The outgoing Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union (AU), Harrison Oluwatoyin Solaja, has said that the ensuing 2017 presidential and legislative elections are very crucial to the consolidation of peace and democracy that would place Liberia on the right trajectory for economic and infrastructural development.
“It is my sincerest hope and wish that holding of successful elections in 2017 through transparent and democratic governance processes would serve as the threshold to transition Liberia from post-conflict situation to a fully fledged democratic country,” Ambassador Solaja said.
He spoke on Monday at a farewell reception which coincided with an investiture ceremony held in his honor by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at her Foreign Ministry office for Solaja’s “numerous contributions” to the Liberian state especially during the Ebola crisis.
The President recalled how Mr. Solaja rallied the continent to bring in medical volunteers, while also mobilizing funds to assist in the fight against the Ebola virus disease (EVD).
Monday’s ceremony was graced by an array of government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, members of the private sector and traditional leaders, among others.
The departing AU diplomat’s tenure expired at the end of his four-year assignment in Liberia. He arrived in the country on the eve of the 2011 general and presidential elections when political tension peaked – an experience which, he said, prepared him for the task of building up good relationship with Liberia.
After being celebrated for his “selfless and invaluable services” rendered Liberia, the AU envoy told Liberians that no amount of disagreement and dissatisfaction should ever lead them to conflict. He further urged Liberians to maintain the peace they have sustained for so many years.
“No amount of challenges, disagreement, displeasure or dissatisfaction should ever lead this country again to civil crisis,” Mr. Solaja cautioned.
He also expressed gratitude for the level of interactions he had with all state and non-state actors, who helped in the successful implementation of his mandate in the last four years. Ambassador Solaja also spoke of the country’s bright future.
He said challenges make life interesting, “but overcoming them makes life meaningful.”
“The past cannot be changed, but the future can be molded into any shape or form of ones choice, and that the future lies in the hands of the Presidency, the Legislature, the Judiciary and every Liberian lover of peace,” he said.
During the Ebola crisis, the AU diplomat disclosed that the organization spent about US$37 million through contributions from partners including the African Private Sector, which facilitated the rapid deployment of about 850 AU Health volunteers and the provision of needed logistics to fight the EVD in the three worst affected Mano River Union countries.
Also during his stay, The AU, through its Permanent Representative Council (PRC) subcommittee on refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons in Africa, also provided the amount of US$50,000 to the United Nations Commission on High Refugee (UNCHR) in Liberia toward humanitarian activities.
As a result of his outstanding performance while representing the AU in Liberia, President Sirlead admitted Ambassador Solaja into the Humane Order of African Redemption with the Grade of Knight Official.
Before he was conferred the distinction, President Sirleaf praised Solaja for his many accomplishments during his tenure especially in the fight against the deadly EVD.
She thanked the AU for contributing over 800 African troops to countries hard hit by Ebola and for placing Liberia on the agenda of the AU.
She then wished Solaja well in his future endeavors, noting that as a diplomat, he is always welcomed to visit Liberia at anytime.
Meanwhile, at the investiture ceremony, Ambassador Solaj was gowned and given the traditional name of Bonu Musa Kamara of Quedu Gbonni District in Lofa County. Various government entities presented gifts to him and wished him well as he departs the country.