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 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.
The Malian leader recalled that the crisis in his country commenced from January 2012 and continued for many months until Nigeria’s intervention.
“We know how much your country suffers also from terrorism”, Traore started, adding “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”, he stated.
As a show of gratitude following the restoration of peace to that West African country, Traore said on behalf of his country, he had come to tell President Jonathan that his timely intervention would never be forgotten.
According to him, “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.”
In his 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.
Mr. Jonathan also used the occasion to congratulate 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)