Former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has visited Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia in solidarity with the West African nations worst hit by the Ebola Virus Disease.
Mr. Obasanjo arrived in Guinea Conakry on Thursday February 19, and was received by President Alpha Conde at the Presidential Palace.
Speaking during a meeting with the Guinean President, Mr. Obasanjo said he was in Conakry to commiserate with the people over the losses suffered due to the Ebola outbreak and to congratulate the nation’s leadership for its efforts in containing the disease.
“True friendship is tested in times of trials,” the former President said.
“I am here because this is a trying time for my brother and the people of Guinea.
“I commiserate with you and also congratulate you for the way and manner you have handled this crisis.”
Mr. Obasanjo reiterated his commitment to seeking international assistance for countries affected by the Ebola crisis.
“Let me assure you that I am personally involved in mobilising support for the affected countries,” he said.
“I have been working closely with the African Union chairperson to raise funds from the private sector in Africa to support efforts to eradicate Ebola.”
The former Nigerian President said although Guinea and the other affected countries have reasonably contained the disease, it is important for global partners to provide assistance to victims and find ways to ensure such outbreaks are avoided in the future.
“I will continue to sensitise the international community on the need to support victims of the disease and to assist the affected countries to recover from this epidemic.
“The children who have been orphaned by the virus will require support to make it through childhood.”
Responding, President Conde said Mr. Obasanjo’s visit came as no surprise to him even though other global leaders are reluctant to visit the Ebola-hit countries.
“You have always been a Pan-Africanist who takes the issues of Africa very seriously,” Mr. Conde said.
“Your visit here, therefore, comes as no surprise to me and it reinforces the friendship we have shared over the years.”
“At the moment, there are critical areas in which I would kindly request your urgent intervention.
“First, the affected countries will need debt relief from the international community.
“Second, there is urgent need for a Marshall plan to help the countries recover from the disaster.
“We also need assistance to strengthen our health and education sectors to effectively deal with disasters of this kind.
“I ask these not only as the President of the Republic of Guinea but also as the Chairman of the Mano River Union.”
Mr. Obasanjo gave his assurances of seeking support for the countries.
“You can count on me and my good offices whenever you need my intervention,” he told Mr. Conde.
In Sierra Leone, Mr. Obasanjo met with President Ernest Bai Koroma at his Goderich residence in Freetown where he lamented the effect of Ebola on the people of Sierra Leone at a time the country’s rapid development was taking off.
Mr. Obasanjo praised the efforts made by the government of Sierra Leone and development partners in containing the disease and promised to further garner international support for the affected countries as they deal with and recover from the outbreak.
In his remarks, President Koroma thanked Mr. Obasanjo for his statesmanship and reassured him of the commitment of the three worst-hit countries to eradication of Ebola and economic recovery.
He hailed the role played by Nigeria, which sent medical personnel to help Sierra Leone combat the disease.
President Koroma urged the international community not to isolate the affected countries but instead show empathy and offer assistance.
Following the meeting with President Koroma, Chief Obasanjo paid a surprise visit to the Western Area Emergency Response Centre in Freetown where he met with the various teams combating the Ebola outbreak.
From Sierra Leone, Mr. Obasanjo proceeded to Liberia where he met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at her offices in Monrovia. Discussions during the meeting centred on post-Ebola economic recovery for the three worst-hit countries.