There were misgivings and cynicisms in some quarters when it was announced that President George Manneh Weah had flown out with a sizable delegation to the European city of Paris to attend this year’s Generational Equality Forum there. Much of the misgivings were driven by emotions building up at home over the surge of COVID-19 cases. In the view of the cynics, the President needed not leave the country in the face of the ominous situation hovering over Liberia, concerns government spokespersons concurrently have dismissed as ill-informed and misguided. But as fate would have it, there are reports indicating that the Paris trip is producing enormous benefits for Liberia, something that is outclassing incessant censures about the President’s departure amid a pandemic. The Analyst reports.
From all accounts, the ongoing Generational Equality Forum being held in Paris, France, and attended by scores of nations, including Liberia, has got welcoming multiplying effects for Liberia.
Though it is not a gathering of heads of states, but President George Manneh had got a special invitation from his French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron, to grace the occasion.
The President’s acceptance of the invitation had triggered sustained criticisms from the opposition community which felt, and perhaps still feel, that he should not have made the trip at a time the nation was engulfed by fears, anxieties and mourning brought about by an unprecedented spike of COVID-19 cases.
The President left for Paris anyway, and there are reports suggesting that he was right to have ignored the opposition calls not to leave.
As the Liberian maxim, ‘it takes the face of an elder to settle a complicated dispute” goes, the President’s showing of face at the conference is attracting untold dividends for Liberia and its pandemic-beleaguered people.
While the Generation Equality Forum was ongoing, Dr. Weah was on the sideline as well as on the inline making his presence felt, holding meetings with top French officials, renowned international scientists and humanitarians making a decisive case on behalf of Liberia.
It seems the President opted to attend the conference deliberately to position himself amongst colleagues and other stakeholders as his country and people are threatened by the latest variant of the pandemic.
According to reports coming out of the Paris conference, the Liberian leader has been having sleeping and restless times encashing his popularity charm wooing international goodwill people and organizations to help the emergency at home.
Meeting with his French counterpart, President Weah discussed a horde of key issues of national and international concerns, world peace and progress.
Both leaders exchanged views ranging from security and the fight on terrorism, trade and commerce, amongst many others.
Very highly in the discussion between Presidents Weah and Macron was fight against Covid-19. President Weah, in particularly, briefed President Macron on the upsurge of cases in Liberia, and requested help from the French leader and government.
President Macron did not allow a minute to pass on the Weah request, according to a source privy to the discussions. He immediately expressed his commitment to help Dr. Weah and his country, Liberia.
Normally, diplomatic pledges take time to reach their destination. But, according to the source, the Macron pledge is promise in instant package ready to hit Liberia as of Saturday, when President Weah sets foot on the Liberian soil from France.
In the package is a huge consignment of testing kits, pivotal in the Covid-19 fight, respirators, and implements and Initial 23 million euros for urban intervention for less fortunate thru the French Agency for Development AFD.
Said the source: “The President’s visit paid to France is essential and meant to seek Liberia’s national interest abroad, which is key to President Weah’s presidency. The President is using his leadership to diplomatically engage world leaders to support Liberia in fighting Covid-19 and to have our economy revived.”
In an official media dispatch from Paris, France, it is said that at the end of the meeting held with his French counterpart, President Weah expressed profound gratitude to the government and people of France for the country’s continued support to Liberia’s development drive, especially in the areas of capacity building, infrastructure development and sports.
President Weah particularly also expressed appreciation for President Macron’s “gracious support” towards Liberia’s engagements with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which he said has greatly contributed to the improved fiscal and monetary policy implementation and efficiency the country now experiences.
He informed his French counterpart that his Administration continues to work in close collaboration with these international financial institutions, “which sometimes require the formulation of difficult policies, such as the Salary Harmonization Policy”. But he said the policies have been required to make the “necessary corrective measures and structural adjustments” for the good of the Liberian economy.
President Weah called for the continuation of the Franco-Liberia relationship, including the strengthening of collaboration between the French Military and the Armed Forces of Liberia on the Malian peacekeeping mission. “In this regard”, he said, “it is important to note that the Liberian contingent has now been tasked with providing Base Security for the Timbuktu outpost and, as such, more modern equipment and logistics are urgently needed.”
The Liberian Leader enumerated the many other support the French government has rendered to Liberia in recent months, including funding for capacity development, sports, the resumption of flight by Air France, the construction of a new building for Alliance Francaise Institute, and the increase in activities by French businesses and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs).
Regarding ongoing efforts by the Liberian government to curb further spread of COVID, President Weah thanked President Macron and the Government and People of France for “generously providing” a number of ventilators and several thousands of testing kits. He told his counterpart that Liberia would need millions of additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines to help fight the spread of the virus.
For his part, President Emmanuel Macron assured President Weah of his unflinching support towards the Liberian government’s efforts to improving the lives of its people.
During the hour-long meeting, Macron said his country’s support to Liberia will be tangible so that it is felt by the citizens directly.
Macron said in addition to his country’s efforts at capacity building and youth development, additional urban projects will be undertaken by the Agency for French Development totaling an initial amount of 23 million euros.
He assured the Liberia Leader that this assistance will be immediate.
President Macron also informed President Weah that his country will make an immediate donation of some 40, 000 test kits and several respirators. He said France will increase its quota to the COVAX structure, while ensuring that “Liberia directly benefits and have its population vaccinated”.
He highlighted the strong historical ties between both nations, saying that both leaders ought to work harder in order to ensure the relationship yield tangible mutual benefits.
The talks covered a wide range of issues, including French support to the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) in order to enhance its ability to perform its service in Mali. The French President also promised more logistical support and training for the AFL and further cooperation in the area of information exchange.
The discussions also covered the issue of Piracy in the Gulf Guinea and the need for both nations to cooperate in order to halt the menace. The French government promised more equipment and training for the Liberian Coast Guards. The French Navy will study the option of having its Frigates participate in the fight against piracy in order to ensure that vital maritime commerce is carried out unhindered.
Foreign Minister Dee-Maxwell Kemayah, Defense Minister Daniel Ziankahn and Maritime Commissioner Lenn Eugene Nagbe formed part of the discussions which were followed by a closed door tetè a tetè between the two leaders.