2 July Press Brief

Monday, 2nd July 2007
The AU Summit has now gone into closed session with President Sirleaf participating.
The session will be limited deliberations by the Leaders.  It would, among other issues, address the crucial issue of a single African government. The President believes the principle should involve broad based participation of the people and not be left with policy makers alone. That is the point the President will be stressing as the leaders go into the deliberations

We want to welcome our citizens who have returned to the country as the deadline for the voluntary repatriation of Liberian refugees ended last Saturday. Despite the fact that more than 80-thousand Liberians still remain in the Sub-region, the Executive Mansion is encouraged by the fact that more than a one hundred-and-five thousand of our citizens have returned home voluntary. We like to thank the United Nations High Commission for Refugees for helping to repatriate our citizens.

Their return is a further manifestation of the confidence they have in the steady progress taking place in Liberia toward the sustenance of peace and the development initiatives of government.

As they return, we want to encourage them to join in the process of reconstruction of our divested country, as together, we strive to uplift our country from the ashes of death and destruction. It is a process that would require the positive involvement of all of us.

I like to also bring you up to date with Liberiaís push to serve as host of the New Africa Command.  The campaign, which is supported by the President, has received more backing from the influential US Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island.

Representative Kennedy is pressing to convince US government officials that Liberia should have a stake in the deliberations.  Mr. Kenney has started laying the groundwork to ensure that Liberia hosts part of the New US Command.

Representative Kennedy acknowledged that Liberiaís lack of infrastructure and war devastation could be an impediment to a U.S. Footprint in the country. He however argues that attracting the US military to Liberia could serve as an impetus to stabilize the country. Liberia, Representative Kennedy explained, could become an ever stronger ally in the region.

The US Representative is planning a trip to Liberia for later this year with Freshman Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

The new commandís main mission will be to stabilize weak or poor countries by training the local security forces and providing humanitarian aid. AFRICOMíS mission will encompass a bled of diplomacy, humanitarian aid and counter-terrorism operations.

Our attention has been drawn to reports that the AIDS epidemic in Liberia is increasing by the day and the need by government to step up ongoing efforts to address the situation.We disagree with assertions by an official of the Light Association and People Living with HIV/AIDS that government is playing a low profile in setting the stage for the increase in the rate of the sexually transmitted disease.
To buttress the Presidentís commitment to fighting the spread of the AIDS epidemic, the President, constituted a 23-member National AIDS Commission last week. She is headingthe Commission as chairperson and the Minister of Health as Vice Chairperson.

It would interest you to note that representatives of the Association, People Living with Aids, are also part of the National AIDS Commission.

So, for anyone to suggest that government is showing little interest in addressing the AIDS epidemic is in our view, far from the truth..