Executive Mansion, Monrovia
On an official visit to Liberia, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has assured the country that the UN’s draw-down plan will proceed in a cautious and gradual manner to ensure that the gains made in consolidating peace are not compromised. A gradual withdrawal, the UN Secretary-General said, should allow the Government sufficient time to assume full responsibility of national security.
Addressing a news conference at the end of a two-day visit to Liberia, Mr. Ban observed that despite considerable progress, Liberia still faces significant reconstruction and development challenges. Nevertheless, he noted that Government is working hard in partnership with the international community to tackle the challenges.
Mr. Ban said the international community has been generous, yet he further called on the world to continue supporting Liberia’s recovery. The UN chief warned against squandering funds provided by the international community for Liberia’s reconstruction. He urged Liberians to fight corruption in all forms and pursue peace for the growth and development of the country.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the Secretary-General expressed concern over what he referred to as the persistent scourge of rape in Liberia as well as sexual abuse and exploitation by UN personnel. He said the UN will continue to take stern measures to curb such acts which contravene international conventions. The UN’s most senior diplomat also expressed regret that rape continues to be the most commonly committed crime in Liberia. He called on community and Government leaders as well as traditional chiefs, elders and prominent Liberians to take the lead in combating sexual and gender-based violence.
The UN Secretary-General, who arrived in the country Monday accompanied by his wife, earlier addressed a Joint Session of the 52nd session of the National Legislature. In his address, Mr. Ban spoke of the rising food prices around the world and challenged Liberians to take advantage of the country’s abundant agricultural resources by meeting its own needs and also exporting food to the region. “I challenge you to reduce poverty and create jobs in Liberia by developing your agricultural sector,” he emphasized. The Secretary-General’s address was preceded by a meeting with Vice President, Dr. Joseph Boakai, who lauded the role the United Nations continues to play in consolidating peace in Liberia.
The Secretary-General, who was later briefed by members of the Cabinet during a session at the Foreign Ministry, lauded the Government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the remarkable progress taking place in the country. Mr. Ban recalled that as a former South Korean diplomat, it has long been his wish to visit Liberia. He expressed gratitude for the reception accorded him, and assured the Cabinet of the UN’s continued support of Liberia’s development programs.
The UN Secretary-General praised the spirit of teamwork among all branches of Government, Mr. Ban said it was important that Government continue to implement sound policies of transparency in the management of state revenues. The UN chief also lauded the Government for embracing the Governance and Economic Management Program (GEMAP), and urged Government to take advantage of the program by building the capacity of Liberians to effectively take over the management of the country’s resources.
On armed robbery, the UN boss said the Mission will continue to work with Government to build the capacity of the police and the military to tackle the security situation in the country. The UN Secretary-General acknowledged Liberia’s high expectations of the UN, and noted that despite the world body’s limited capacity, much can be achieved with the proper coordination of programs.
Secretary-General Mr. Ban and Mrs. Ban were later honored at a gowning ceremony which took place at the Cecil Dennis Auditorium in the Foreign Ministry. Spearheaded by traditional chiefs and elders and led by the Chairman of the Traditional Council, Chief Zanzan Karwor, the ceremony was witnessed by members of the Cabinet; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alex Tyler; other senior members of Government, including Vice President Joseph Boakai and acting head of the Cabinet, Internal Affairs Minister Mr. Ambulai Johnson; and members of diplomatic missions accredited near Monrovia.
The UN Secretary-General has now left Liberia for Burkina Faso on the next stage of a tour of a number of West African countries, which will also take him to Cote d’Ivoire. The UN Secretary-General has attended the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development held in Accra, Ghana.
The visit to Liberia by Mr. Ban is the first by the United Nations Secretary-General since he assumed office last year, succeeding Dr. Kofi Annan of Ghana.