April 27 Press Briefing

Monday, 27th April 2009
Members of the Press:
I wish to inform you that the President, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as you may be aware, returned home April 25 following a three-week visit to the United States where she underwent her annual routine medical check-up. The trip was also intended to provide the President much deserved rest, but as you may have followed, it was far from that as the President used the opportunity to promote and buttress the country’s reconstruction efforts, leaving many wondering whether Her Excellency did, after all, find some time to recuperate from the demands of being the head of this country.
We are, herein, providing a few highlights of chronology of events during the President’s three-week visit to the United States, starting first with the more recent events.

•    President Johnson Sirleaf Gets Clean Bill of Health
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Oxford, Connecticut (U.S.A.)
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf received a health clearance after a full physical exam in Connecticut, U.S.A.
Based on the various medical tests conducted by her doctors, the President has been given a clean bill of health. In other words, her health condition is excellent.  Accordingly, she is back, stronger in spirit, body and mind to continue to execute her duties.

•    U.S. Secretary of State Commends President Johnson Sirleaf's Leadership
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Washington, D.C. (U.S.A.)
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described as exemplary and extraordinary the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.  Mrs. Clinton emphasized that the Obama administration is committed to the future of Liberia and to President Johnson Sirleaf’s continuing leadership. Mrs. Clinton assured President Johnson Sirleaf that the U.S. Government intends to go beyond the terms of the Paris Debt relief arrangement and cancel 100 percent of Liberia’s remaining debt by the time Liberia reaches its completion point under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative. She also assured the Liberian leader that a visit to Africa will be scheduled as soon as time permits, with Liberia included on the itinerary.

•    Liberia Slashes USD$1.2 Billion Commercial Debt
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Washington, D.C. (U.S.A.)
Liberia, recovering from a 14-year civil war, slashed its foreign debt by buying back USD$1.2 billion from foreign commercial creditors at a discount of nearly 97 percent of its face value, the steepest discount ever negotiated on developing country commercial debt, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced at a press conference in Washington, D.C. The deal was concluded on April 14, with the payment of USD$38 million to extinguish 25 outstanding commercial facilities, she said. The World Bank contributed half of the money through the International Development Association (IDA) Debt Reduction Facility, and Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States contributed the other half. he Liberia deal, which had been in negotiation for two years, is highly unusual in that it is the first successful operation in which the vast majority of the debt was held by hedge funds and other distressed debt investors rather than the original creditors.  Creditors holding 97.5 percent of Liberia’s foreign commercial debt participated in the deal, one of the largest rates of participation in a sovereign debt buy-back in the last several decades. Because of the support of the World Bank and the other partners, the buy-back was completed at no cost to the citizens of Liberia. Liberia’s foreign debt is now down to USD$1.8 billion, a reduction of more than USD$3 billion in the last two years.

•    Liberian Chief Executive Lauds 'Water of Life' at Fund Raising Banquet
Monday, April 13, 2009
Greenville, South Carolina (U.S.A.)
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf attended a fund raising banquet on April 13 to support projects undertaken by Water of Life, a non-profit organization based in Greenville, South Carolina. Water of Life projects have helped reduce water-borne diseases, saved the lives of mothers and children and brought hope. The organization has installed more than 200 wells throughout Liberia.

•    Honorary Degree Conferred on Liberian President at Furman University in South Carolina
Monday, April 13, 2009
Greenville, South Carolina (U.S.A.)
Furman University in South Carolina conferred on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf an honorary Doctorate of Humanities. In a citation supporting the conferral, the President of the University, David Shi, described the Liberian leader as a leading promoter of peace, justice and democratic processes who has worked tirelessly to bring about progressive changes in Liberia.

