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How Pres. Sirleaf Celebrated Her 75th Birthday

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, on Tuesday October 29, climaxed her 75th birth anniversary with a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Omega Market, the completion of which will lead to the relocation of the congested Red Light Market in Paynesville. The program, organized by the Liberia Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Sorority, was preceded by a fundraiser by the AKA, which has pledged to participate in constructing the market as a birthday gift to President Sirleaf.

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AKA is an international service organization established by African-American college-educated women, founded in 1908 on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., and is the oldest Greek-lettered organization. Its membership is comprised of distinguished women who boast excellent academic records, proven leadership skills, and are involved in the global community through advocacy and service. The organization has dedicated itself to improving the quality of life for citizens worldwide and promoting peace.

Flanked by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and surrounded by her AKA Sorors and sponsors, the Liberian leader, making remarks at an impressive and well-attended program, said she was happy that the AKA could organize the event that would bring the people together in an effort to dignify market women.

“Today is the kick-off to a process to making this place (Omega Market site) a transformed one so that people can remember this birthday celebration,” President Sirleaf said, adding that by the time the project is finished, Liberian market women will be proud because the facilities will add dignity to what they love to do.

The project is being undertaken by the Sirleaf Market Women’s Fund in collaboration with the AKA Sorority, following up on the latter’s pledge at the SMWF’s 2008 fundraiser to “Adopt a Market.” On July 11, 2010, the AKA gave President Sirleaf US$500,000 for a market in the Paynesville Red Light Community outside Monrovia. When completed, it will be the biggest so far and will provide a learning environment for pre-school children as well as adult literacy, health facilities, cold storage, a bank, police depot, and ample parking.

The President paid special tribute to the AKA for the initiative and commitment to build the Omega Market.  “There is no better way to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee more than this one, which is geared at giving back to the people who have fed the nation even in the days of difficulties,” she stated, thanking them for the undertaking on behalf of the Liberia people.

President Sirleaf, the Diamond Jubilee celebrant, who was in high spirit, also paid tribute to former Nigerian President Obasanjo, or “Baba,” who flew in to grace the occasion, for always identifying with Liberia’s development needs. The Liberian leader continued, “When the former President [Obasanjo] saw the Red Light Market he said to me that Liberia can do more than this, and here he is supporting our quest to transforming Omega for Red Light relocation.”

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President Sirleaf used the occasion to praise the people of Nigeria for their role in restoring Liberia to a peaceful country, which has led to compatriots celebrating ten conservative years of sustained peace. She also thanked other entities that had contributed to Liberia’s peace.

In order to further sustain the peace, however, President Sirleaf reiterated that the government must do something that will better the lives of the people, including creating jobs and providing basic social services. In that context, she made reference to the Obasanjo poultry farm, in Grand Cape Mount County, which is providing jobs and fresh eggs for Liberians.

President Sirleaf and her guests later cut the ribbon to officially open the Omega Market Clinic which was recently completed during phase one of the Omega project.

The second phase of the project, which realized over US$1 million in cash and pledges, was characterized by drumming, dancing, singing and the display of Liberian-made textiles which the marketers said was meant to demonstrate their appreciation to President Sirleaf and her guests for their efforts to dignify them as they play their role in sustaining the economy. Before the Omega Market program, the Liberian leader attended two events: a Thanksgiving Service and a Children’s Concert.

At the Thanksgiving Service, held at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion, the Co-Pastor of The Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York, the Rev. Dr. Elaine Flake, paid tribute to President Sirleaf for her resilience that has greatly impacted the lives of all Liberians.

Dr. Flake reiterated that it was only worthy to thank God for someone at 75 years who had been politically oppressed, abused and ostracized in her push for social justice for all. “Because of her courage and resilience, and guided by God Almighty, Liberians are today reaping from her sacrifices for equal justice and freedom for all,” the guest preacher said.

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She challenged Liberians to seek the guidance of God in whatever they intend to do, as President Sirleaf has always done, thereby raising her to great achievements. “Like President Sirleaf, we can make God proud by living meaningfully in leaving behind a legacy of integrity, sacrifice and accountability,” Dr. Flake said.

At the Service, which was attended by senior government officials, diplomats, foreign guests and well-wishers, the Pastor of the Effort Baptist Church of Paynesville, offered a Special Prayer for the President and for God’s guidance and prosperity as she leads the nation.

Also taking part in the Service were: the Rt. Rev, Jonathan B.B. Hart, President of the Liberia Council of Churches, who delivered the Opening Sentence; Rev. Julius Williams, Acting Pastor of the First United Methodist Church, gave the Invocation; the Liberia Annual Conference of the First United Methodist Church, the President’s Church gave a statement. There were Scripture readings by Mr. James Sirleaf, eldest son of the President, and by Dr. Florence Chenoweth, Minister of Agriculture and an AKA member. Bishop George D. Harris of the Philadelphia Pentecostal Church gave the Closing Prayer.

Music for the occasion was proffered by the Trinity United Methodist Church Kru Choir; Soprano Lula Anderson and Baritone Tarley Kegbeh of First Church; and Mrs. Sonia Kanga Williams. The Master of Ceremony, who used the occasion to also deliver words of wisdom, was Dr. Laurence Bropleh.

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At the Monrovia City Hall, where concert was held, children they sang birthday songs, read poems, and presented gifts to the Diamond Jubilee celebrant. They also performed dramas depicting three stages of President Sirleaf’s political life, ranging from the period of social justice; her 2006 Inaugural Speech in which she delivered the famous “Papa na come” statement; and her 2011 second term Inaugural Address to the Liberian people.

A reader, titled “Ellen – The Girl Who Grew up to Become President,” published by the Liberian Education Trust, was officially launched, with portions read out to the audience.   President Sirleaf, in her response to the children’s performance, told them how impressed she was and encouraged to work for their development and the attainment of the dreams for a better Liberia. She told the children that their performance had made her day and she was appreciative to them and the concert organizer, the Ministry of Gender and Development.

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