Chairman, Council of State of the Liberian National Transitional Government III (LNTG III)
Term: September 1996 – August 1997
In a meeting headed by Nigerian President Sani Abacha and attended by other West African leaders and Liberian warlords, Ruth Perry was selected as interim leader on August 18, 1996 in Abuja, Nigeria. The Abuja Accord Supplement ushered in a new Council of State and the third Liberian National Transitional Government (LNTG III) as Perry was selected to replace Sankawulo as Head of State.
This interim council ushered in Liberia’s and Africa’s first female head of state. Her chairmanship began on September 3, 1996. The Council also included Chief Tamba Taylor, Oscar Quiah, Dr. Vamba Kanneth and Weade Kobah Wureh (UNMIL). Members of the Council were not allowed to run in the upcoming general elections, so Charles Taylor and others wishing to run for political office were not on the Council.
She was born in Dia, Grand Cape Mount County 1939. Ruth Sando Fahnbulleh Perry was a graduate of the St. Teresa’s Convent High School and the University of Liberia (UL). She then entered the Banking Sector and worked as a supervisor at the Chase Manhattan Bank of Liberia.
After her husband’s death, she won his vacant senate seat in 1985. She sat as an independent in the Legislature when her Unity Party counterparts refused to hold the seats they had won in the elections. Consequently, she was ousted from the party and joined Doe’s National Democratic Party of Liberia. She did not affiliate with any rebel factions during the war hence her selection as head of the LNTGIII.
Unlike Sankawulo, Perry was more active and forceful. She did not give in to the warlords and refused all forms of enticement. According to Adebajo,
Perry proved to be an energetic council chair: in September 1996, she traveled to Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties to highlight the suffering there and urged speedy humanitarian assistance; she rallied support for the Liberian peace process during an impassioned address at the UN General Assembly in New York on 9 October 1996; and she traversed the country prior to disarmament to urge fighters to lay down their arms.
The warlords still controlled most of the country and there was some mistrust between members of the council. An alleged assassination attempt on Vice Chair Taylor at the executive mansion left 5 dead and created more division in the council. Another problem, while implementing the peace process, was disarmament and demobilizing rebel combatants.
Elections were scheduled for May 30, 1997 and the UN wanted a proposal on how they could help with the peace process. With disarmament underway, the LNTG III focus was preparing for the elections with the assistance of ECOWAS, the UN and other organizations. Unprepared to have elections in May, it was postponed to July.
The entire electoral process was organized and conducted by the Liberian Independent Elections Commission, with the assistance of UNOMIL, ECOMOG, the European Union (EU) and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, which, in a coordinated effort, pooled their logistical, communications and transport resources as well as their technical expertise to support the process. States members of ECOWAS, OAU, UNDP, donor countries and the Liberian Council of State provided financial, material and technical assistance.
-Liberia – UNOMIL Background
Candidates from 13 political parties participated in the elections held on July 19, 1997. Charles Taylor won the presidency and his party won 70 of the 90 seats in the Legislature. The new administration assumed power on August 2, 1997. This was a great achievement especially for the international organizations that were committed to implementing the peace process.
Perry was later appointed as Balfour African President in Residence at Boston University in 2004. This role allows former elected African presidents to share their insights on current situations in their nations and Africa as a whole, enabling western nations to understand and help with such crises.
President Sirleaf named one of two defense boats donated by the US in Perry’s honor at the 52nd Armed Forces Day celebration in February 2014. In June 2015, along with other prominent African women including President Sirleaf, Perry was awarded the ‘Women of Excellence’ Award by the African Union.
On the morning of January 8, 2017, Perry died in Columbus, Ohio, USA, and was laid to rest in Ohio. A memorial service was held in her honor in February 2017.
As Part of 52nd Anniversary of Armed Forces Day, President Sirleaf Commissions Two Defender Boats, Named for Two Liberian Women, to Patrol Nation’s Territorial Waters. Executive Mansion Press Release. 10 Feb. 2014. Web.
Adebajo, Adekeye. Liberia’s Civil War : Nigeria, ECOMOG, and Regional Security in West Africa. Boulder, Colo.: L. Rienner, 2002. Print.
Disarmament, Demobilization Greatest Challenges Facing Liberia, Chairman of Liberia’s Council Of State Tells General Assembly. UN General Assembly Press Release. 09 Oct. 1996. Web.
Eblen, Anna L. Women Who Speak for Peace. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.
Liberia. PBS. WGBH Educational Foundation. 2002. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.
Liberia’s Ruth Sando Perry Named Next Boston University African President-In-Residence. Boston University Public Relations. 22 Jan. 2004. Web.
Liberia – UNOMIL Background. United Nations Peacekeeping. Web.
New SRSG arrives in Monrovia. UNOMIL Press Release, 29 Apr. 1997. Web.
President Sirleaf, Several Prominent African Women Receive ‘women of Excellence’ Award From African Union – Diaspora African Forum – Holds Honoring and Award Banquet in Johannesburg. Liberia Government. All Africa News. 15 Jun. 2015. Web.
UNOMIL Press Release. United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia. 29 Apr. 1997
President Sirleaf Attends Memorial Service of Late Council of State Chairperson Ruth Perry. The Executive Mansion. 26 Feb. 2017.