“Liberia: Obama Praises Sirleaf’s Heroism – Pledges More US Cooperation, Aid
US President Barack Obama said at the White House yesterday that Liberia has overcome most its difficulties due to the heroism of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, media reports from Washington D.C. said.
He said the Liberian President’s commitment to democracy was a legacy that other African leaders ought to adopt in order to put their countries on the map of unfolding democracy on the African Continent. .
The US President made the observations and commendations when he met President Sirleaf in the Oval Office. He then pledged the United States’ support to Liberia in every step of the way of its democratic development.
‘I have been an extraordinary admirer of her work for many years now…. The United States and Liberia are close friends, longstanding partners, and Liberia is now emerging from a very difficult period,’ the US President said.
He credited Liberia’s emergence from the difficult period in a relative short period of time to the Liberian leader’s commitment to the rule of law exemplified by strides made in reforming the judiciary.
‘In all these endeavors I want to make sure the people of Liberia understand… that the United States is a constant friend and partner,’ President Obama said.
He said President Sirleaf’s example should be taken as inspiration to other African nations including, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Niger.
President Sirleaf welcomed the US leader’s commendation on behalf of the Liberian people and noted that what President Obama has observed about Liberia would not have been possible without the cooperation and assistance of the United States.
She said she was she was proud to have met President Obama and exchanged ideas with him on the progress made in Liberia as well as bilateral relations between the two countries.
She thanked the US government and people for continuing to play to come 14,000 Liberia currently living in the US on Temporary Protective Status or TPS and the Obama administration for a recent action taken to extend the delayed enforced departure for another year.
Incidentally, in the 1990s, United States extended ‘temporary protection status’ to all Liberians who could get to America, and 14,000 of them took advantage of that humanitarian offer. Temporary protection status is an immigration status somewhere between political asylum and refugee status. Administered by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, it is extended to nationals of countries facing civil unrest or natural disaster.
During their conversation, President Obama assured the Liberian leader of the US commitment to work with Liberia in the area of food security, especially through the Feed the Future program under course at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Mr. Obama also emphasized that the US will continue to work with Liberia in the areas of security, education, health, and counter-terrorism, to combat drug trafficking in a strong partnership.
The President said she looks forward to the continuing support of the US and said there are still many challenges facing her country. She particularly pointed out that she wants to count on the support of the US and other allies at the June 26 meeting of the IMF and World Bank when the issue of the debt relief for Liberia comes up.
President Sirleaf also briefed Mr. Obama on the work she and other African leaders are currently doing to ensure that the democratic process stays on course.
In Liberia itself, President Sirleaf noted that the next elections in 2011 would be a defining moment for the consolidation of peace and democracy. She said she looks forward to the assistance of US and other friends of Liberia in helping to start the process right now.
In the area of security, President Sirleaf thanked the US for their support in the various areas of the security sector reform. She said that now that UNMIL is drawing down, it was important that the police reach its full capacity.
She thanked the US AFRICOM for the work they are currently doing in Liberia.
The President said that strengthening the judiciary is a major goal of her Administration.
In closing the meeting, President Obama said that President Sirleaf has a very good sense where Liberia was headed.
Africa’s first elected female head of state, Sirleaf said that she would not hide the fact that Liberia had challenges, but added that all basic freedoms were alive in her country today.
‘We said that we were going to make Liberia rise again. I come today on behalf of the Liberian people to say that we have made a lot of progress,’ she said.
‘We have been able to maintain peace for seven years now.’
Earlier Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Sirleaf to discuss elections next year in the West African country and various other issues, a statement said.
Clinton said after their talks that Washington is a partner with Monrovia ‘in the promotion of democracy, the establishment of good governance, and development of a responsible security sector in Liberia.’
The chief US diplomat said she sought to assure Sirleaf ‘of our continued support and engagement as Liberia progresses towards full economic and political recovery’ after successive civil wars.
‘In this regard, we discussed Liberia’s preparations for national elections in 2011, progress on judicial and police reforms, and efforts to fight against official corruption,’ Clinton said.”