•    President Johnson Sirleaf Visits Minnesota--Engages with Liberians in Diaspora
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Minneapolis, Minnesota (U.S.A.)
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf met with a cross section of Liberians in Minnesota, addressing their concerns and reporting on Liberia's progress and challenges. During an interactive session following the President’s opening comments, she discussed a wide range of issues, including land ownership, violence against women, corruption, security, the global economic crisis, health, adoption and education.  The President informed Liberians of efforts being made to address their concerns, as well as challenges with which Government is confronted. The President of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota (OLM), Mr. Kerper Dwanyen, thanked the Liberian leader for accepting the organization’s invitation to meet with its members. Following the interactive session, the President exchanged handshakes with Liberians and other well wishers and signed copies of her newly launched book, This Child Will Be Great.

•    Liberian Chief Executive Addresses Carlson Lecture Series in Minnesota
Friday, April 10, 2009
Minneapolis, Minnesota (U.S.A.)
Addressing the distinguished Carlson Lecture Series at the University of Minnesota, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said her Government welcomes the return and contribution of Liberians in the Diaspora, but repeated that an abrupt repatriation of Liberians could undermine the country’s ability to absorb a large number of Liberian returnees. The President said her Government has worked with the previous Bush administration and Congress to delay by 18 months the deportation of Liberians under the Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) program, emphasizing that Government will continue to work with the current administration and congressional leaders, headed by Patrick Kennedy, to obtain permanent residency for Liberians. The President, who also spoke at a reception hosted by the Advocates for Human Rights, repeated that Government will support the right of the aggrieved to seek justice if the process of contrition and forgiveness does not produce the desired outcome for those affected. The President was presented a plaque by Barbara Carlson Gage, President of the Curtis L. Carlson Family Foundation, in whose honor the lectures were named.

•    Liberian Leader Receives Honorary Degree from University of Minnesota
Friday, April 10, 2009
Minneapolis, Minnesota (U.S.A.)
The University of Minnesota conferred upon the President an honorary doctorate degree in law at a special convocation at the University’s main campus in Minnesota.  In a citation, the University said it was conferring the honor on the Liberian leader for her relentless fight for freedom and human dignity.  The President, overwhelmed, thanked the University for the honor and promised to continue uplifting the less fortunate, especially those who feel neglected and abandoned by society.

•    Keeping Africa’s Turnaround on Track—Says Liberian Chief Executive in Washington Post Op-ed
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Washington, D.C. (U.S.A.)
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was published in a Washington Post Op-ed in which she tracked concrete progress being made on the continent of Africa towards good governance and economic revitalization. She charts five steps industrialized nations can follow to buttress the efforts African governments are already undertaking to move the continent into the 21st century.

•    President Johnson Sirleaf Woos California Investors to Liberia-Launches Book
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Oaks, California (U.S.A.)
While in Oaks, California launching her memoir, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said her Government looks forward to enticing urban planners to visit Liberia and share their experiences in urban planning. The President said she was impressed that the city, a planned community, is renowned for being among the safest large cities in the nation. The President was visiting California to officially launch her book, “This Child Will Be Great,” a memoir discussing her early childhood, her experiences with abuse, imprisonment, and exile, and her long fight for democracy and social justice in Liberia before she was elected president. She also participated in a fund raising event by Humanity United in support of the Liberian Education Trust (LET) and the Sirleaf Market Women Fund (SMWF), following which the Liberian leader gave a lecture at the University of California as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series, which attracted more than 2,000.

•    One of the highlights of the President’s visit was the announcement in Washington of the slashing of USD$ 1.2-billion of the debt Liberia owes commercial creditors. It is important to continue to stress that the progress Liberia is making in debt relief is only possible because of the sound policies that have been put in place by this Government. Principles of transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption continue to win more support from international lending institutions. The President remains unwavering in insisting that those principles are upheld at all times to ensure that Liberia becomes credit worthy.

•    By way of information, the President travels to Gbarnga, Bong County tomorrow, April 28, to participate in the hand-over ceremonies of the Tubman Military Barracks, renovated and expanded by the People’s Republic of China. While in Bong County, the President will also participate in the groundbreaking ceremony of the China-aided Agriculture Demonstration Center in Suakoko.

Thanks for coming.