President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will on Wednesday receive from the President of the French Republic, H.E. François Hollande, France’s highest award and public distinction, the Grand Croix of the Légion d’Honneur.
President Sirleaf departs Liberia on Tuesday, November 6th, to receive the award at a ceremony at the Elysée Palace, in Paris. She is being honored for her support of women’s rights and for her actions in favor of peace in her country and for promoting stability and development in the Mano River Union.
The Légion d'Honneur, created by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is awarded to those who have served France or the ideals it upholds. As the highest decoration in France, it is divided into five degrees: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross).
No woman, not even a Head of State, had been decorated before the middle of the 19th century. That has all changed. With this decoration she is to receive, President Sirleaf becomes the seventh woman living in the class of Grand Cross. Among those who have been decorated with the Grand Cross are: Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and the late Lord Mountbatten.
Recent recipients of various awards include: Aung San Suu Kyi (Myanmar pro-democracy leader and winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize); Singer-songwriter Sir Paul McCartney (for his contribution to the arts); Author Toni Morrison; Author J.K. Rowling, of the Harry Potter books; American film director Steven Spielberg; and more. Among Heads of State have been: Festus Mogae of Botswana; Shimon Peres of Israel; and Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the President is departing the country on a five-day visit to three European countries – France, Belgium and the Netherlands – where she will receive honors, meet with government and intergovernmental officials, and hold talks with representatives of businesses and potential investors in Liberia.
While in Paris, President Sirleaf will also meet with CEOs of several French companies and with African Ambassadors in France.
In Brussels on Thursday, November 8th, President Sirleaf will meet with and address the Belgium Senate on the post-2015 global development framework, in her capacity as one of three co-Chairs of the UN High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons established to craft a development agenda after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015. The President will hold a similar discussion during her meeting with the Committee of Ambassadors at the headquarters of the Group of African, Caribbean and Pacific States Secretariat. A breakfast meeting with the Heads of the Association of Liberians in Belgium & Friends of Liberia is also planned. |
Also during her day-long visit to Brussels, the Liberian President will hold a meeting with the Parliament of the European Union to discuss the Commission’s support for Liberia.
Next, President Sirleaf travels to The Hague, where she will pay a courtesy call on Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and dine with Their Royal Highnesses, the Prince of Orange and Princess Máxima, who also serves as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development, and visited Liberia in June 2010.
In the Netherlands, President Sirleaf will hold bilateral talks with Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, and a discussion with Members of Parliament of both Houses on support for Liberia’s development.
The Liberian President then travels to Tilburg University, situated in the south of the Netherlands. There, as the guest of honor, she will join in the celebration of the university’s 85th anniversary, or Dies; deliver a lecture on “International Social Responsibility,” as the university observes the 100th anniversary of the birth of the first female Minister of the Netherlands, Marga Klompé.
Along with two academicians, President Sirleaf will be awarded an honorary degree, Doctor Honoris Causa, being recognized for leadership and for her interest in education and social responsibility. A reception and dinner will follow. President Sirleaf will also take time from her busy schedule for press interviews.
On Saturday, November 10th, President Sirleaf will hold a series of meetings with officials of several Dutch companies, including Philip Global, Royal Haskoning, Vlisco and APM Terminals. She will also meet with members of the Liberian community in the Netherlands.
The members of her delegation, at the several capitals, include: the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Dr. Edward B. McClain, Jr.; Deputy Foreign Minister Sylvester Grigsby; the Ambassador of Liberia to France, D. McKinley Thomas; the Ambassador of Liberia to Belgium and to the Netherlands, Francis Karpeh; University of Liberia President, Dr. Emmet A. Dennis; Ambassador Nathaniel Barnes, Chairman of the Board of the National Port Authority; Ms. Matilda Parker, Managing Director of the National Port Authority; and the Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs, Isaac Jackson.
While President Sirleaf is away from the country, the Minister of Justice, Cllr. Christiana Tah, will chair the Cabinet in consultation with Vice President Joseph N. Boakai.
The Liberian President and delegation return home on Sunday, November 11th.