|President Sirleaf, Senator Lindsey Grahan and Bono make statements at Press Stakeout following talks.|
Monrovia - President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf met on Monday with high-powered delegations from the United States of America, representing Senators, former senior government officials, business leaders, entertainers and philanthropists.
At a meeting Monday evening at her Foreign Ministry office, President Sirleaf held discussions with six U.S. Senators, Bono, the founder of the ONE Campaign and RED, the CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, and more.
In welcoming the delegation, President Sirleaf said that Liberia owed so much to many of those seated around the table, as she singled out former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, singer Bono and the members of the U.S. Congress present.
According to an Executive Mansion release, the President recalled the measures taken by her administration during the first six years, which she called the period of stabilization, and the plans for the second term, the period of transformation, and cited measures the government is taking., in implementing its Agenda for Transformation, in the areas of peace, security and the rule of law, economic transformation, human development, and more.
Also making comments about their impressions about Liberia were Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Johans (R-NE) and John Thune ((R-SD). Former Secretary of State Rice and Bono also spoke, comparing the Liberia today with when they last visited the country.
The CEO of the Coca-Cola Company, Mr. Muhtar Kent, said he had come to Liberia because President Sirleaf had invited him to do so two years ago, when they appeared together at the Clinton Global Initiative.
He spoke of his company’s plans to expand operations in Liberia and introduce new packages, including the production of juices, and spoke of his company’s support for women entrepreneurs who, because of owing their business, they are today able to support their families and send their children to school.
Before the meeting with the two delegations, President Sirleaf held a tête-à-tête with former Secretary Rice. She then met with CEO Kent and other executives of the Coca-Cola Company. At a press stakeout following the meeting, there were statements by President Sirleaf, Senator Graham and Bono.
President Sirleaf expressed a warm welcome to Senator Graham, the other Senators in the delegation, to ONE/RED and Bono. She said that Liberians were happy to receive this delegation, as it was important to let Liberians once again recognize the support that the country has received from the United States. The President said a special welcome to former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and recalled the role she and Bono had played in Liberia’s debt relief.
The President said that the support Liberia received from the U.S. Congress has enabled the country not only to celebrate ten consecutive years of peace, but also to have made progress in reconstructing the economy, and trying to make sure basic services are delivered to the people.
Senator Graham observed that he has been in Congress almost 20 years, but had never seen a delegation like this one, and he attributed the high-powered delegation to Liberia, the President and the people. He said he had come to Liberia because Bono had told him that Liberia was one country in Africa that he should visit, “because it all comes together here: a struggling people who have lived through incredible difficulty but who are on the rise to a great future.”
For his part, Bono declared that himself to be a great fan of President Sirleaf’s, and he felt as if he’d been working for her, for a while now. “I’m starting to understand this success that’s unfolding here,” he said, but noted the President’s impatience with the pace of this success.
This success, he said, was not only the President’s; he had had met with members of her Cabinet, who are so smart, and so committed. In Liberia, he said, there is this sense of optimism that we can do it. Other countries have taken a more autocratic approach to their post-conflict situation.
Of Liberia, he said, “this is a real democracy; it is a really beautiful thing to see and very difficult to pull off, and everybody has to believe in it. Most people do, and I will continue to work for you.”
Referring to the congressional delegation, Bono pointed out that there are no votes to be gained by them in coming to Liberia. This is not politics as usual. Rather, these are people who, in a way, have a vision of the future.
They see that Africa will probably double the population of China by 2015. Everyone says China is the country of the future; but these people see Africa as the continent of now! They are visionaries, in that sense. They are here because of their hearts and their heads, and I’m so glad to be a part.
President Sirleaf also recognized the CEO of Coca-Cola, Mr. Kent, pointing out that the company has a lot of investment in Liberia and has been with Liberia through thick and then, through the difficult days. Following the press stakeout, President Sirleaf hosted a reception for the delegations.