14 February 2013

Liberia: 'Liberians Deeply Saddened' - Sirleaf Continues to Console Guineans

The Government and people of Liberia, on whose soil tragedy occurred claiming 11 top officials of the Guinean military on their way to celebrate Liberia's Armed Forces Day anniversary, continue to demonstrate unreserved solidarity with the Government and people of Guinea. In addition to other overtures, including a full abstinence from work and trade, Liberians in their corners have been expressing sorrow and comforting words over the tragedy. Yesterday, at the signing of the book of condolence at the Guinean Embassy near Liberia, the President of the nation amplified the depth of dejection and solidarity. The Analyst reports.

"All Liberians are saddened by this [tragedy] and all Liberians continue to just say to Guinea that 'we just stand by them'. You know a Liberian delegation return the dead bodies to Guinea yesterday and I had a long conversation with President Conteh on the phone."

Those were the words of President Sirleaf when she spoke to journalists following the signing of the book of condolence in honor of nearly a dozen Guineans who died in a plane crash while on their way to celebrate with Liberians Armed Forces Day on February 11.

The Guinean military officials who met their fateful day while en route to Liberia's Armed Forces Day Anniversary, when the plane in which they were travelling crashed in Charlesville, Margibi County, about three miles away from Roberts International Airport (RIA).

The actual cause of the plane crash is yet unknown, but the Liberia Aviation Authority (LAA) and other agencies are investigating the incident involving a CASA Aircraft (CN-235) with registration 3X-GGG approximately 3 miles south of the aerodrome.

The flight originated from Conakry, the Republic of Guinea. At 7:09 GMT, Air Traffic Control cleared the flight to land at RIA. That was the last known contact with the crew.

The search and rescue team dispatched to the scene met the plane in complete tatters. No survivals were found. The  bodies of the dead have since been flown to Conakry.

The Liberian government, individual officials, political parties and ordinary citizens continue to pour condolences upon the government and people of Guinea, particularly the immediate bereaved families of the dead.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf immediately issued a proclamation declaring the day after the fatal plane crash a National Holiday to be observed throughout Liberia.

A statement from the presidency noted: "Government of the Republic of Liberia has learned with utter shock and regrets the news of a plane crash near Monrovia, in the early hours of Monday, February 11, 2013, which claimed the lives of the Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Guinea, General Kelefa Diallo, and nine others comprising Guinean military officers and flight crew, who were on their way to attend the 56th Anniversary Celebrations of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Liberia," the President said in the proclamation.

The statement said it has been the policy of the Government of the Republic of Liberia to adopt such measures as would be appropriate to show solidarity with other friendly nations, adding: "Now, Therefore, I, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, by virtue of the authority in me vested, and in honor of our gallant and distinguished fallen regional military officers and flight crew, do hereby declare Tuesday, February 12, 2013 as a day of mourning for the colossal loss sustained to be observed as a National Holiday throughout the Republic."

The holiday pronounced by the President was celebrated with unusual reverence by Liberians who are known for floating holiday edicts. Though the President declared the next day, February 12, a working holiday, most Liberians closed their business centers, private and public schools closed and the country was virtually shut down.

At the singing of the book of condolence, President Sirleaf led an array of government officials including Vice President Joseph N. Boakai, Foreign Affairs Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan and Internal Affairs Minister Blamo Nelson and other imminent Liberians at the Wednesday event which was characterized by sorrow.

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