The Inquirer (Monrovia)

West Africa: Ellen Lauds ECOWAS Commission

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has lauded the ECOWAS Commission for the enormous support it continues to render Liberia, especially its assistance in such areas as peace and security, and economic recovery, among others. President Sirleaf also thanked the Commission for the support to Ivorian refugees, especially in this Christmas season.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf made the statement when she officially welcomed the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo, who headed a seven-member delegation that paid a courtesy call on her during a three-day humanitarian mission in Liberia.

Responding, Mr. Ouedraogo expressed his delegation's gratitude to the government and people of Liberia for the warm welcome extended them, and for the opportunity to visit Grand Gedeh County which is hosting Ivorian refugees. "Once again, I want to reiterate our appreciation to you and the Liberian people for the generosity and hospitality extended to the refugees," he said.

He informed President Sirleaf that during their discussions with Ivorian refugees, they registered their concerns about peace, security and reconciliation in Côte d'Ivoire. He assured them that the ECOWAS leadership is handling the matter and, hopefully peace and security would return to that country shortly.

The ECOWAS President commended President Sirleaf for her contribution to the peace and stability on the Liberian side of the border. "It is a pleasure for ECOWAS to support your efforts in building safety and security for all residents along the border," he said, adding that ECOWAS will continue to assist Liberia in this endeavor.

He also recognized President Sirleaf's contribution to peace in West Africa, especially since the conflicts erupted in Mali and Guinea Bissau, and all that she's doing to see that they are peacefully resolved.

The Commission's President congratulated President Sirleaf and her government for the massive economic development achieved since her ascendancy. "We know the country has been in a difficult situation, but what we see is that the economy is recovering, and peace and security are here. We believe that this is a very huge asset for this country," he said. He expressed ECOWAS' availability to continue working with the government to improve the situation in the country.

He explained that as ECOWAS has two sets of objectives - peace and security and economic development and prosperity for the population - the Commission will play its role in this regard.

The ECOWAS President disclosed that he held fruitful discussions with Finance Minister Konneh in the area of infrastructure, energy and power - three major areas of concentration of the government. Regarding infrastructure, he said the Commission is concentrating on connecting the missing links in the trans-West African Highway project. Liberia is to connect with Sierra Leone through the Ibrahim Babangida Highway up to the Mano River Bridge. "We are making sure that very soon we will have the resources to finance this project," Mr. Ouedraogo said, stressing that he will continue to work with the Finance Minister and friends of the European Union towards that end.

In the energy sector, the ECOWAS President noted that the West African Power Pool Project, interconnecting the power grids of the four Mano River Union countries, is on course and will commence shortly. "I believe it is going to improve significantly the electricity situation in Liberia and other Mano River countries," he said.

Earlier on Monday, the ECOWAS Commission's delegation officially handed over 300 tons of rice to the Government of Liberia through Finance Minister Konneh. Mr. Konneh, who serves as focal person for ECOWAS Affairs, turned over the consignment of rice to the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to have it transported to southeastern Liberia where it will be distributed to the Ivorian refugee population.

While in the country, Mr. Ouedraogo and delegation also held meetings with Foreign Minister, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations in Liberia.

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