By William Q. Harmon and Gloria Tamba
President George Weah has conferred Liberia’s highest distinctions upon legendary soccer manager Arsene Wenger, former Ghanaian President John Kofi Agyekum Kufour, and several other distinguished personalities for their remarkable services to the country and humanity at large, especially on the African continent.
President Weah conferred the highest National Honor, the “Collar of State-Most Venerable Order of the Pioneers,” upon former President Kufour.
Weah also conferred similar honors upon former London-based Arsenal Football Club manager Wenger and his compatriot Claude Marie Francois Le Roy, Coach of the Togolese National Team, who were admitted into the Humane Order of African Redemption with the grades of Knight Commander (KGC-HOAR), respectively.
The investiture looked all too well like a football awards ceremony until the presence of veteran politician and former President Kuffour, about whom much was not heard prior to the event, added a political tone to the ceremonies.
In a brief investiture ceremony, which was coincided with the official event commemorating the 171st National Flag Day celebration on August 24, 2018, at the SKD Sports Complex in Paynesville, President Weah said these personalities are worthy recipients of the nation’s highest honors, “because they have impacted lives not just in Liberia but the African continent.”
President Weah said the former Ghanaian president was honored for his role played in restoring peace to Liberia.
It can be recalled that during the country’s turbulent history, Mr. Kuffour played a critical role in the peace process. As President and Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Kuffour oversaw Liberia’s peace efforts and coordinated with parties to the Liberian conflict, ending in the signing of the Accra Comprehensive Peace Accord, which laid the roadmap for the successful restoration of peace and stability in Liberia.
Other Award recipients were Alhaji Frank Jerico Nagbe, former coach of Lonestar; Dominic Vava George, former coach of Lonestar, and Ms. Gbour S. Wilson, a basketball icon, each of whom was awarded the Commander Star of Africa (CSA).
The occasion also marked the 15th year of the signing of the Accra Accord, which was the final peace document that brought a final closure to the many years of war that ravaged Liberia.
The accord was brokered mainly under the auspices of Kufuor, the former President of Ghana and chair of ECOWAS.
Peace has since reigned in Liberia, and there has been a peaceful and democratic change of government following democratic elections involving opposing political parties.
In addition to his immense contributions to brokering peace in Liberia, the citation that accompanied the Award to Mr. Kuffour indicated, among others, that, “Under President Kufuor’s ingenious leadership, marked socioeconomic development was recorded in Ghana, notably, pioneering of the National Health Insurance Scheme which benefited more than 11 million Ghanaians; construction and operationalization of more than two hundred hospitals and clinics; introduction of the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty Program (LEAP) which provided cash transfers to poor households in the country, among others.”
President Weah also said in a citation that in his 22 years at Arsenal, Sir Arsene Wenger’s accomplishments made him a legendary team manager and one of the most successful in the history of the English league.
“Sir Wenger proved his worth as a Professor, as he was dubbed, when he revolutionized the approach for scouting young talents all over the planet, particularly throughout Africa. With that approach, he recruited some of the finest African players the world will ever know, including the legendary World Best, His Excellency Dr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia,” the citation said.
Meanwhile, the Flag Day ceremony was attended by an array of government officials, members of the Diplomatic Consular Corps, International guests, students, and Liberians from all walks of life.