The Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President Ernest Bai Koroma on Friday 15th May 2009 officially launched the EU funded project “Across the River – A Trans-boundary Peace Park for Sierra Leone and Liberia’’ at Lalehun village Gaura chiefdom about 24 miles from Kenema city.
In his statement the Executive Representative of the United Nations Secretary General (ERSG) Michael Von der Schulenburg, assured his audience of continuous international support for the Gola Forest. He said the two presidents are together in Lalehun village, to make a decision on behalf of their people and their country. “They have to find a balance between the interests of the two neighboring countries. They have to find a balance between national and international interest. They have to find a balance between global and local interest, between commercial and private interest. They have to find a balance between national and regional interest. They have to find a balance between environment and development. A balance between generations that stand before him, and there should be a balance between man and nature.”
The Head of Delegation of the European Commission Hans Allden in his statement assured the Gola Communities of other EU project support, as currently the Welt Hunger Hilfe Food Security and Economic Development project is operating in Koya and Tunkia chiefdoms in the Kenema district, Makpele and Bari chiefdoms in Pujehun district and Wonde and Bagbo chiefdoms in the Bo districts in the South and East of the country.
In her Keynote address Her Excellency the President of Liberia and the Chairperson of the Mano River Union (MRU) Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the two countries are bounded by so many strong cords making them inseparable. Not only (do) the two countries share a common boundary but also share a common people, common history, common culture and common biodiversity. Both have shared peace for many years and of recent past we have shared war. As we meet today in the spirit of Ecowas and Mano river union to build upon a strong foundation for a peaceful co-existence formulated and passed on to us from our predecessor. The significance of the project launched here today can be a symbol of peace for the two nations. She said the Gola Forest of Liberia extends to Sierra Leone and Guinea and what affects the people in Liberia will affect the people in Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone” adding that we are all intertwined and all inseparable. She pledged her continued support for the project.
President Ernest Bai Koroma in formally launching the project pledged his fullest support for the Gola Forest Project adding that his government will never allow mining of any nature in the Gola Forest from whatever quarter. He called on all to come together to support the Gola Forest project saying that forest is life. The ceremony was chaired by the Resident Minister East William Juana Smith. Cultural performances climaxed the ceremony. By Saffa Moriba