Monrovia, July 11 – Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac highlighted the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders (YALI) Program and the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit as examples of the countries’ close collaboration in remarks at a U.S. Independence Day reception (July 3).
In addressing the audience of 750 government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of non-governmental organizations, journalists and youth, Ambassador Malac said: “We are proud of the contributions that the United States is making to Liberia’s recovery and development.”
She cited as examples the selection of 15 young Liberians as YALI Washington Fellows, President Sirleaf’s participation in the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit next month, and visits by Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom and Counselor Tom Shannon. She said the United States is also helping Liberia by selecting it as one of only six Power Africa Initiative countries, and through on-going programs to support agriculture, education and healthcare, including its support to combat the outbreak of the Ebola virus.
“Through many mechanisms, we are working with Liberians to help build a Liberia that is at peace with itself and its neighbors and offers economic opportunity to all its citizens,” Ambassador Malac said. “Building such a bright future is no easy task, especially in the wake of devastating conflict. It requires unity of effort, a shared vision and a commitment to the common good.”
She added: “This does not mean that there must always be complete agreement on every policy decision – alternative or dissenting views can drive innovative solutions and are a necessary component of a vibrant democracy – but it does require public discourse marked by civility and respect. We can agree to disagree while continuing to work together in the best interests of the country.”
She praised President Sirleaf for her leadership, saying that Liberia has made progress but that much more needs to be done to deliver the promise and benefits of peace and prosperity to all Liberians. She called on Liberians and Americans alike to renew their commitment to work together to achieve the promise.
For her part, President Sirleaf said that Liberia and the United States have had deep ties of friendship, partnership and kinship during more than 150 years of bilateral relations.
“Together, we have taken extraordinary steps in strengthening these bonds through partnership dialogues and other initiatives that are mutually beneficial, and we recommit ourselves to continue to explore avenues for greater cooperation and collaboration,” President Sirleaf said. “Among such initiatives is the program in which 15 of our young people are now in the United States benefiting from exchange and interaction from other young people from Africa. Another initiative as mentioned by you, Madam Ambassador, is next month’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit hosted by President Barack Obama, to which Liberia has been invited and where, along with other African leaders, we will have the opportunity to dialogue about investing in Africa’s future, peace and regional security and governing for the next generation. We look forward to a productive Summit and outcome.”
President Sirleaf praised the United States, the single largest donor to Liberia, saying the country continues to benefit from U.S. cooperation and assistance especially in the areas of security, accountability, health and human capacity development.
She quipped that as a result of the Power Africa Initiative, “I hold you to the commitment you just made that we shall see light all over Liberia,” President Sirleaf said.
The President said Liberia is proud of its soldiers who are participating in the UN peacekeeping mission to Mali, and that the country is grateful to the U.S. Government for the training and other logistical support which not only made the mission possible, but enabled the transformation of Liberia from being widely considered an exporter of war to an exporter of peace.
Thanks to a U.S. State Department Arts Envoy grant that brought the Oklahoma-based group, Kyle Dillingham & Horseshoe Road to Liberia, guests enjoyed the sounds of American music. Some guests danced in a conga line as the group performed songs from a wide variety of musical genres, from bluegrass to rock to folk.