President Sirleaf Meets Japanese Emperor and Addresses Japan National Press Club
(TOKYO, JAPAN – Friday, October 11, 2012) President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Friday, October 12, called on the Japanese Emperor at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. According to Japan’s traditional order of succession, Akihito, the reigning Emperor of Japan, is the 125th Emperor of his line. He became Emperor in 1989.
The President extended greetings on behalf of the Liberian people and expressed condolences to the Emperor and people of Japan for the tragic earthquake and tsunami. She also thanked the Emperor for Japan’s continued support for Liberia’s reconstruction process, especially for restoring and equipping the Japanese-Liberian Friendship Maternity Hospital and in the areas of road and power infrastructure. The Emperor pledged continuing friendship between the two nations and people and thanked President Sirleaf and the Liberian people for their support during Japan’s moment of tragedy.
Also on Friday, the Liberian President addressed the National Press Club of Japan, and responded to questions ranging from economic development in Liberia to Japan and other partners’ roles in the private and public sector.
Describing the agenda of her second term, the President informed her hosts, “Our challenges are still many; we still have a strongly deficient infrastructure sector; we have large youth unemployment; we still have to work on reconciliation and capacity building…. Those are the areas that will be covered in our next six years, which we call our transformation period, as we consolidate the gains we have and begin to tackle these particular areas.”
When asked by the moderator to name the areas in which Liberia would like Japanese support, President Sirleaf reiterated what has been the core message of her visit: building Liberia’s infrastructure. She focused especially on the energy sector, noting “Power is the one we are putting great emphasis on. That will enable us to start to add value to our primary commodities and thereby start to have a bit of industrialization where the jobs are created for many of the young unemployed....” The President thanked Japan for its cooperation, through JICA, in the power and road development sectors.
A reporter from Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper asked about the difficulty of the reconciliation process, especially in light of the recent resignation of fellow Nobel Laureate, Leymah Gbowee. President Sirleaf responded by highlighting Liberia as an open society in which its citizens are free to express their opinions about the government. Regarding Ms. Gbowee’s resignation, President Sirleaf stated, “She has helped us with the reconciliation. She’s decided that she does not want to continue to help and we respect her views on that. We hope that somewhere along the line, as a good citizen, she will continue to work with us and make reconciliation a very strong part of our rebuilding process. So we will continue to work with her and hope that our objectives will all be the same – the rebuilding of our country using capacity wherever we can get it. I hope that she will join us in moving our country forward.”