Ellen in Côte d’Ivoire
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is in the Ivorian Capitol, Abidjan to participate in the annual meetings of the African Development Bank Group which ends May 29, 2015.
A dispatch from Abidjan said highpoints of the meetings include the election of the Bank's 8th President, the commemoration of its 50th Anniversary, and the formal admission of South Sudan as its 54th regional member country and its 80th global member.
The 50th Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank’s Board of Governors and the 41th Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Bank’s concessionary window, the African Development Fund (ADF), signal the Bank Group’s return to its headquarters in Abidjan in 2014 after more than 11 years in Tunis, Tunisia.
According to the dispatch, the Liberian leader and delegation were received at the Felix Houphouet Boigny International Airport by an array of Ivorian Government officials led by the country’s Prime Minister, Daniel Kablan Duncan.
“I welcome you on behalf of President Alassane Ouattara, the Government and friendly people of Côte d’Ivoire as you have come to join in the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the AfDB Group as a Special Guest and do wish you a pleasant stay in Côte d’Ivoire,” Prime Minister Duncan said.
Also on hand to receive President Sirleaf and delegation were Liberia’s Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire Johnny A. McClain, embassy officials and nearly 200 Liberians resident in Abidjan.
Later in the evening, approximately 300 Liberians assembled at the premises of the Liberian Embassy for a “Special Welcome and Thank You Program” in honor of President Sirleaf.
Ambassador McClain welcomed President Sirleaf and delegation to Abidjan and on the premises of the Liberian Embassy, indicating that the gathering was a result of their gratitude, love and appreciation to their leader, particularly after the containment of the Ebola disease.
He commended the Liberian leader for providing for conducive environment and structure provided them to conduct the affairs of the mission in Côte d’Ivoire, pointing out that the development of the country’s foreign mission was not just a Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ business, but a project of the Liberian President.
Ambassador McClain commended President Sirleaf for approving the construction of a Chancery on the Embassy grounds to alleviate the issue of rent payment and other expenses.
In statement delivered by the President of the Liberian Community in Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Alexander Momolu Watson, the President and her administration were hailed for effectively bringing the Ebola crisis to an end, noting that the over 6,000 Liberians residing in Côte d’Ivoire were happy and very grateful to the Liberian leader.
“Madam President, you were firm, as a great leader, in providing direction for the country during the Ebola crisis with the help and support of international partners and the Liberian people, particularly health workers (domestic and international) who are the real heroes.
He expressed sincere regrets and sorrow for the over 4,000 citizens and residents who lost their lives to the virus and prayed that God consoles their families and grant them a place in Heaven.
Mr. Watson acknowledged God’s intervention in the country and for the life of the President, adding that it is only God that will reward President Sirleaf for all she has done and continues to do for Liberia.
He appealed for assistance to ensure the biggest Independence Anniversary celebrations ever in the history of Liberians residing in Côte d’Ivoire; assistance to construct a headquarters for the community; as well as mobility to reach Liberians wherever they may be in Côte d’Ivoire.
Mr. Watson also called on the Liberian President to prevail on her counterpart, President Ouattara, to reopen the Ivorian side of the border to ensure free movement of goods and people across both countries.
In response, President Sirleaf thanked the Liberian community for the honor and assembling in their numbers to welcome her and her delegation. She used to occasion to introduce and present members of her delegation. “We did not expect to see this huge number of people here tonight, but we are pleased and grateful that you could come to welcome us,” she indicated.
The Liberian leader told her compatriots in Côte d’Ivoire that the country had come a long way and that even though things were not where she wanted them to be, more progress and transformation had taken place with the involvement of all Liberians.
She stressed that much has been done because Liberians chose to be very peaceful during the last ten years, adding that with peace, the country can reach its development objectives.
President Sirleaf said though Ebola disrupted the progress of Liberia, her government was putting the pieces back together with the development of the National Recovery Plan which sees building a resilient healthcare system at the top of the priorities.
She indicated that education, infrastructure (roads, power, ports, water, etc.) were all important for the recovery process.
She said she was in Côte d’Ivoire to join the AfDB celebrate its 50th Anniversary because the Bank had stood with Liberia in its rebuilding process, and that it was important to show gratitude and appreciation.
She thanked the president of the Liberian Association in Côte d’Ivoire for his kind words about Liberians and her administration. “I hope you all are here acquiring skills that you can bring back home when you decide to return. We need all the skills and education to build our country,” she pointed out.
On the issue of the headquarters, President Sirleaf told the Liberians that it was not her desire to institutionalize refugee life, but rather look forward to seeing Liberians return home and help rebuild the country.
She assured the Liberians that the border issue will be addressed with her counterpart as part of her mission to that neighboring country.
She, however, promised to review their request and presented an amount of US$10,000 for the celebration of this year’s independence anniversary by the Liberian community there. Edited by George Barpeen