The President of the French Republic, His Exellency François Hollande, has bestowed upon President Sirleaf for her support for the rights of women, for peace in Liberia and for promoting stability, progress and development in the Mano River Union.
She was honored in Paris, France at Elysée Palace, Wednesday, November 7th.
The Légion d’Honneur, was created by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, and is awarded to people who have served France or the ideals it upholds.
The Liberian Leader is the first African Female Leader to receive this honor, and second to South Africa’s Bishop Desmond Tutu.
After receiving the award, she dedicated the prestigious honor with the recognition to the resilient and steadfast people of Liberia; to women and children, the underprivileged everywhere in Africa and elsewhere.
President Sirleaf said: “this honor reinforces my commitment to remain steadfast in championing the cause of humanity, and advocating for social justice and the exercise of inalienable rights without precondition. My campaign is strengthened by this award, and I feel assured of the support of the French Republic, of your support”.
Madam Sirleaf said: “this award serves as an inspiration in the great task that remains before us.”
As for the situation in her own country, President Sirleaf promised, with the encouragement and commitment of the Government of France under the leadership of President Hollande, to do all within her power to heal the wounds of the devastating civil war, work to achieve genuine peace and reconciliation.
She called her counter to help promote respect for fundamental and human rights, as well as the preservation of individual liberties and security, adding, “All of these values are embodied in our style of governance which is democratic, free, and transparent.”
President Sirleaf concurred with her French counterpart that “the onus of African development and growth rests with us, Africans.
We must take primary responsibility for our development. The mitigation or the resolution of crises on our continent is solely an African obligation. We are heartened by your support to forge a cooperative enterprise with Africa in dealing with the continent’s intractable problems.”
Africa would grow and develop, she said, when there prevails an environment of peace, security and stability.
The Liberian Leader, referred to the crises in la Côte d’Ivoire and Mali and Guinea Bissau, and said that ECOWAS members remained relentless in ensuring that integration, cordiality and peace remain.
She said she would continue working with her colleagues in ECOWAS to support democratic processes, to support accountability, transparency and participation of the people in the affairs of their nation.
Concerning France’s role in Africa, President Sirleaf said that Africa and France share a commonality of history, culture and brotherhood. She added: “Our future is bound in our resolve to work together, as friends and partners, in promoting mutuality of interests.
I am convinced that France will show the way and encourage stronger integration amongst Francophone and Anglophone Africans as Africans and France, not Anglophones and Francophones.
We anticipate to work with you in this regard; “we look forward to a harmonious and symbiotic relationship over the present North-South cooperation.”
President Sirleaf extended an invitation to President Hollande “to visit that little country that’s there, Anglophone but Francophone in all its ideals and its objectives.
She said to consider us and to visit our country, thereby strengthening the relationship that has been formed between our two countries historically, and one which, today, carries it to a different level as a result of your friendship, your support, and the recognition you have given us through the honor that you’ve extended to me today.
French President Hollande said it was an honor to receive President Sirleaf in France, being that she was the first woman President in Africa and also served as an example that goes far beyond Africa.
It explained the reason that there were many women in office today, at high levels.
As the President of a country which, for more than 20 years, suffered a terrible civil war, he said she had acted for reconciliation for her people to get together and to bring peace to the country.
He paid tribute to the trust that the Liberian people gave Madam Sirleaf by re-electing her in 2011, observing that it was for her actions for peace, reconciliation, and for women’s rights that she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
President Hollande said: “today, it is France which is honoring you by awarding you the highest award of the French Republic because you are an outstanding person”.
He traced the life and career of the Liberian President, from her upbringing, through her election as President in 2005, and her efforts to get Liberia functioning again.
He mentioned France’s contribution in the Paris Club’s decision to waive Liberia’s external indebtedness, with his country alone forgiving a debt of U$252 million.
He shared the Liberian leader’s commitment for more justice, more rights, and more jobs for young people.
At the same time, he pointed out that President Sirleaf faced a number of challenges in Liberia, including poverty, illnesses, corruption and historical conflicts.
“You are succeeding to do in Liberia what many countries are not managing to do,” he said, through her activities in ECOWAS. On Mali, President Hollande called upon Africa to act, and said that Europeans must provide support.
“It was the responsibility of the Africans to decide on whether to intervene in the matter, in the light of a Security Council resolution, but the countries of the region should do all that they could to enable Mali to regain its territorial integrity”, he said.
He also told President Sirleaf, “you are the President of a country which suffered so much from war, but you showed that hope was possible.
You were able to undertake policies for the development of your country; you have been extremely brave in fighting corruption; and, most importantly, you’ve raised the hope of many women who, around the world, suffer because they are women”.
It is for all these reasons that France, today is honoring you by awarding you the Grand Croix of the Légion d’Honneur.