Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has been conferred with Mali’s highest national award for his role in resolving the crisis that faced Mali, including the separatist war in the north and the coup that toppled the country’s democratically-elected government.
Mali’s Interim President Dioncounda Traore conferred the Grand Croix de l’Ordre National du Mali (Great Cross of the National Order of Mali) on President Jonathan at a ceremony in the Presidential Villa in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, the local media reported Friday.
Prof. Traore said the award, which was conferred on Thursday, was in appreciation of President Jonathan’s engagement since the beginning of the security crisis, “which had also been political and humanitarian”, and which shook Mali for nine months starting from January 2012.
“We know how much your country suffers also from terrorism. We know how much Nigeria needs its troops…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. Thanks to your solidarity beside your neighbours and the solidarity of ECOWAS and African Union as well as the international community, Mali has found peace again, Mali has again found her unity and her democracy which were compromised for long months,” he said.
For his part, President Jonathan said the restoration of peace to Mali was an indication that “our substantial, financial, military and material contributions including the supreme sacrifice paid by two Nigerian Airforce pilots have all not been in vain”.
He said 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.”
President Jonathan expressed joy at the successfully-concluded presidential election in Mali, won by Ibrahim Keita.
He congratulated the President-elect as well as his opponent, Mr Sumalia Cisse, whom he said had placed the peace and stability of Mali above partisanship and personal ambition.
“By this development I am confident that the country is set on a sure course of national reconciliation and reconstruction,” the Nigerian leader said.
President Jonathan was the Co-Mediator in the Mali crisis.
Nigeria deployed 1,200 troops to Mali as part of the Africa-led International Support Mission for Mali, which has now transformed to a UN mission.
Nigeria has however withdrawn most of its troops from Mali.