PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA ON THE OCCASION
MARKING THE OFFICIAL KICK-OFF EVENT OF THE LAND OF RETURN
DECEMBER 7, 2022
Her Excellency Madam Clar Marie Decontee Weah
First Lady of the Republic of Liberia;
Her Excellency Madam Jewel Howard-Taylor
Vice President of the Republic of Liberia;
Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Former President of the Republic of Liberia;
Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai
Former Vice President of the Republic of Liberia;
The Speaker, President Pro-Tempore, and Members of the 54th Legislature;
The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of Liberia, and Members of the Judiciary;
The Dean and Members of the Cabinet;
The Chief of Staff and Gallant Men and Women of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and other Members of the Security Apparatus;
Other Officials of Government, here present;
The Doyen and Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps;
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Heads of International Organizations;
Heads of Political Parties and Civil Society Organizations;
Presidents and Chairpersons of Youth and Student Groups;
President and Chairpersons of Women Organizations;
Members of the Business Community, especially Market Women and Men;
Prelates and Members of the Clergy, and Heads and Members of Religious Institutions;
Chiefs, Elders and Traditional Leaders;
Heads of Educational Institutions;
Members of the Fourth Estate;
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Please join me in a moment of silence for those of our compatriots who have succumbed to death as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MOMENT OF SILENCE.
Today is an important day in our history. We are here to commemorate what occurred here two hundred years ago. On January 7, 1822 a group of free Black Americans from the United States arrived here on this island, after a difficult and hazardous journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
Their joy was great after surviving that perilous passage, which they attributed to God’s Divine providence, and so they named this island Providence Island.
They had returned to the land of their ancestors following four centuries of enslavement and bondage. Forever yearning to live as a free people, they had now returned to the Africa of their roots. Twenty-five years later, on July 26, 1847, these settlers (as they came to be known) established the Republic of Liberia as the first independent Republic on the African continent.
As we recall that momentous day, we must also remember the indigenous population which was already here in 1822 and centuries before, comprising the seventeen ethnic groups of Liberia; as well as others who came afterwards, such as the Congoes, and the Barbadians.
Today, as descendants of these diverse groups of people, we are all citizens of Liberia, with a common national identity. This commemoration must therefore bring us closer together, and strengthen our national unity, even as we recognize and celebrate our diversity.
FELLOW LIBERIANS, DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
I have been invited by the National Bicentennial Steering Committee to speak to you today about National Unity and Reconciliation.
Their choice of topic for this occasion is appropriate, because during this Bicentennial year, we must redouble our efforts to promote unity amongst all Liberians, wherever they may reside, and encourage all to make meaningful contributions to the nation-building task of our country.
In Liberia, National Unity and Reconciliation is the cornerstone to all national development efforts, and is the basis for combating all forms of discrimination and exclusion. As a country which has emerged from a divided past and a recent civil war, it is our only option for survival and continuity as a nation.
We must therefore continue to embrace the tenets of National Unity as we move forward – together – towards becoming a reconciled and democratic nation, whose citizens are at peace with themselves, their neighbors, and the world.
Redefining Liberia’s identity and building a shared sense of nationalism should be at the center of reconciliation in Liberia. The model for genuine National Unity and Reconciliation should be inspired and founded on positive cultural values, citizenship building, good governance, economic empowerment, and the rule of law.
As we commemorate our National Bicentennial, let us recollect memories of all of our ancestors — their various ways of life, their respective histories and cultures, and the way they co-existed with each other as long-lost brothers and sisters returned to the Land to form a unique and united country.
As Liberians from diverse ethnic groups, religious beliefs and regions, we must continue to co-exist peacefully as one united Liberian Nation in accordance with our Constitution. We, as Liberians, can only promote National Unity and Reconciliation by living together in peace and harmony.
We can also promote National Unity and Reconciliation through exercising tolerance by accepting each other’s way of life. In a country such as ours, Liberia, there are so many people with different cultures and traditions, which influence their ideologies about life and about how to approach things. We must accept and accord every person the respect he/she deserves in matters relating to differences in ideologies and understanding.
Another major tool in promoting National Unity and Reconciliation is patriotism. This indeed is the bedrock of our national foundation, because when there is love for one’s nation, such love will engender a spirit of brotherhood, sisterhood and fraternity among us as citizens of Liberia, our common country.
Let us vigorously denounce and combat acts, writings and utterances which are intended to promote any kind of discrimination, intolerance or lack of justice, all of which are counter-productive to the achievement of National Unity and Reconciliation.
Fellow Liberians, in fostering genuine National Unity and Reconciliation, we must let go of the past, embrace the present within the context of our diversities, and give birth to the future with Unity, Peace, Reconciliation and Sustainable Development as our imperative agenda.
In this public manner, and in a spirit of National Unity, I do hereby invite the leadership of all Political Parties and other National Leaders, to the Official Opening Ceremony of the 2022 National Bicentennial Commemoration, to be held on February 14, 2022, as we memorialize in peace, unity, forgiveness and reconciliation.
As President and Chief Executive of our sweet land of liberty, Liberia, I want to call on ALL LIBERIANS to champion the cause of national unity and to reconcile our differences for Liberia’s growth and development.
Let national unity reign everywhere in Liberia!
Let peace reign across Liberia, our native land.
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
As part of this national unification effort, I will today plant two cotton tree seedlings here. I am informed that they will replace the “male and female” cotton trees that stood here majestically for probably centuries. Perhaps they were even standing here when the settlers arrived. By planting the seedlings today on the official commencement of the 2022 Bicentennial, we are reinforcing the common heritage that unites all of us, both the descendants of the indigenous people and the descendants of the settlers. We are One People, with One Destiny.
Let me now close in the immortal words of our National Anthem:
“In Union strong
Success is sure.
We cannot fail.
With God above
Our rights to prove;
We will o’re all prevail.
Long live Liberia,
A glorious land of Liberty
By God’s command!”
I thank you.