first_imgAs my tenure as U.S. Ambassador to Liberia comes to a close, I first and foremost want to thank all Liberians for so warmly welcoming me to your beautiful country. You have all made me feel very much at home here during the past three years. I am sad to be leaving Liberia, but I can assure you that I will carry this country and its people in my heart. The bond I share with you is not only because of the friendship between our two countries or your warm hospitality; we are bound together because of our shared experience in facing the national nightmare of Ebola. When the disease struck Liberia in March 2014, Liberia was on the right trajectory in its recovery from conflict – moderate but steady economic growth resulting from thoughtful policies and the support of citizens, who keep the government accountable to the people.The Ebola epidemic was an unexpected and unprecedented emergency that hit a region with few resources to address the threat and winning that fight has proven to be a marathon task with many unexpected obstacles and difficulties along the way. Liberia, despite having the most Ebola-related deaths, was the first of the three highly impacted countries to reach zero. Led by President Sirleaf, the government of Liberia achieved this milestone by clearly communicating with its citizens at the local level and empowering them to take action – qualities which will serve Liberia well as you move toward the important goal of decentralization. Dealing with this extended emergency stalled the government of Liberia’s broader efforts to improve life for Liberians, but there have been notable successes over the past three years that may have been obscured by the Ebola response. To those who are impatient about the pace of change, I say that change is hard, but many hands make light work. What do I mean? Development, consolidation of democratic governance, and reconciliation are all processes that take time, but by working together, valuing differences and committing to the greater good, progress comes more quickly. More importantly, progress comes when Liberians put their country ahead of their own narrow interests and work together, as the united fight against Ebola so forcefully demonstrated. A notable success – Liberia has one of the liveliest and most open forums in Africa for the media to do their jobs. That is a direct result of changes your government instituted, including embracing the tenets of open government and granting ordinary citizens access to information. This is all the more significant as Liberia enters the 2017 election cycle. Another notable success – the National Elections Commission has organized multiple successful contests, including the December 2014 Senate elections. Although the elections were delayed by Ebola concerns and judicial challenges, the NEC and judiciary were able to resolve the situation and allow the elections to proceed. It was a very positive sign of the maturation of Liberia’s political and institutional development and the ability of Liberians to organize well-run elections that were judged by observers to be free and fair.And that’s not all. The Ministry of Health is rebuilding its capacity at the central, county, district and community levels with support from our extensive USAID programs that have helped put in place the underlying structures leading to better health sector governance, management, accountability, and effectiveness. Major accomplishments include improvements in the quality and availability of primary health care services for mothers and children in some of Liberia’s hardest to reach communities. Additionally, by mobilizing the leadership of rural communities, USAID has brought those communities improved sanitation facilities and greater access to clean drinking water. We also welcomed the establishment of a permanent Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) country office in Liberia, to assist with building capacity to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks. Since the Ebola outbreak, the CDC has worked with the Ministry of Health to strengthen data management and surveillance systems and strengthen laboratory capacity and testing for diseases of public health concern, establishing infection prevention and control standards at health facilities and building the public health workforce capacity in the country. With the strengthening of the health systems in Liberia, we are progressing towards a healthier and better prepared Liberia to respond to another disease outbreak.Of course, none of these accomplishments could happen in a security vacuum. Maintaining peace and social stability is a prerequisite for Liberia’s democratic and economic development. The United States has worked closely with the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and with the Liberia National Police (LNP) to strengthen these institutions, and both are increasingly ready to assume full responsibility for Liberia’s security as the drawdown of UNMIL continues. The growing cooperation and joint exercises between AFL and LNP is of vital importance to improve the