HIS EXCELLENCY DR. GEORGE MANNEH WEAH
PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA
AT THE INTERCESSORY SERVICE
FOR HIS SAFE ARRIVAL TO LIBERIA
FROM MULTIPLE INTERNATIONAL ENGAGEMENTS.
THE DOMINICAN CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP CHURCH
DECEMBER 19, 2022
Her Excellency Madame Jewel Howard Taylor
Vice President of the Republic of Liberia;
The Speaker, President Pro-Tempore, and Members of the 54th Legislature, here present;
The Dean and Members of the Cabinet;
Other Officials of Government, here present;
The Doyen and Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Bishop Isaac Winker, Visiting Bishops
Members of the Clergy;
The Chairman, Officials and Members of the Ruling Mighty Coalition for Democratic Change;
Political and Business Leaders;
Women and Youth Leaders;
Civil Society Organizations;
Members of the Fourth Estate;
My Fellow Citizens;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am overjoyed to be back home after an extensive tour of duty abroad in the interest of the People of Liberia. Let me give thanks to the Almighty God for the many traveling mercies that He afforded my delegation and I, by His Grace, through our many journeys. I also want to give God praise and thanks and glory for keeping Liberia peaceful, stable, and secure during my absence.
I wish to also express my profound gratitude to the Acting Chairman of the Cabinet, Cllr. F. Musa Dean, Minister of Justice, for ably steering the affairs of state while we were away. I also want to acknowledge and appreciate my able Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, as well as the leadership of the Legislature and the Judiciary, for their active collaborative and cooperative roles during our absence.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen: The laws of Liberia do not provide for an Acting President. Although I may have been physically absent, the Office of the President of the Republic of Liberia was very present and active, and was in daily and frequent contact with me for my leadership and guidance.
During that time, I appointed and dismissed officials of Government, signed Bills into law, and gave my direct and personal attention to matters of State and governance. While away, the Government of Liberia was running, and matters of national interest were handled expeditiously.
FELLOW CITIZENS; DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
Ours is an open and liberal democratic system, in which those of us who govern are answerable to the governed for our stewardship. This right is enshrined in the organic law of the land – the Liberian Constitution. I am fully aware of the debate that has been stirred in my absence about the prolonged duration of my stay out of the country on official duty abroad. And I would now like to take the opportunity to participate in that debate. But before I do so, I am equally under obligation to acknowledge the rights of those who questioned the time we spent out of the country, and at the same time, thank those who supported the tour.
Fellow citizens, I can assure you, Fellow Citizens, that the visit abroad was a necessary imperative, because it was in the national interest and, as you will see later in these Remarks, Liberia accordingly derived substantial benefits from it.
With the lifting of COVID-19 travel restrictions, we seized the opportunity for in-person participation in summits and conferences which we have not attended during the two years of the pandemic. Due to the compact nature of the schedule, where several of the engagements were almost back-to-back, we decided to maximize the available time, while avoiding excessive travel expenses for repeated travel to and from the country.
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
Our travel started on October 31, 2022 when I accepted an invitation from His Majesty King Mohamed VI, and departed Liberia at the head of a high-level delegation for the Kingdom of Morocco to participate in the MEDays International Forum convened in Tangier, the Kingdom of Morocco from November 2 – 5, 2022. We delivered the keynote address at the MEDays Forum.
The MEDays International Forum brought together over 5000 participants, including world leaders, to create an opportunity to discuss the main geopolitical, economic and social issues facing the planet, including the war in Ukraine, conflicts and instability in Africa, tensions in the Indo-Pacific, food and energy crises, and inflation and climate change.
On the sidelines of the Forum in Tangier, we met with senior government officials of Hungary, and received a commitment from the Hungarian Government of $50 million United States Dollars in Export Credit for investment and other purposes in Liberia. We were also able to secure an additional fifteen (15) scholarships for young and deserving Liberians students to study in Hungary, bringing to twenty-five (25) the total number of scholarships from Hungary annually.
Also while in Tangier, I had the opportunity to visit one of the largest ports in Africa, the Tangier Med Port Authority, and was able to secure a major commitment from to provide training and technical support to the National Port Authority, as well as an undertaking to transform and refurbish the Port of Greenville in Sinoe County.
Incidentally, l wish to inform you that all direct expenses, including accommodation for me and my delegation, as well as the provision of an aircraft to take me from Liberia to Morocco and from Morocco to Egypt, were provided as a courtesy by the organizers of the MEDays International Forum. I and my delegation did not pay a dime to get to these countries.
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
We departed Morocco, and arrived in Sham el-Sheikh, the Arab Republic of Egypt, for the COP27 Climate Change Summit, which we also addressed on November 6, 2022. We once again made the case for Liberia to benefit from millions of dollars in a carbon trading mechanism which we proposed at COP26 in Glasgow last year. We were also able to secure funding of $10 million United States Dollars for coastal defense barriers for Greenville, Sinoe County, and West Point in Monrovia.
