Departing UN Envoy Ellen Margrethe Løj admitted into the Humane Order of African Redemption

30 Jan 2012

Departing UN Envoy Ellen Margrethe Løj admitted into the Humane Order of African Redemption

The Special Representative was so honored, said a Citation to her, “in honor of the distinguished services you have so laudably and efficiently rendered to the people of Liberia through you mission.”  Throughout her tenure, the Citation stated, she “nurtured an excellent relationship with the government and other stakeholders, providing leadership and advice, sometimes under extreme circumstances,” and had endeared herself to Liberians in general.

The honoring program commenced with remarks by the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Toga G. McIntosh; a gowning ceremony led by the Acting Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr. Harrison Karnwea; and the presentation of gifts to the  SRSG by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Acting Mayor of the Monrovia City Corporation, who presented her with the keys to the City; from the Chairperson of the Superintendent Council of Liberia; and by Ms. Miatta Fahnbulleh, Singer and Executive Director of Obaa’s Girls Educational Outreach.  Gifts from the President included the Seal of Liberia and a wall-hanging quilt with the map of Liberia and the flags of the United Nations and Denmark.

In her remarks, President Sirleaf, in her capacity as Grand Master of the Orders of Distinction, described SRSG Løj as “someone who has served our country with commitment, selflessness, courage, with a dedication that does not come often to those in public service.”  She said she knew Ambassador Løj from her assignment in New York, where she worked with the Sanctions Committee and the UN Panel, and Liberia was lucky when she was selected to come here as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, for she brought with those responsibilities exceptional talent.

The President spoke of her good personal relationship with SRSG Løj, of their weekly Wednesday meetings where they discussed the security situation generally, and where there was frankness in the way in which they discussed matters of state.  Observed the President: “I think Ambassador Løj has seen places in Liberia that not many Liberians have seen.  She never feared to go to some of the most remote places on the borders, whether it was to interact with the UN troops, or whether it was to assess the security threat, or to see what was happening to refugees.”

The President observed: “We want to thank you for your service to Liberia, and the fact that there’s such a big turnout today, starting with our Justices from the Supreme Court, Members of the Legislature, the many Ministers, the Diplomatic Corps, and all of those who’ve worked with you, is a clear manifestation of the high regard that we all have for you, and for the service that you rendered our country for the past four years.”

The President said that the SRSG had spent enough time in Liberia that she hoped she would “consider Liberia your second home, and we hope you’ll find time to come back.  We promise to have more paved roads, so you won’t have to go through the bumps.  Do come back for R and R whenever you can, whenever your schedule permits, and when you get bored, as I suspect you will in a very short period of time.”

On behalf of Liberia and the Liberian people, she thanked SRSG Løj for service rendered, and “for the courage, integrity, dedication and commitment that you brought to your task.  Liberia will always remember you.”  Concluding, the President said: “By leaving, you are decreasing my circle – the circle of women.  For the time that you were here and we all shared the same ideals, for me, it was a wonderful experience.”    

Following the Conferral of Distinction, SRSG Løj thanked the President for the great honor bestowed upon her.  Her four years in Liberia had been demanding and rewarding, she said, and thanked everyone for their support over the years.  Back in early 2008, she recalled, it was clear that Liberia still had many challenges.  The physical and mental scars of war were very much present, but it was equally clear that things were moving in the right direction.

She said she realized early on that UNMIL would need to start moving away from the fire-fighting focus to supporting the government to enhance law and order, so that one day Liberia would be able to independently take charge of security responsibilities. UNMIL had helped to do so by training and deploying over 4,200 Liberia National Police across the country.

Our collective focus on law and order will need to remain strong, the SRSG said, adding, “We must not allow any reversals or slide back into conflict during or after UNMIL’s transition.” The past year had demonstrated that Liberia is capable of dealing with the most testing issues, such as the fallout from the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire and the influx of 200,000 refugees, as well as Liberia’s own presidential and legislative elections, which UNMIL had viewed as a litmus test for peace in the country. On Tuesday, 11 October 2011, she said, large crowds went to vote and, very patiently, they stood in long queues, in heavy rain. The people of Liberia rose to the occasion in order to exercise their wish for peace. On that day, it was the people of Liberia who showed the way.

There’s much to be hopeful about Liberia today, SRSG Løj said, with a strong foundation on which to build on. She suggested three key priorities she saw as necessary for sustained peace and development in Liberia.  First, with UNMIL handing over responsibility soon to the Liberian authorities, this was a big challenge that would need the full attention of the government. With good planning, the transition will work, and show the world that Liberia is ready to take charge. Secondly, as with many countries across the globe, economic performance will be a big challenge for the government.  The high level of unemployment had the potential to destabilize the country and must be urgently addressed.  Thirdly, she said, in order for the government to lift Liberians in the second term, the issue of national reconciliation will be critical. “True reconciliation will need to focus on national healing and, above all, we need to focus on real inclusion,” she said.

In thanking the President for her support to UNMIL and to her, personally, the SRSG said: “I somehow knew, from the outset, that the so-called ‘two Ellens’ would work very well together.  We did not just share a name, we shared a bond.”  She congratulated the President on all she had achieved for Liberia, adding: “I wish you and your emerging new government every success as Liberia moves forward…. I will forever treasure the cooperation and the assistance you accorded me.  As I leave tomorrow, I do so with hope and optimism; optimism because, thanks to all of you, Liberia is on the right path to peace and development….  I’ve greatly valued the opportunity to get to know so many Liberians from all walks of life along the way.  You cannot live for four years in such an extraordinary place without giving some of your heart to the country.  I’ve given my all and I know that I will continue to follow Liberia very closely from a distant place.  I wish you all luck and good fortune in shaping a new future for Liberia and all Liberians.”

The Investiture Ceremony was followed by a cocktail reception tendered by President Sirleaf in honor of Ambassador Løj.

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