interoperability between the forces and reinforce the military’s role in support of the civilian security forces. The merit-based appointment of career law enforcement officers in the leadership positions of both the LNP and the Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) is a critical step towards fulfilling the government’s responsibility to protect its citizens through its civilian security forces. The LDEA has also made tremendous strides over the past two years in its operational capacity and professionalism, and the passage of the new LDEA Act and drug law in 2014 provides a strong foundation for even more effective law enforcement activities. LDEA’s deployment in 2014 to both Monrovia-based airports quickly resulted in several successful interdictions, and I am confident that its deployment to the Freeport of Monrovia will prove just as fruitful. These accomplishments provide the underpinnings on which future growth and investment will be made, but are intangible. Improved roads and a functioning electrical grid are the tangible items that Liberians want and need.On November 2, Liberia signed a compact with the United States’ Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which will contribute significant resources to rebuilding the Mt. Coffee hydropower plant and to upgrading maintenance of Liberia’s road transportation network. This $256 million partnership compact is remarkable for a number of reasons. Very few countries each year are approved for a Compact, and in most cases it takes years of negotiation and preparation before a Compact is actually signed. The fact that this Compact was signed in one of the fastest time frames undertaken by MCC is a testament to the dedication and professionalism of the Liberian government and to the robust friendship that has been a hallmark of U.S-Liberia bilateral relations for more than a century. This Compact is a very tangible symbol of our friendship and more importantly will contribute enormously to making affordable electricity available to all Liberians. Let’s be honest. Challenges to development remain. Even as Liberia began to emerge from the Ebola epidemic, its recovery stalled due a sharp decline in revenues from iron ore and rubber; a sharp reminder of the need to move more aggressively away from a concessions-based economy. There has been progress in developing public financial management systems that will make official corruption more difficult going forward, but there is no substitute for holding people accountable – and not just members of the government. The fight against corruption has to begin with personal responsibility of each and every Liberian – to do the right thing every time, especially when no one is looking.Liberia still needs to ensure women have every opportunity to participate fully in the country’s economic and political life. If you leave behind 50 percent of the population, you’ll never fully develop. Incidents of rape and sexual and gender-based violence continue to plague the country, and remain a stain on the country. Although strides are being made, the courts are still backlogged with cases, leading many to forego their right to a fair trial. This also undercuts efforts at national reconciliation, since disputes fester and explode, rather than being dealt with in a fair, just manner. The upcoming transition is perhaps the most critical in Liberia’s history. The 2017 election will show Liberians and the world whether they intend to remain on a path of democracy and inclusion or to return to a time of conflict and exclusion. Protecting the peace and achieving the future that Liberians desire requires personal and collective effort and a commitment to national, rather than personal benefit.It is my fervent hope that even more positive developments are imminent. The United States stands ever-ready to help Liberians help themselves, and I am pleased to have been the steward of this partnership during my time here. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img

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first_imgWATCH: Nike honors LeBron’s 15th NBA season with powerful ad Judy Ann’s 1st project for 2020 is giving her a ‘stomachache’ “I will miss this all. The crowd, the fans, the drums. I will really miss all of this,” said Onwubere, who netted 18.06 points, 12.38 rebounds, 2.88 assists, and 1.56 blocks in his fifth and final year to lead EAC to a 7-11 record.The triumph was a fitting farewell for Onwubere, who could arguably be the most successful product of the EAC basketball program of this era.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSRedemption is sweet for Ginebra, Scottie ThompsonSPORTSMayweather beats Pacquiao, Canelo for ‘Fighter of the Decade’SPORTSFederer blasts lack of communication on Australian Open smogThough injuries held the Generals back from accomplishing their target, the 23-year-old was happy that the Generals eclipsed their record this season from last year.“Our focus this season was really to make it there. But at least, we improved our record from last year,” he said. Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. Jo Koy: My brain always wants to think funny Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard PLAY LIST 02:14Carpio hits red carpet treatment for China Coast Guard02:56NCRPO pledges to donate P3.5 million to victims of Taal eruption00:56Heavy rain brings some relief in Australia02:37Calm moments allow Taal folks some respite03:23Negosyo sa Tagaytay City, bagsak sa pag-aalboroto ng Bulkang Taal01:13Christian Standhardinger wins PBA Best Player award Jake says relationship with Shaina ‘goes beyond physical attraction’ LATEST STORIES Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next MOST READ For the complete collegiate sports coverage including scores, schedules and stories, visit Inquirer Varsity.center_img Sidney Onwubere. Photo by Randolph B. LeongsonSidney Onwubere struggled to hold back his tears as he looked around Filoil Flying V Centre and soaked in the moment after Emilio Aguinaldo College survived a gallant stand from Perpetual, 83-81, on Tuesday.Though the Generals failed to reach their goal of making it to the Final Four, the Fil-Nigerian forward got what he wanted — a win to cap off his collegiate career.ADVERTISEMENT Onwubere is also hoping that the ones that will be left in the auspices of EAC will draw inspiration for what he did in his eight-year stay in San Marcelino.“I always tell them that it’s all about the hard work. I always tell them that the only way we can catch up to the ones above us will be through hard work,” he said. “I’m very grateful for the EAC community and I hope that this campaign will help the guys for the next year.”Onwubere now gears up for a new challenge in his career as he is set to enter the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft.ADVERTISEMENT Jake says relationship with Shaina ‘goes beyond physical attraction’ Kiss-and-tell matinee idol’s conquests: True stories or tall tales? It’s too early to present Duterte’s ‘legacy’ – Lacson OSG plea to revoke ABS-CBN franchise ‘a duplicitous move’ – Lacson View comments Coco’s house rules on ‘Probinsyano’ set Margot Robbie talks about filming ‘Bombshell’s’ disturbing sexual harassment scenelast_img

first_imgEllis didn’t expect to win when she announced her candidacy last summer, just months after graduating from Antelope Valley High, where she was valedictorian. “I remember when they were calling the names, and then they called my name for the fifth seat, I was like, `Wow!”‘ Ellis said. She said she ran her campaign much like a high school race, posting hand-written signs “in big letters, so people driving by could see it.” Ellis said she persistently knocked on doors, learning about the issues that mattered to local residents, including community concerns about maintaining the area’s rural integrity amid the Antelope Valley’s explosive growth. “A lot of people, when I was knocking on doors, didn’t take me seriously,” she said. “They didn’t really think I was running because I look so young.” QUARTZ HILL – That Michelle Ellis has never lost an election in her life is impressive. That she sits on the Quartz Hill Town Council while running her own business, fulfilling Lancaster Sunrise Rotary service responsibilities and pursuing a college degree is noteworthy, too. What is most remarkable, however, is that Ellis is just 18. Ellis placed fifth among 11 candidates in November’s Town Council election with 85 votes. She is among seven council members. Ellis said she tried to fit in, dressing up to help bridge a generation gap she sensed could have doomed her candidacy. “I tried to show that my age doesn’t make me,” she said. “I tried to convince them that I knew about the issues. They asked me questions and I think my answers showed that I knew what I was talking about and that I was determined.” Determination, by all accounts, has been Ellis’ calling card throughout her young political life. Ellis won four high school senate elections at Antelope Valley High, highlighted by what she described as a contentious vice presidential campaign her junior year. She was 13 when she was elected president of the Eastside Antelopes 4-H Club. Ellis won a seat on the Antelope Valley College student senate in a campaign in which she ran unopposed. She also is a two-time winner of the Citizen of the Year honor, awarded by U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita. She said winning the award the first time when she was in fifth grade inspired her to pursue a career in public service. Her goal is to be elected to Congress. Considering her track record, she should not be underestimated. “When you watch her with other people, you can see that she’s very sensitive and very kind,” said Quartz Hill resident Sandra Jernigan, noting she voted for Ellis in the council election. “She seems to have a keen understanding of what’s going on in our community.” Not all council members have embraced Ellis, however. Councilwoman Tammany Fields allegedly sent Ellis an e-mail complaining that the teen did not honor a commitment at the recent Almond Festival. Fields would not comment on the specifics of the e-mail, saying that