‘Iron Lady’ of Liberia Jets In

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By Petronella Sibeene

WINDHOEK
Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, yesterday afternoon touched down on Namibian soil for a three-day State visit.

Transported by South African Airways, the Liberian president attired in an olive green African suit and headgear with a light pink shoulder scarf that matched the squares on her top, arrived at Hosea Kutako International Airport yesterday at 14h25.

Johnson-Sirleaf was warmly welcomed by her host President Hifikepunye Pohamba and the First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba before being introduced to Prime Minister Nahas Angula, Foreign Affairs Minister, Marco Hausiku, and service chiefs who escorted her to the dais.

The two Heads of State marched to the saluting dais, whereupon a 21-gun salute was performed concurrently with the Liberian and Namibian national anthems followed by the African Union anthem.

The inspection of the guard of honour followed, after which the national anthems were once again played.

As is procedure, after the march past, the two presidents greeted ministers and ambassadors from different countries before being treated to truly Namibian cultural performances.

Today the Liberian head of state is scheduled to hold talks with President Pohamba at State House, after which the two countries will sign agreements in different areas of interest.

Namibia and Liberia are still in the process of identifying possible areas of bilateral cooperation.

The two countries could explore cooperation in the areas of fisheries, women empowerment, agriculture, trade, health, defence and security, education, mines and energy, transport, arts, immigration and legal matters, among others.

Johnson-Sirleaf will also pay a courtesy call on the Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma, this morning.

In the afternoon, the visiting president together with her entourage will visit NamCot Diamond Cutting and Polishing factory. Thereafter, United Nations agencies representatives will pay a courtesy call.

She is scheduled to address about 280 women from different backgrounds at a gala dinner organised by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare at the Windhoek Country Club Resort & Casino in the evening.

Tomorrow, she leaves for the coastal town of Walvis Bay and will visit the Etale Fishing Company and Namport.

She is also expected to address a Joint Session of Parliament in Windhoek before she concludes her visit.

Namibian and Liberian relations stem back from the days of Namibia’s liberation struggle.

According to the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Liberia provided diplomatic passports to many SWAPO officials, which facilitated its diplomatic and political work in many parts of the world.

More than 800 Namibian soldiers were deployed to Liberia since 2003 as part of the United Nations peacekeeping forces. The operation of the Namibian contingent, which was composed of military and civil police forces, lasted for four years.

During the elections in that country, the Namibian contingent played an important role by assisting the Liberian government and the United Nations officials in ensuring the success of the election and peace-building process.

Although the Namibian battalion has been repatriated, Namibia still has two military observers and four staff officers serving in the United Nations mission in Liberia.

This is the first time the Liberian president visits Namibia since coming into office in 2006.

Johnson-Sirleaf was elected president in the 2005 presidential election where she defeated international soccer star George Weah.

The 69-year-old “iron lady”, as she is commonly known, leads a nation that has been torn by civil war for the last 25 years.

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