27 September 2012

Liberia Has Turned the Corner - Ellens Tells General Assembly

New York — President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf on Tuesday, September 24, 2012 addressed the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. In her address, President Johnson-Sirleaf told the world that her country has "turned the comer" after a devastating civil war ended almost a decade ago, and that the Liberian people are ready to take their destiny into their own hands.

Liberia, the President noted, is no longer a nation of war, fear, destruction and violent conflict, that millions of citizens fled, but one building itself and willing to work with the UN and the rest of the international community to consolidate the gains and build a world of peace.

"As Liberia moves towards its tenth year of sustained peace, we can state with conviction that our country has turned the corner," the President said, attracting applauses. "Liberia is no longer a place of conflict, war and deprivation. We are no longer a country our citizens fled, our international partners pitied and our neighbors feared," she told the attentive hall of huge international diplomats.

Though Liberian back home complain that much has not been done, the United Nations and huge elements of the international community have admired the level of progress in Liberia since the war needed in 2003. In most instances and discussion here at the UN, Liberia is being referred to as a successful post conflict state.

President Sirleaf informed the gathering that Liberia's stabilization effort over the last six years has resulted in an average annual growth of over 6%. Revenue has quintupled, with foreign direct investment hitting US$16 billion, coupled with an expanded fiscal space of unprecedented debt cancelation as well as infrastructure reconstruction and institutional building.

"More importantly," the President continued attracting another round of applause, "we have earned our rightful place as a country of hope and opportunity. She vowed that "the process of change which has started will continue and will not stop until the country is placed on an irreversible path of sustained peace, growth and development."

The President did not however fail to list challenges in the face of the acclaimed progress. Naming security concerns as UNMIL draws down gradually, support girls education and health, as well as reconciliation.

"Our government," the President told the UNGA, "is keenly aware of the challenges to be faced over the next three years, as the United Nations peacekeeping forces are gradually withdrawn from Liberia. The Security Council recently extended the mandate of UNMIL to next September, but with instruction to further cut down by approximately 50% the current force of about 8,000.

President Sirleaf, as in previous discussions with UN expert team to the country, called for a "responsible transition" through "gradual process", occurring over a period of at least three years. She praised the UN for supporting the country to its current progress and stated that Liberians themselves are now ready to move ahead.

Touching on regional and international issues, President Sirleaf asserted that Liberia remains fully committed to the ideals and purposes of the UN and stressed that need for the world body to continue to occupy the center of global governance by leading efforts to meet collective challenges to peace, security and development.

The Liberian leader expressed concern over recent wave of violence against the US in the Muslim world, as well as the instabilities in Mali, Guinea Bissau and the threatening situation in neighboring Cote d' Ivoire. "We express our deep condolence for the death of the US Ambassador and staff, as well as Libyan nationals, in the attack at the US consulate in Benghazi."

President Sirleaf alerted "all nations" to be "concerned about the spreading violence" in reaction to a film which demonstrates an "unacceptable insensitivity" to an Islamic faith. In such situation, the President noted however that people must be mindful that democracy requires freedom--freedom of ideas, association, of religion, and most importantly of expression.

Linking the situation of violence to Liberia's recent past, President Sirleaf told the world that "tolerance, and not violence, is an appropriate response to prevent further violence," adding that "Liberian is an clear example that, were it not for our tolerance for the new-found freedom of expression, our country would be back in chaos.

Subregionaly, President Sirleaf regretted that while the majority of countries are consolidating economic and social gains underpinned by democratic processes, some parts of the sub-region are still dogged by serious challenges that risk undermining the peace and progress of the entire region. "We in Liberia, like many other countries in the region and the world at large, were particularly appalled by the unconstitutional unraveling, of democratic governments in Mali and Guinea Bissau in the early part of this year; and unequivocally condemned these attempts to seize power through unconstitutional means."

She said Liberia endorses the decisions of ECOWAS aimed at the full restoration of constitutional order in both countries in the shortest possible time. "Liberia enjoins the world community, particularly the Security Council, to buttress efforts of ECOWAS in restoring peace in our region, most especially in Mali."

As Chair of the four-nation Mano River Union comprising Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and La Cote D'Ivoire, President Sirleaf said Liberia has committed itself never to allow an inch of its territory to be used to destabilize its neighbors. "It is in this context that we categorically condemn all attempts to undermine the peace and democratic gains in La Cote D'Ivoire and are working closely with the Ivorian authorities and UN peacekeeping outfits in both Liberia and La Cote D'Ivoire to protect and consolidate the peace in our two countries."

"We call on all countries in our region to work in concert so that individuals intent on destabilizing some parts of our region are treated as enemies in all parts of our region," the renowned African leader noted.

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