any conflict has been resolved and that the incident was blown out of proportion by Ellis’ supporters. Ellis dismissed the incident as “sour grapes,” saying she prefers to talk about the issues that local residents are concerned about, such as improving the town’s drainage system. “There’s always going to be drama and bickering,” she said. “The only way to move forward is to keep going and let it go.” Ellis seems to always be on the move. Her juggling act includes running a dog waste removal business called “Smelly Poop Patrol” and participating in AVC’s Model U.N. “Anyone who can perform that many activities and do well at all of them, that pretty much sets her apart,” said AVC student Brandon Davis, who works with Ellis on the Model U.N. and the AVC student senate. Ellis’ commitment to volunteering sets her apart, too. She interns for UCLA’s Early Academic Outreach Program and is a student adviser at Antelope Valley High. She is also a former High Desert Health System Youth Volunteer of the Year. “That girl is determined; she’s a go-getter,” said her mother, Vilma Ellis. Ellis hasn’t decided whether she’ll seek another term on the council, noting that an anticipated increased workload at AVC will make it difficult to serve. She plans to major in political science at UCLA. Whatever her decision, she says she’ll remain committed to public service. “Since I’m a young person, hopefully I can inspire and motivate other young people,” she said. “Whatever their goals and focuses are, they can do it.” gideon.rubin@dailynews.com (661) 267-7802160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

first_imgEDMONTON A.B. – Voters are heading to the polls in the Alberta election today and advance turnouts suggest it could be busy at the ballot boxes.Almost 700,000 people voted early in malls, airports, recreation centres, public buildings and even an Ikea store. That was well ahead of the 235,000 who came out early in the 2015 election that saw Rachel Notley’s NDP deliver a surprise knockout blow to the 44-year run of the Progressive Conservatives.This time around, the Progressive Conservatives are no more.- Advertisement -The PCs merged with another right-centre party, the Wildrose, to create the new United Conservatives under former federal cabinet minister Jason Kenney.The four-week campaign focused on personal attacks and on Alberta’s fragile economy, which has been struggling for several years with sluggish oil prices and unemployment levels above seven per cent in Calgary and Edmonton.Kenney has argued that Notley’s government has made a bad situation worse with higher taxes, more regulations and increases in minimum wage.Advertisement Notley, in turn, has said Kenney’s plan to freeze spending and pursue more private-care options in health care will have a profound impact on students in the classroom and on patients waiting for care.The campaign also featured Alberta’s relationship with Ottawa, specifically Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.Notley said her success working with Trudeau or picking her fights with him as necessary is what led to progress on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to the B.C. coast. She expects construction to begin this year.She said Kenney’s promise to challenge Trudeau in court on everything from the federal carbon tax to proposed energy industry rule changes is cynical, self-defeating shadow-boxing given the collaborative realities of political decision-making.Advertisement Kenney has campaigned on the “Trudeau-Notley alliance” that he says has turned Alberta into a doormat for Trudeau and other oil industry foes with no more than a faint and as yet unrealized promise of one pipeline expansion to the coast.Notley has also tried to make Kenney’s character an issue. A number of his candidates have either quit or apologized for past comments that were anti-LGBTQ, anti-Islamic or sympathetic to white nationalism.Kenney has called the attacks a “fear-and-smear” red herring to distract from the NDP’s economic track record of multibillion-dollar budget deficits and soaring debt.On the political fringes are the Alberta Party and the Liberals, each of which elected one candidate to the legislature in 2015.The Alberta Party, led by former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel, is running a full slate of candidates. It’s promising to be the safe centrist middle ground by combining the economic conservatism of the UCP with the social progressivism of the NDP.Advertisementcenter_img The Liberals, led by lawyer David Khan, are running on a similar platform with one significant exception, a provincial sales tax.History will be made no matter what.Notley will either be the first Alberta NDP premier to win re-election or the first leader in the province to fail to win a renewed mandate on the first try.Since its creation in 1905, Alberta has elected multi-term dynasties: the Liberals (1905-1921), the United Farmers of Alberta (1921-1935), the Social Credit (1935-1971) and the Progressive Conservatives from 1971 to 2015.last_img

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