Liberian Acting Foreign Minister Terms AU ‘Ebola Champion’

The Acting Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. B. Elias Shoniyin, has praised the African Union’s (AU) intervention in Liberia’s Ebola fight in 2014.

Acting Minister Shoniyin said the AU is regarded as one of Liberia’s Ebola Champions because it worked assiduously hard to stamp out the virus.

He made the commendation Monday, December 21st, during the farewell reception held in honor of H. E. Ambassador Harrison Oluwantoyin Solaja, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC).

According to a Foreign Ministry release, the Foreign Ministry’s Acting Head stated that Ambassador Solaja worked hard to facilitate and deepen Liberia’s relations with the AU; adding: “in his four-year journey in Liberia, we accomplished a lot together.”

“Mr. Ambassador, we congratulate you for the immense services to Liberia while you represented the Chairperson of the African Union in this country,” he further stated.

He heaped a “big thank you” on the AU and Ambassador Solaja, who he said did an enviable work in putting Liberia’s agendas on the front burner of the AU. “The Government of Liberia has enjoyed and continues to enjoy both diplomatic and multilateral relations with the AU and the African Union Commission,” the Acting Minister stated.

“Among the many contributions of the African Union, Liberia’s economic development, Liberians remember the urgent response to the Ebola outbreak in MRU region, when the African Union convened an Extraordinary Executive Session on 8 September 2014, during which time Member States were called upon to urgently lift all travel bans and restrictions on the Ebola-affected countries. Beyond this call, the Commission scrupulously follow-up and requested Member States to manifest their solidarity by the resumption of flights and abandoning border closures.”

The Acting Minister stated that decision from that Session went further to officially launch the Africa Union’s response platform under the name, “African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA)” and by mid-September 2014, ASEOWA began deployment in the affected countries, using Liberia as the Mission’s base.

“Today, we celebrate the more than 835 volunteers from across Africa, who availed themselves to service in the affected countries, out of which 339 served in Liberia. Their humanity led them to the hot spots and guided them, that not a single volunteer contracted the disease. Beyond the financial contributions of many AU member states, the deeds of contributing countries to the intervention of ASEOWA will never be forgotten, as they form part of the great history of Africa’s response to its own problem,” Minister Shoniyin commended the continental body.

The Acting Minister indicated that the AU also provided US$500,000 to the three affected countries as direct support and further advocated for debt cancellation for Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in order to alleviate the impact of the Ebola crisis on their economies and to facilitate recovery and development.

The Acting Foreign Minister told the audience, including foreign diplomats and heads of mission, that prior to the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, the AU made series of meaningful contributions to the educational sector of Liberia such as providing monetary assistance to a number of schools in Montserrado and Gbarpolu counties in the tune of over US$200,000.

However, the Minister said that in order to give back and contribute to peace and stability in the region, the Government of Liberia identified with the AU by dispatching troops from the Arm Forces of Liberia to Bamako, Mali to form part of the African Peacekeeping Mission, which later transformed into the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission.

Responding, Ambassador Solaja, who assumed office in October 2011, remembered that when the deadly Ebola virus was raging in Liberia in July and August of 2014, a solution had to be found to the “mysterious health and humanitarian disaster.”

“With the support of partners, including the African Union Support of Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), Health Volunteers deployed under the auspices of the AU, the resilience of Liberians prevailed leading to the containment of the disease,” he said.

He also stated that the AU spent about US$37 million, through contributions from partners and the African Private Sector, in the deployment of about 850 AU health volunteers, and provision of needed logistics to fight the deadly virus in the three Mano River Union affected nation.

Ambassador Solaja enumerated a lot of other projects that were done through his office, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during his four-year stint in Liberia.

The AU Diplomat further acknowledged the progress made by the government of H.E. Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia. He named the development in infrastructure and the restoration of essential basic services to Liberians, as meaningful achievements of the Sirleaf administration.

“I have witnessed several efforts made by the government in areas of governance, peace, security and the rule of law, the economy and the humanitarian front, to improve the lives of Liberian citizens,” he stated.

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