The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, was decorated with the highest national award of Sierra Leone — the Grand Commander of the Republic of Sierra Leone — at an event in Freetown, the capital, last Tuesday.
The event formed part of the 60th Independence Day celebration of Sierra Leone. It was on the theme: “Building a new Sierra Leone together”.
President Akufo-Addo attended the ceremony in his capacity as the President of Ghana and also Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The President of Guinea, Professor Alpha Conde; the President of Liberia, George Manneh Weah, and the President of The Gambia, Adama Barrow, were also decorated with similar honours for the various roles they played in helping Sierra Leone in its times of distress.
Apart from the four West African Presidents who attended the event and received their honours in person, the Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau, Nuno Gomes Nabiam, and the Vice-President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, were also in attendance.
It was a colourful celebration, with performances by Sierra Leone’s security agencies, interspersed with cultural displays.
A minute’s silence was observed in honour of the late President of Chad, Idriss Deby Itno, who died recently.
The Sierra Leonean President, Mr Julius Maada Bio, said the honour was in recognition of President Akufo-Addo’s selfless contribution to “deepening democracy and the rule of law in Ghana and heightening and providing leadership for regional integration and co-operation in Africa”.
He said it was also to acknowledge President Akufo-Addo’s “outstanding career of public service”, citing several landmark constitutional cases he undertook which had protected the independence of the Judiciary and guaranteed the rights of Ghanaian citizens.
“A bold advocate of multiparty democracy, he challenged despotism and has since worked to deepen democratic culture and practice in Ghana.
“His vision of a ‘Ghana Beyond Aid’ is predicated on the notion that with a structured economy, investment in education and infrastructure, African economies can gradually, but confidently, relinquish the era of aid reliance.
“This award also recognises the immense contribution of the Republic of Ghana to the restoration of peace and democracy in Sierra Leone,” the citation accompanying the award read.
President Bio further expressed gratitude to Ghana and the other countries for their solidarity and generosity to his country throughout its existence.
He reminded them of the common threat they faced as individual countries and as a sub-region and urged them to remain united and committed to ensuring peace and development in their respective countries.
“Your presence here, even as the world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic, is a demonstration of your profound solidarity. We are immensely grateful for your kindness.
“As countries in the sub-region, we are tied together by geography, a common history, shared values, shared interests and a common future. We face similar peace and security threats and we must stay collectively vigilant in protecting our common homestead.
“We share other common threats. A burgeoning youth population is a threat insofar as irregular migration, crime, drug trafficking and threats of a restive and marginalised populations are concerned and we owe it a duty to our countries and the subregion to remain united to find common solutions,” President Bio said.
President Akufo-Addo, on his own behalf and that of the people of Ghana, congratulated the government and the people of Sierra Leone on their anniversary.
He expressed appreciation for the honour done him and commended Sierra Leoneans for their resilience and perseverance, despite the challenges they had gone through.
“If there is any country in West Africa that has shown resilience and the will to persevere in the face of numerous challenges and obstacles, there is no better example than Sierra Leone, and this is worthy of commendation,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo urged Sierra Leoneans to contribute their quota to the construction of a happy and prosperous country, as well as deepen their sense of cohesion.
“So, whether you are Mende, Temne, Limba, Loko, Fula, Mandingo, Krio, Susu, Kissi or Kru, I appeal to you to look beyond where you come from. You must deepen the cohesion among you and promote a spirit of reconciliation for the sake of your beloved country, its progress and prosperity. You are Sierra Leoneans, first and foremost, and I urge you to wear that accolade with pride,” he added.
On ECOWAS member countries, the President said: “All of us in the community need to work towards the day when we will do business first in West Africa and Africa, before looking to Europe, Asia or the Americas, because we have the men and the women, the goods, the services and the quality.”
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