President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has arrived in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire to participate in the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group from May 25 to 29, 2015.
Other highpoints of the meetings are 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 Meetings 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 after more than 11 years in Tunis, Tunisia. The AfDB returned to Abidjan in 2014.
According to a Dispatch from the Ivorian capital, 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, His Excellency 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, His Excellency Johnny A. McClain, embassy officials and nearly 200 Liberians resident in Abidjan who had turned out to give the Liberian leader a rousing welcome.
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 Johnny McClain welcomed President Sirleaf and delegation to Abidjan and on the premises of the Liberian Embassy and indicated that the gathering was a result of a grateful people wishing to express their delight, love and appreciation to their leader, particularly after the containment of the Ebola disease due to her extraordinary leadership.
He commended the Liberian leader for providing for he and his staff a conducive environment and structure to conduct the affairs of the mission in Côte d’Ivoire and pointed out that the development of the country’s foreign mission is not just a Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ business, but a project of the Liberian President.
Ambassador McClain commended President Sirleaf to approving the construction of a Chancery on the Embassy grounds which will alleviate the issue of rent payment and other expenses.
In the “Special Thank You Statement” delivered by the president of the Liberian community in Côte d’Ivoire, Mr. Alexander Momolu Watson, he thanked President Sirleaf and her government for effectively bringing the Ebola crisis to an end and pointed out 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 then 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 the free movement of goods and people across both countries.
In response, President Sirleaf thanked the Liberian community for the honor and for 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 has come a long way and that even though things are not where she wants it to be, more progress and transformation has taken place with the involvement of all Liberians. She stressed 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.) are 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 has stood with Liberia in its rebuilding process and 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 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.