Liberian authorities have held a diplomatic honoring ceremony for 374 personnel and individuals deployed by the African Union’s Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa or ASEOWA, including ASEOWA Mission head Mj. Gen. Dr. Julius Oketta.
Liberia’s Foreign Minister, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, presented certificate to ASEOWA mission head Dr. Oketta and others; followed by other officials, who separately presented certificates to representatives of the 98 Nigerian; 88 Ethiopians; 92 Kenyans; 7 AUC deployed staff and 88 individual volunteers.
In her reflection after the certification ceremony, President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf said as she looked around in the room [in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “six months ago” seemed like a dream in those dark days when people were running, mothers dying, sirens were screaming and nurses frightened.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf believed that each of those volunteers that came under the ASEOWA umbrella must have been touched by what Liberia was going through, because she says it is not easy “to volunteer to go to a country that has unknown enemy and a people whose culture … is strange to you.”
The Liberian leader said it took not only a love for life, but a love for the people of Liberia, who were going through that difficulty time.
She observed that the coming of the ASEOWA team to Liberia and the leaders who came along brought inspiration to the Liberian people themselves who were trying to come together.
President Sirleaf praised the ASEOWA team leaders for sharing of skills and experience that led to teaching and working in partnership with the Liberian team to enhance their own skills and be able to take those measures.
She said their experience coupled with the collective effort on the part of the Liberian people working with ASEOWA in partnership as African brothers and sisters supported by the external partners led to the success Liberia and ASEOWA celebrate today.
Having being gowned Paramount Chief by Liberian authorities, the head of ASEOWA Mission to Liberia, Major General Dr. Julius Oketta urged the need for a regional center for disease control in Africa, recalling, “we were already behind time” and Ebola was chasing everybody at the time of response.
But Dr. Oketta said when the ASEOWA team came in, Liberians were being encouraged not to run away from Ebola, but rather deal with it. He acknowledged the assistance or other external partners including the US Army, saying everybody else helped in the dealing with the outbreak that he recalled was at times tedious.
As a soldier, I tried to look around to see where the battle line could be; but the enemy was not seen,” he said, adding however that the negative chaos faced here was transformed into positivity.
With news that some thousands of Liberian have got training in dealing with such crisis, Dr. Okketa assured President Sirleaf that “if anything happens” after ASEOWA had left, Liberians will not respond the way they did from the onset of the Ebola crisis.
“I will not say they have the capacity, but they have the competence,” he told the President amidst applause from the audience at the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia.
Foreign Minister Ngafuan said the African Union’s respond time, deployment of medical personnel proved “great efficiency.”
He said Liberia will internally remain grateful to the Nigerian team for its commitment; while also praising ASEOWA for its role that sought to prevent deaths in the horrifying Ebola outbreak.
The Liberian Foreign Ministry said ASEOWA has set a new standard and voluntarism in African solidarity, saying, ASEOWA touched [every corner] of Liberia doing good everywhere they went. By Winston W. Parley – Edited by Jonathan Browne