Ellen Meets Obama Friday

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf departed the country last Saturday for official visits to the United States of America and Belgium.

  The visit is President Sirleaf’s second outside Liberia since the worsening of the Ebola crisis in 2014. She attended an Extraordinary Summit of the Mano River Union in Conakry, Guinea last Sunday, February 15.

Following her departure from James Spriggs Payne Airport on Saturday, President Sirleaf was scheduled to make a brief stop-over in the Emirate of Sharjah, one of the states of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to share her experience in Crisis Management at the International Government Communications Forum there.

According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf travels on to Washington, D.C., where she will meet United States President Barrack Obama at the White House on Friday, February 27.

President Sirleaf’s visit comes at a time of crucial cooperation between Liberia and the United States and also following President Obama’s announcement last week that the United States is moving to the next phase of its Ebola response which will be characterized by intensive efforts to reach zero Ebola case in West Africa.

Due to the rapid decline in Ebola cases and the all but empty ETUs built by the Americans around the country, President Obama has withdrawn most of the four thousand strong military contingent sent to Liberia to help fight the epidemic. President Sirleaf will have the opportunity to thank President Obama and the American people for the extraordinary level of assistance to Liberia during the Ebola crises.

  The White House has already issued an official statement announcing that President Obama looks forward to building on a strong and historic partnership with Liberia, and discussing a range of topics with President Sirleaf, including the ongoing Ebola response, the region’s economic recovery plans, and other issues of mutual interest.

The withdrawal of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, UNMIL, from Liberia in June 2016 and Liberia’s preparedness to take over full responsibility for its own security and the implications for the West African Sub-region will be a topic most likely to be discussed between Presidents Obama and Sirleaf.  The United States is a Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council which is the only body that has the capability to maintain or extend the UNMIL withdrawal date.

  While in the United States, the Liberian leader will also meet with Administration officials, Congressional leaders and other stakeholders. She will also speak at an event hosted by Democratic Senator Chris Coons and the U.S. Institute of Peace on February 26.

 President Sirleaf will then travel to Brussels, Belgium to participate in an Ebola Conference organized by the European Union (EU). The conference will bring together the three most affected Mano River Union countries (Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone) and will see the Liberian President perform the role of Spokesperson for the three countries.

  The Brussels Conference, which is not a pledging conference, seeks to enable the affected countries to share their experiences and post Ebola plans and help aid the EU and other bilateral and multilateral organizations to plan better for the post-Ebola period.

  From Brussels, the Liberian leader returns to the United States, where she will participate in the 20th anniversary celebration of the Beijing Platform for Action at the UN Headquarters in New York.

  President Sirleaf is accompanied to the U.S. by Legal Advisor, Cllr. Seward Cooper; Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh; Information Minister Lewis G. Brown; Presidential Press Secretary Jerolinmek Piah; LBS Director General Ledgerhood Rennie; Executive Assistant Euphemia Brewer-Fasama, among others.

  She will also be accompanied to Brussels by Montserrado County Representative Saah Joseph; Youth Advisor, Dr. Emmanuel Dolo; Assistant Health Minister for Preventive and Curative Services, Tolbert Nyenswah, Head of the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU), Dr. Clarence Moniba and his Deputy Amos Seibo, among others.

  While President Sirleaf is away, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai will chair the Cabinet in consultation with Vice President, Joseph Nyumah Boakai. President Sirleaf is expected to return home on March 13.

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