Acting Minister Shoniyin said the AU is regarded as one of Liberia’s Ebola champions because it worked tirelessly to stamp out the virus.
Making the commendation Monday, December 21, during a farewell reception in honor of Ambassador Harrison Solaja, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Mr. Shoniyin stated that the Ambassador worked hard to facilitate and deepen Liberia’s relations with the AU, adding: “In his four-year tenure in Liberia, we accomplished a lot together.”
He heaped praises on the AU and Ambassador Solaja, who he said did an enviable job in putting Liberia’s agenda on the front burner of the AU.
“The government of Liberia continues to enjoy both diplomatic and multilateral relations with the AU and the African Union Commission,” according to the Acting Foreign Minister.
“Among the many contributions of the African Union to Liberia’s economic development, Liberians remember the urgent response to the Ebola outbreak in the 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 followed-up and requested Member States to manifest their solidarity by the resumption of flights and abandoning border closures.”
The Acting Minister stated that the 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 made themselves available to serve in the affected countries, out of which 339 served in Liberia. Their humanity led them to the hot spots and guarded 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 stated in his commendation of the continental body.
He further stated 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 a series of meaningful contributions to the education sector of Liberia such as providing monetary assistance to a number of schools in Montserrado and Gbarpolu counties to the tune of 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 ASEOWA, 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 nations.
Ambassador Solaja enumerated several other projects that were done through his office, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs during his service in Liberia.
He acknowledged the progress made by the government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. He named the development in infrastructure and the restoration of essential basic services to Liberians.
“I have witnessed several efforts made by the government in areas of governance, peace, security and the rule of law, the economy and on the humanitarian front, to improve the lives of Liberian citizens,” he stated.