Monday, March 12, 2018 4:27 pm
ABUBAKAR HASHIM/ Monrovia
Winner of Mo Ibrahim Award for Good Leadership in Africa and Novel Peace Laureate, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has once again put Liberia positively on the international map, by peacefully conducting free, fair and internationally acclaimed credible elections.
Based on this sound political evolution and smooth transition, Liberia’s new President George Manneh Weah was sworn in as the country’s 24th President, in a colorful ceremony at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium in central Monrovia.
It was a glamorous occasion as the whole world was held in bated-breath, to see a former international football star becoming the new President of Africa’s oldest republic.
Few weeks after the inauguration, former President Sirleaf bagged the world’s biggest individual prize award for achievement in African Leadership, the fifth and only female former President in Africa to win the $ 5 million prize since it was established in 2006.
Chairman of the prize committee and former AU Secretary General, Salim Ahmed Salim, remarked that “Sirleaf has changed Liberia’s fortune since she took up the helms of affairs in a country that was completely destroyed by civil war, Ebola and fall in the prices of its main commodities and revenue earners, iron ore and rubber in the world market. She led a process of peace, reconciliation and building a nation with its democratic institutions”.
Salim went on to admit that “such a journey cannot be without short comings and challenges. Today, Liberia continues to face these challenges”.
It is this foundation from a failed state to one of peace, development and unity, though with lingering challenges, that the new Liberian President, George Weah will build upon for a progressive nation.
George Manneh Weah exhibited similar determination and courage like Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari.
Both aspired for the presidency several times. Both were victorious in the final contest.
George Manneh Weah’s inauguration was a splendid occasion. In attendance were representatives from all categories of people: Sitting Presidents and Vice Presidents, former Presidents and former Vice Presidents, Ambassadors, top football stars and artistes from all over the world.
George has proved his worth in remarkable style: Three times best African, European and World Footballer of the year and three times hard fought battles to become the newest African leader on the continent. At the recently held AU summit in Adiss Ababa, the first he attented as Head of State, he looked determined to fix the nation’s numerous challenges.
Liberians voted him en masse, with the gavel of authority handed to him by out- gone President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, to lead Liberia for the next six years amidst numerous challenges facing the country and its people.
Coming from a slum community in central Monrovia to attain the Presidency, Weah is expected to feel the pulse of the people. Though he admits tough challenges ahead, he is optimistic and convinced that with the assistance of friendly governments and institutions, he will deliver on his promises before the end of his tenure in 2023.
More so, as revealed by former President Sirleaf, she left behind a relatively sound economy, with funding supports from development partners that will keep the economy moving at a steady pace.
Liberia suffered civil wars from 1989 to 2003 that killed hundreds of thousands of people. As it was recovering in the past decade, it was hit by low prices of its chief exports, iron ore and rubber. It was worsened by the deadly Ebola outbreak in 2014 to 2016.
Former President Sirleaf weathered the storm to put Liberia on a peaceful and developmental trajectory. It is this stable developmental path President Weah will thread on, to add value on what former President Sirleaf accomplished.
Relations with Nigeria
The bilateral relations between Nigeria and Liberia has remained cordial, strong and promising, remarked Nigeria’s Ambassador to Liberia, James Dimka.
During the 14-year civil war, Nigeria took the lead in ending the brutal war. Nigerian soldiers sacrificed their lives to bring about political sanity in Liberia.
On the economic relations, Ambassador Dimka further remarked that it was given a boost when the inaugural session of the Nigeria- Liberia Joint commission meeting was held in Abuja in July 2014, which laid the basis for an enhanced socio-economic development of the two countries, thereby promoting regional security.
The outcome of the inaugural meeting strengthened bilateral trade and educational cooperation, training of Liberian Foreign Service Officers in the Nigerian Foreign Service Academy and the sending of volunteer teachers and medical doctors under the Technical Aid Corps (TAC) program, to help improve the Liberian educational sector and its human development capacity.
By the end of march the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) will wind down its operations. With full security architecture in the hands of Liberians, Nigeria maintains only 1 military Battalion stationed in Monrovia as well as a police unit in Gbanga in a residual force, to complement the National Security Institutions. In addition, Nigerian military officers are also involved in the training of the Armed Force of Liberia (AFL) as part of ECOWAS Advisory Training Team (EATT). There is currently an outstanding request by the Liberian government for the training of Liberian Armed Forces in the Nigerian Military School, particularly at the Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji, Kaduna, in Northern Nigeria. The Liberian government further requested for slots at the Nigerian Defence Academy for both regular and school service programmes.
It is on the economic front that the relation is more pronounced and mutually beneficial. Today, there are Nigerian Banks, like UBA, GTBank and others, doing banking businesses in Liberia. There is also Obasanjo Farms, employing thousands of Liberians and producing chickens, eggs and vegetables, thereby bringing down prices of foodstuffs in the local market.
The relations between the two countries has grown strong and virile, which has resulted in improved economic ties between the two countries. It is expected to wax stronger under the Presidency of George Weah, who sees Nigeria as an “affectionate brother and an indispensable partner in the ECOWAS region.