French President to Visit Liberia
President François Hollande of France has accepted an invitation from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to visit Liberia.
The Liberian leader extended the invitation to her counterpart after she received that country’s highest award and public distinction, the Grand Croix of the Légion d’Honneur. The honor was bestowed by President Hollande during a grand ceremony at the Elysée Palace, in Paris, on Wednesday, November 7th.
President Sirleaf was honored for her support for women’s rights, peace in Liberia and promoting stability, progress and development in the Mano River Union. The Légion d’Honneur, created by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is awarded to distinguished personalities, who have served France or the ideals it upholds.
According to a dispatch from Paris, President Sirleaf thanked the French President, the Government and the fraternal people of France for the recognition, and in turn, dedicated the prestigious award, “to the resilient and steadfast people of Liberia; and to women and children and the underprivileged everywhere in Africa and elsewhere, those seeking self-esteem, dignity and a better life.”
“This honor reinforces my commitment to remain steadfast in championing the cause of humanity, and advocating for social justice and the exercise of inalienable rights without precondition. My campaign is strengthened by this award, and I feel assured of the support of the French Republic, of your support, Mr. President, the support of freedom-loving people everywhere. This award serves as an inspiration in the great task that remains before us”, said the Liberian leader.
She added: “This honor reinforces my commitment to remain steadfast in championing the cause of humanity, and advocating for social justice and the exercise of inalienable rights without precondition. My campaign is strengthened by this award, and I feel assured of the support of the French Republic, of your support, Mr. President, the support of freedom-loving people everywhere. This award serves as an inspiration in the great task that remains before us.”
For his part, President Hollande said it was an honor to receive President Sirleaf in France, as the first woman President in Africa, which serves as an example that goes far beyond Africa.
The French leader paid tribute to the trust the Liberian people gave Madam Sirleaf by re-electing her in 2011, observing that it was for her actions for peace, reconciliation, and for women’s rights that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Today, it is France which is honoring you by awarding you the highest award of the French Republic because you are an outstanding person!” said President Hollande, and noted France’s contribution in the Paris Club’s decision to waive Liberia’s external indebtedness, with France alone forgiving U$252 million debt for Liberia.
He shared the Liberian leader’s commitment for more justice, more rights, and more jobs for young people, and pointed out that President Sirleaf faced a number of challenges in Liberia, including poverty, illnesses, corruption and historical conflicts, saying “You are succeeding to do in Liberia what many countries are not managing to do.”
Commenting on the Malian crisis, President Hollande called upon Africa to act, saying Europe is prepared to provide support, but it was the responsibility of the Africans to decide on whether to intervene in the matter, in the light of a Security Council resolution.