The democratically elected President of Liberia has honoured the United Nations role in bringing peace to a country torn asunder by a civil war that killed almost 150,000 people and sent 850,000 others fleeing across its borders, bedecking the world body’s chief representatives with traditional robes as a token of the people’s appreciation.
“Our nation owes its gratitude to you, Mr. Doss, for the leadership you have exhibited in bringing this team together, in keeping it together, in getting the kinds of responses that has enabled us to be where we are today,” President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf told Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative Alan Doss during the festive event held in the coastal city of Buchanan in the south-east.
Mr. Annan’s Deputy Special Representative for Recovery and Good Governance Jordan Ryan was similarly honoured at the ceremony, attended by traditional leaders, government officials and members of the public.
“For them, it’s not just a job, it is a commitment; a mission; it is even a passion with which they carry out their responsibilities,” Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf said as she and the traditional leaders of Grand Bassa County adorned the two honourees with traditional gowns.
Elected in November 2005 in polls that the UN helped organize, the President praised the UN for “not only securing the peace, but also going beyond the call of duty to be a strategic partner to the Government to help us to achieve our development goals.”
Mr. Doss thanked the president and the people of the West African country for recognizing the efforts of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the UN family.
“I have worked for the United Nations for 40 years and this is the high point of my career because I have had the chance to witness a country reinvent itself, come back to life, and look ahead to a better future,” he said. “That is an opportunity given to few people and I am extremely grateful to be a part of that process.”
He recounted the achievements made over the last year, including the free and fair elections and the inauguration of Africa’s first democratically-elected female head of state, and he assured the people of Liberia that UNMIL would continue to its support. “A great deal still needs to be done. Roads have to be built, schools and clinics need to be fixed but we have to start somewhere,” he added.
When UNMIL was established in September 2003, the country was in turmoil, awash in armed militias and with no functioning country-wide authorities.
Since then, with UN assistance, tens of thousands of gunmen have been disarmed and reintegrated into society, hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have returned safely to their homes, and the country’s destroyed infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools, health posts and police stations, are being restored.
UNMIL still fields some 15,850 military personnel and police in the country, supported by more than 500 international civilian personnel, 750 local staff and 250 UN Volunteers.