Monrovia — President George Manneh Weah today, November 6, 2019, met with top officials of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (SRSG UNOWAS) and United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Peace Building Support Office (ASG/PBSO) and used the occasion not only to brief the delegation about developments at home but also to call for concerted efforts amongst countries and actors to harness peace in the Sahel region.
In an opening statement at the well-attended meeting with the UN Peace officials held at the Cecil Dennis Auditorium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President Weah called for "the need to coordinate our efforts, as well as to mobilize the needed resources in order to ensure that the Sahel is free of conflict and avoid being used for the wrong reasons. We remain open to United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) in order to discuss how Liberia can be of further assistance in this regard."
With specific regard to Mali, where Liberia is contributing to the peace process with the deployment of soldiers, President Weah reassured the United Nations of his government's commitment to the continuous service of the Liberian contingent of the Armed Forces of Liberia to ensure peace and stability in that country.
He referenced the recent Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Government of Liberia and the United Nations for the contribution of resources to the United Nations Multi-Dimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
"As we contemplate finding lasting solutions in Mali and the Sahel, I hope we will be able to count on the support of the ECOWAS Member States, particularly drawing from the experience of ECOMOG," said President Weah.
Liberia, he said, is a shining testimony of ECOMOG's effectiveness.
The Liberian Leader also shared with the visiting UN officials some of Liberia's challenges, which he said included the economy that is under stress, the unencouraging prices for major export commodities on the global market and sporadic experience of threats of protest "aimed at undermining the peace, security and democracy we are currently enjoying."
President Weah told the UN Peacebuilding Commission officials that in a considered attempt to address the current economic situation in Liberia, and to stimulate a broad-based conversation among all stakeholders within the Liberian economy, "we recently held a National Economic Dialogue to encourage all Liberians to join Government in devising and supporting new measures which could successfully address the structural defects and imbalances in the economy."
"It was at the same Dialogue that stakeholders recommended the establishment of a War and Economic Crimes Courts in the country," the President said, adding: "In response to this request, I have written the National Legislature to advise and provide guidance on all legislative and other necessary measures that would be required for the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report; including the establishment of the Economic and War Crimes Court."
The President said his government has also taken further steps in dealing with the economic challenges; for example, in response to a call by the IMF for the Government to reduce its annual wage bill, he said, "we have embarked upon a program of salary reduction of Government officials and harmonization of salaries of civil servants. Let me point out that upon assuming office on January 22, 2018; I announced the reduction of my salary by twenty-five (25%) percent; long before the call by the IMF."
The Liberian Chief Executive further indicated that his administration intends to place particular emphasis on the agriculture, education and health sectors.
"To this end," President Weah said, "we will be looking to forge close collaboration with relevant agencies of the UN in accelerating growth and development in Liberia."
He praised the United Nations for its support to Liberia, which he said makes the country "a UN Peacekeeping Success Story".
While this is a fair comment, President Weah said, he believes that it is time to transcend that "Success Story" label of Liberia and make the country become known for post-conflict peace, development, growth, and stability.
In order to achieve this, he said, "we will need tremendous assistance and guidance to deliver on these lofty goals and expectations."
The UN Peacebuilding officials in attendance included Guillermo Fernandez de Soto,
Chair of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission and Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations; Mohamed Fathi Ahmed Edrees, Vice Chair of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission and Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations; and Olof Skoog,
Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission Liberia Configuration and Permanent Representative of Sweden to the United Nations.
Others were Marc-Andre Blanchard, Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission Sierra Leone Configuration and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations and Member of the Peacebuilding Commission; Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS); Oscar Fernandez-Taranco,
Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO), amongst others
An array of government officials including ministers and advisors to the President also attended the meeting.