. Some countries have made progress. With some, which are still struggling, we have to intensify our effort to be able to get to the place where we have the fullest of confidence that our institutions reduce the improprieties in our society.

Can the summit with the EU bring this forward?

I believe so. It strengthens the partnership between Europe and Africa, and it opens up new horizons in some of the areas that we maybe have not been able to give particular attention to.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, 75 years old, has been president of the West African state of Liberia since 2006. The not uncontroversial head of state has dedicated herself to rebuilding the society and economy after 14 years of civil war. She was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her fight for women's rights.

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