On Monday August 27, 2007 the Counties of Bong and Maryland signed bilateral agreements with the state of Maryland, USA for a Sister State relationship. Meeting at State House in Annapolis, MD a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed. Representing the State of Maryland was Governor Martin O’Malley, while County Superintendents Ranney Jackson and Sie-Teba Neufville signed respectively for Bong and Maryland Counties. In attendance, on behalf of the Government of Liberia, was Honorable Charles Minor, Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States.
The event was originally scheduled to be held on Friday, August 24, but delays in travel arrangements for government officials traveling from Liberia led to its postponement.
The occasion brought together a number of state government officials of the State of Maryland as well as potential investors and well-wishers, mainly citizens of the mentioned counties now residing in the United States.
The agreement is widely viewed as historically significant for all the parties involved, and expectations are high that it will serve to positively impact the lives of the peoples of the two counties especially, and for Liberia and the State of Maryland.
Governor Martin O’Malley underscored the importance of the Sister-State relationship and further emphasized that he had a longstanding connection with Liberia. He reflected that that as Mayor of the City of Baltimore, he was involved with the Baltimore-Gbarnga Sister-City Committee. He urged members of the House and Senate Budget Committees to be committed to the venture when the time comes.
Senator Verna Jones, who chairs the Black Caucus, spoke on behalf of the 43 members of the caucus and presented state citations to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, received by Ambassador Minor, the superintendents and embassy staff.
Both County Superintendents spoke about the desire to crystallize these important undertakings to the benefit of the citizenry. Superintendent Jackson spoke about the establishment of the Harry A. Greaves, Sr. scholarship program to which, he said the Morgan State University had already contributed a number of four-year scholarships.
Maryland Superintendent Neufville emphasized the major needs of the county, for example: Education --- rebuilding the schools, especially rebuilding the Tubman College of Technology and teacher training programs. He also emphasized health care and agriculture, as well as the opportunities in developing such industries as oil palm, rubber, sugar cane and fisheries. Also underlined was the potential the county holds for tourism and cultural exchange programs. Lastly, he stressed the importance of building and maintaining good roads throughout the county.
The call for mutual cooperation was not limited to governmental actions and interactions, but he encouraged investors to become “partners for progress.”
Historical ties have existed between the State of Maryland and Maryland County in Liberia for over a century and half. Recently a television documentary highlighted the relationship. The documentary, “Africa’s Maryland”, has amplified the historical ties and is now being shown in many Maryland State schools; it has given many African-Americans an opportunity to become aware of the cultural and historical ties that exist.
Marylanders for Progress President Roberta Brown thanked Station WBAL and its reporters Tim Tooten and John Sanders and photographer John Bronsnan for putting the spotlight on Maryland County, which was instrumental in making Maryland County a signatory to this Memorandum of Understanding.
Ms Brown also thanked Governor O’Malley and gave him a copy of the Maryland Development Agenda handbook which focuses on the needs assessment of Maryland County.
Superintendent Neufville gave Governor O’Malley a hand-made quilt of the Liberian flag etched with the colors of Maryland County’s flag. Bong County Superintendent, Ranney Jackson, also gave the governor a traditional African shirt with a hat and an outfit for Mrs. O’Malley.
It is indeed an understatement to say expectations are high regarding this development. This comes from a press release from the Liberian Embassy published earlier: “The Maryland-Liberia Sister-State relationship is strategically chosen to enhance the economic, cultural, and educational interests of the people of the State of Maryland, and Bong and Maryland Counties of Liberia. The Sister States Program provides a forum for economic development, international trade and increased global understanding…”
Let’s hope that our people on both aisles will realize this great potential and live to enjoy the fruits of its realization.
© 2007 by The Perspective
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