The interim President of Mali, Diongunda Traore, on Thursday conferred on President GoodluckJonathan the country’s highest honour .
Traore, while bestowing the title of “Grand Croix de L’ordre National du Mali” meaning “the Highest Cross of the National Order of Mali” on Jonathan in Abuja, described him as an “astute mediator” who “lit the light when everything was dark and sombre” in Mali.
The ceremony, which held at the council chamber of the Presidential Villa, was witnessed 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.
Speaking through an interpreter, Traore 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 to the Nigerian people who have shown themselves in solidarity in the Malian course,” he said.
The Malian interim President thanked Jonathan for the solidarity he showed the country even at a time when it was most inconvenient.
“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…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,” Traore said.
“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.”
“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,” he added.
In a response, President Jonathan said the honour bestowed on him symbolised acknowledgement and appreciation of Nigeria’s commitment and sacrifice 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,” he said.
“I assure you that Nigeria remains steadfastly committed to supporting the course of peace in Mali,” he pledged.