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Liberia Welcomes President Bush Thursday


President George Bush arrives in Liberia Thursday on the last leg of his weeklong Africa visit. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is perhaps the only African leader who has lobbied the United States to host the headquarters of the U.S. Africa Military Command (AFRICOM). It is not clear if Mr. Bush would award the AFRICOM headquarters to Liberia during his visit.

Lawrence Bropleh is Liberia’s minister of information. He told VOA the country is ready to welcome President Bush because Liberians believe Mr. Bush shares their dreams and aspirations.

“Liberians are ready to receive President Bush and his entourage this morning. The city is bustling; people are lining the streets. Our students, our market women, our shoeshine boys, our wheel barrow boys, intellectuals, we are lining the streets awaiting President Bush because this country believes that President Bush is coming to have a presence with the Liberian people because he believes in the hopes and aspirations of the Liberian people as articulated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,” he said.

Bropleh said a host of activities are planned for Mr. Bush Thursday, including the holding of bilateral discussions with President Sirleaf.

“We are going to honor President Bush in the highest way at the Executive Mansion. There’ll be a state luncheon and then we will go to the BTC, the Barclay Training Center where speeches will be made. And President Bush is very fond of education and students. And so he will then move to the University of Liberia where he will engage young people in an intellectual dialogue,” Bropleh said.

The last time President Sirleaf visited the White House President Bush described her as the lady who always carries with her a shopping list. Instead Bropleh said President Bush’s visit to Liberia is an affirmation in the leadership of President Sirleaf.

“She expects the presence that President Bush is bringing to say to the Liberian people and to President Sirleaf that because of her integral leadership, a leadership that he believes in, President Bush is walking with the Liberian people for a long journey. President Sirleaf is not going to be asking for A, B, C, or D. She will affirming this partnership, telling him how far we’ve come that the challenges are many, but the progress is steady,” he said.

President Sirleaf is to date the only African leader who has lobbied the United States to host the headquarters of the U.S. Africa Military Command (AFRICOM). Bropleh said President Sirleaf would not be disappointed if President Bush made good on his statement Wednesday that the United States was not planning to build new U.S. military bases in Africa.

“No it’s not a mark of disappointment because all along we have said that should the United States decides to have an African Command, Liberia would welcome having its territory as the place to have it. But we also take solace in the fact that President Bush said that should the U.S. government ever decides to have an African Command in Africa Liberia would be seriously considered. To us, it means that President affirms Liberia and its position to receive AFRICOM whenever that is,” Bropleh said.

Some Liberian government officials, including some members of the legislatures have expressed concern that they might not be able to enter some of the events because they had only the invitation and no official passes. Bropleh said anyone who has an invitation would be able to attend events.

“Let me clarify! The Secret Service yes is in Liberia. But the Secret Service is not working in a vacuum. The Secret Service is working collaboratively with our Special Security Service and the rest of our military and security apparatus in the country. Those who have received invitations can take those invitations at the entrances of the various places that they have been invited to and they will enter. You don’t need an additional pass to enter,” Bropleh said.