Abuja – The Interim President of Mali, Mr. Diongunda Traore, on Thursday in Abuja, described President Goodluck Jonathan as an “astute mediator’’ who “lit the light when everything was dark and sombre” in Mali.
Traore spoke when he conferred on Jonathan the highest honour of the Republic of Mali “Grand Croix de L’ordre National du Mali’’ meaning “the Highest Cross of the National Order of Mali.’’
The e ceremony, which held at the council chamber of the Presidential Villa, was attended by top political leaders from Mali.
Governors Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom and Peter Obi of Anambra, ministers and presidential aides were also in attendance.
Traore, who spoke through an interpreter, said the honour was to appreciate the pivotal roles played by Jonathan and Nigeria in the restoration of peace and security to Mali.
“I transmit the greetings and gratitude of the Malian people, greetings and gratitude of the Malian people to the Nigerian people who have shown themselves in solidarity in the Malian course.
“Greetings and gratitude to yourself, President Jonathan for your engagement to our fight since the beginning of the security crisis.
“Crisis which has also been political and humanitarian, which shook Mali from January 2012 and for many months.
“We know how much your country suffers also from terrorism.
“We know how much Nigeria has needs of its troops, of her soldiers and all the soldiers at her disposal to ensure internal security against forces of evil, who have continued to attack innocent citizens.
“However, in spite of this internal need and pressure, your country has not hesitated to put at the disposal of Mali her soldiers and her logistics.
“Today, we came to thank you for the solidarity you showed to your neighbour, and the solidarity of ECOWAS and African Union as well as the international community,
“Today, Mali has found peace again. Mali has found again her unity and her democracy which were compromised for long months.
“It is this Mali which has found itself again and which is very grateful which has sent me today Mr. President, to tell you that it will never forget what you have done for it.
“To tell you of the light which you lit in her way when everything was dark and sombre.
“Thank you once more, Mr. President, and accept this modest gesture of our gratitude of the Malian nation which by my hand today we have come to confer on you.”
Traore specifically, recalled Jonathan’s personal efforts as co-mediator for peace in Mali when several meetings were held in Abuja, Ouagadougou and also in Bamako.
“You have spent without counting the cost Mr. President, you have spent for Mali, your efforts have born fruits.
“ Mali has come back among you strong from the lessons learnt, proud of what it has been able to achieve and proud of what you have been able to do for peace,’’ he said.
In a response, President Jonathan said the honour bestowed on him symbolised evident acknowledgement and appreciation of Nigeria’s commitment and sacrifice to all efforts towards ensuring peace and stability in Mali.
“The importance of this is that, our substantial financial, military and material contributions, including the supreme sacrifice paid by two Nigerian Airforce pilots have all not been in vain.
“The cost not withstanding and in the spirit of African solidarity, I assure you that Nigeria remains steadfastly committed to supporting the course of peace in Mali,’’ he said.
The president said the unwavering commitment of Nigeria to the course of peace-keeping and peace-building across the African continent was based on the conviction that Africa could only experience sustained growth when there was peace.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that, with a politically-stable Africa, it would be a strong and prosperous continent.
“As political leaders, we owe it to our collective posterity to ensure that we bequeath to the citizens that which will enable them maximise their creative potentials, favourably in the 21st century world.”
Jonathan thanked Traore for the honour, congratulated the Malian President-elect, Ibrahim Keita and also hailed the patriotism of his opponent, Sumalia Cisse for placing peace and stability of Mali above partisanship and personal ambition.(NAN)