|Remarks at the Handover Ceremony of the China-aided Fendall Campus of the University of Liberia|
BY H.E. MR. ZHOU YUXIAO, CHINESE AMBASSADOR TO LIBERIA
July 20, 2010
Her Excellency President Ellen Johanson Sirleaf,
Hon. Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis
Honorable members of the Legislature
President of University of Liberia
Superintendent and traditional leaders
Deputy SRSG Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu
Ambassadors and diplomats
President and members of the Board of Trustees
Fculty members and students
Friends from the Media,
Ladies and gentlemen,
On behalf of the government and people of the People's Republic of China, I have the honor to officially hand over the brand new Fendall Campus of the University of Liberia to Your Excellency Madam President, as a birthday gift to the government and people of the Republic of Liberia on the occasion of the 163rd anniversary of the founding of the first Republic on the African continent. Here is the symbolic key to the Campus, Madam President.
This handover ceremony is made part of Liberia's Independence Day cerebration and we are very proud to be part of it. We hope it will add a little more joy and excitement to the festival mood of the Liberian people. From the bottom of heart let me say: congratulations and happy birthday to Liberia, a land of glorious liberty and freedom.
Madam President, ladies and gentlemen,
The UL Fendall Campus is the largest project build with Chinese assistance since the normalization of relations between our two countries. It is also one of the biggest developmental projects in postwar Liberia. The construction took two years. The Campus covers an area of 11 hectares with 24,800 square meters of floor space. It has five components: namely the teaching and administrative buildings; apartment buildings for faculty members; dormitory buildings for students; auxiliary facilities like power generation, water supply and sports ground; and teaching and research equipment. The Chinese government has also agreed to provide furniture to the Campus as an additional program to the project. A considerable portion of the UL student population can move into the new Campus to enjoy better conditions for study. I hope the fully furnished and equipped Campus will contribute meaningfully to the improvement and advancement of Liberia's education of higher learning whose importance to the nation's future can not be over emphasized in this high-tech and information age we live in.
To me, this towering project means something. It represents progress and development. Nowadays, construction sites can be seen everywhere in the country and new structures are coming up like mushrooms after a spring rain. The Fendall Campus is just one of them. We are scratching your back just because you are rubbing your chest yourself. This landmark structure represents an important milestone in Liberia's post-conflict reconstruction. I wish to commend the Liberian government and people for the big strides they have made in their effort to lift Liberia.
It indicates the importance of peace. Without the peace that is prevailing in Liberia today, no construction work is possible. Therefore, peace is more important than anything else. I hope the Campus can serve as a monument to peace inspiring people, particularly young people to cherish,promote and defend peace, stability and harmony. They should not take the current peace for granted, as there are still 8,000 plus peacekeepers in Liberia, among which 558 are from China. Being the future architects and leaders of the nation, university students bear a special responsibility to ensure that peace will remain when the peacekeepers are gone.
It signifies the strength of cooperation and friendship. The political and social systems are different between China and Liberia. But neither China, nor Liberia bases its relations with the other on political ideology. Neither side imposes its views and values on the other. Instead we have developed sate-to-state relations on the basis of sovereign equality, political trust, mutual respect, mutual support and mutual benefit. It is this genuine spirit of cooperation and friendship that has made cooperation projects like the Fendall Campus possible. It tells us that countries with deferent values, cultures and religions and sizes can work together harmoniously for common progress and prosperity. The Fendall Campus is a symbol and crystallization of this friendship and cooperation that, I hope, will stand tall in the minds of our two peoples as the Friendship Tower that stands out there in the center of the Campus.
It also means devotion and sacrifice. Although much of the labor force working on the project was locally employed, the contractor which is China Guangdong Xingguang International Group Ltd had to recruit engineers and technicians from China as they were not available here. Those Chinese employees encountered enormous hardships and sacrificed a lot. They had to be away from their loved ones for two years and a few of them returned home with their parents gone. Every one suffered malaria several times. Yet they worked tirelessly day and night to ensure timely completion of the project for the benefit of the Liberian students. Their sprit of devotion and sacrifice is as valuable as the campus. I wish to say a very emotional and very big thank you to the aid workers for the contribution they have made.
Those are not the only ones that deserve our gratitude. Madam President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and my President Hu Jintao personally witnessed the exchange of letters on and gave full support to the construction of the Campus when President Hu paid a historical visit to Liberia on February 1, 2007. Madam President launched and inspected the project many times to iron out thorny problems. Vice President Joseph Boakai inspected the site and presented goats to the workers to recognize the hard and good jobs they were doing. Senator President Pro-tempore Cletus Waterson also visited the construction workers to show support and concern on behalf of the Legislative branch. UL President Dr. Emmet Dennis, his predecessor Al-Hassan Konteh and the University leadership have been very supportive to the project and they were always available when asked for help. The local employees also worked hard to ensure speedy progress. The list can go much longer. I want to invite all of you to joint me in thanking all those who supported and contributed to the construction of this magnificent structure by giving them thunderous applause.
Madam President, ladies and gentlemen,
The Campus is beautiful and impressive. But the buildings themselves alone do not make a university. They become a real university campus only when it is well managed and funded, only when it has high-calibered professors, well designed curriculums and devoted students with academic excellence, and only when it produces qualified graduates who do not only advocate democracy, freedom and human rights, but also possesses the technology, the technical know-how and the strong will to turn their extremely rich natural resources into development advantages, namely to turn rubber into sneaks and tires, iron ore into cooking utensils and building materials and timber into high quality furniture as import substitutes. In my eyes, the new campus does not only offer better conditions but also poses new challenges.
The University of Liberia had its glorious past as it was once regarded as one of the best universities on the African continent. I am confident that it will be able to regain its past fame and prestige in the years to come for the following reasons: one, the Liberian government has listed education as one of the priorities in its Poverty Reduction Strategy; second, the University has a dynamic and innovative leadership headed by its President Emmet Dennis; third, the international community has stepped up its support to the University. For example, Some US universities and others are helping to design curriculums and the US government has renovated the science and technology building in the old Fendall Campus. Germany has set up a road-building lab there. In addition to this project, China has also set up a computer center, a civil engineering lab and a soil-testing lab in the old campus too. China has established a Confucius Institute in the UL to raise its status. I am sure that all these joint efforts will give the university a big impetus in its renewal and revival process.
Madam President, ladies and gentlemen,
This is a bump harvest year for China-Liberia cooperation. We shall dedicate another two major projects in the next couple of days, the Agro Technology Demonstration Center at CARI, Gbarnga, and the referral hospital in Tappita. More scholarships are made available for Liberian students to study in China. Investment projects like the Bong Mine are now being carried out in real earnest. The renovation of the unfinished building of the Ministry of Health will commence before the end of this month. More developmental projects like vocational school, boreholes and clean energy programs are being worked out under the new 8 policy measures announced by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at the Fourth FOCAC Ministerial Meeting held last November in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt. Discussion on concessional loans is also possible now that Liberia has reached its HIPC "completion point". All these programs are tailored to echo the pressing and practical need of Liberia and contribute to its development and the well being of its people.
To conclude, I wish to present a "small small" gift of 30 scholarships to the University of Liberia from my Embassy as a token of friendship and solidarity. They are meant to be equally distributed among the 15 counties to reflect geographic as well as gender balance. Here is the letter of my offer, Honorable President Dennis.
Thank you all.