Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first democratically elected woman head of state of any African country.

Indian stands by Liberia in its efforts to pursue stability, economic growth and democratic governance, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday.

He was presenting the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2012 to his Liberian counterpart Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Ms. Sirleaf, the first democratically elected woman head of any African country, has been chosen for the award “for serving as an example and an inspiration for many a woman in Africa and beyond, and for ensuring the return of peace, democracy and development to Liberia.”

Mr. Mukherjee said Ms. Sirleaf revived national hope by strengthening institutions of good governance and leading the revitalisation of the national economy in a country that saw bloodshed and civil war spanning decades. Acknowledging her governance and leadership, Mr. Mukherjee said: “Emerging from a dark night that saw so much violence and bloodshed in a country, Africa’s oldest republic, Liberia is now moving towards its tenth year of sustained peace. India has been privileged to have played a key role in peace- keeping efforts in Liberia.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Ms. Sirleaf, a Nobel Laureate, guided Liberia towards peace, stability, democracy and development after two decades of suppression, violence and conflict.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is also chairperson of the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust, drew comparisons between the late Prime Minister and Ms. Sirleaf and called her a “trailblazer.” Ms. Sirleaf’s commitment to women’s rights was in keeping with Indira Gandhi’s own values, she said. Her story was one of indomitable courage, strong determination and the yearning to achieve greater heights.

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