While in Egypt, we also held talks with senior officials from the Government of Qatar, who committed to provide funding for the second phase of the Lofa CountyRoad.
We then took off immediately from the COP27 Conference in Egypt for Paris, France to honor an invitation from the French President, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, to attend the 5th Paris Peace Forum, which was held from 11th – 15th November, 2022.
From Paris, France, we proceeded to Doha, Qatar to honor an official invitation from the State of Qatar, as well as an invitation from the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) to join twenty-six (26) other Presidents, and an array of notable dignitaries, to grace the ceremony of the opening of Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.
While in Qatar, we held a bilateral meeting with the Emir of the State of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamil bin Hamad Al-Thanin, on November 27, 2022, and received a commitment of $100 million United States Dollars for funding of Phase II of the Gbarnga – Mendikorma Highway in Lofa County.
The Qatari Government also announced plans to spend an additional $50 million United States Dollars on sporting facilities in Liberia.
On November 29, 2022, we departed Doha, Qatar, and arrived in the Principality of Monaco to participate in the 13th Edition of the International Peace and Sport Forum, which was held under the patronage of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, who attended the program and personally handed me an award from the Forum.
Prior to attending the ceremony, we were received in audience by His Serene Highness Prince Albert II, where we held fruitful discussions on bilateral and international issues.
The organizers of the International Peace and Sport Forum selected us to serve as Keynote Speaker based on our commitment to promote the crucial role of sports at the international level, and particularly in Africa; as well as the utilization of sports to serve as a tool to unite the peoples and nations of the world.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
On December 11, 2022, we arrived in Washington, D.C., USA as one of 49 leaders of Africa, invited by The Honorable Joseph R. Biden, Jr., President of the United States of America, to the US – Africa Leaders Summit, which was held from 13th – 15th December, 2022.
During the official opening of the Summit on December 13, 2022, I was invited to address a Forum of Diaspora Young People. In his introduction of me prior to my speech, we received special commendation from Mr. Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State of the United States of America, QUOTE: “for our great leadership and ability to strengthen US-Liberia bonds” UNQUOTE. He noted further, that under my leadership, and I QUOTE: “US-Liberia relations will flourish.” UNQUOTE.
I then delivered an address to the African Youth in Diaspora which, from many accounts, was well received.
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
I was among a group of six (6) African Heads of State who were selected out of the forty-nine (49) invited leaders for a special meeting with The Honorable President Biden at the White House to discuss the very crucial issues of elections, democracy, rule of law, and development.
During the occasion of this exclusive, but vital meeting, we made a strong pledge and commitment to ensure the conduct of a free, fair, transparent, peaceful, inclusive and democratic elections in October 2023. We made it abundantly clear that under our watch, the democratic credentials of Liberia will be safeguarded, as well as its peace, stability, and security.
We pointed out that we were aware that continued peace and stability in Liberia depends on the outcome of peaceful, free, fair, transparent, inclusive, and credible elections. We used the occasion to call for maximum support from the United States and friendly Governments and partners to the electoral process. The U.S. Government, in response, committed to spending $165 million United States Dollars next year on providing financial support to elections in our respective countries next year, of which Liberia is expected to receive approximately $20 million United States Dollars.
DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
I would now like to talk about rice. During my absence, I approved a recommendation from the recently-appointed Rice Stabilization Committee to increase the price of imported rice in Liberia, based on various external factors enumerated in their Report.
The increase in prices of food and fuel is a global phenomenon, and is not unique to Liberia. We all know the causes of the price increases: from the COVID Pandemic to Climate Change and the war in the Ukraine. When rice prices started to rise in other places, my Government did everything that it could to keep the prices low. We know that imported rice in Liberia is the cheapest in West Africa, but I had made a promise to the Liberian people that rice prices will not increase. I remain mindful of that promise.
My meetings with my colleagues have been very fruitful and I can confidently say that we are working on the modalities to have large-scale private investment in rice production. I have asked our partners to support us in this endeavor. I remember my promise to all Liberians and I will do everything in my power to keep rice on the market and affordable. I will ensure that never again should Liberians look for rice and not be able to find it.
Yes, we acknowledge economic hardship in Liberia. We know that prices of basic commodities are increasing. This is not a situation unique to Liberia alone. It is not a matter to be blamed on lack of knowledge to make qualitative decisions for the general well-being of the Liberian people. The precarious situation we have in the world today is the result of the double effect of the global pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
We can assure you that we are doing all within our powers to continue to bring relief to our people.
AND NOW, FELLOW CITIZENS AND DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
I wish you a Merry Christmas!
God bless us all!
God bless Liberia!