Liberia has bestowed a distinguished honour upon the outgoing Resident Coordinator of the United Nations, Yacoub El Hillo, due to his enormous contributions to the cause of humanity.
The United Nations envoy has been transferred to Libya by Secretary General Antonio Guterres as Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator with the rank of Assistant Secretary General. His new assignment takes effect on 1 September 2019.
During the investiture ceremony held on Thursday, 15 August 2019, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, President George Manneh Weah, the Grand Master of the Honors of Distinction of the Republic of Liberia, admitted El Hillo into the Grand Order of the Star of Africa (SOA) with the grade of Grand Commander (GC).
President Weah expressed his government and people’s gratitude to El Hillo for his invaluable contributions in promoting peace and unity in Liberia.
“Yacoub, you’re part of us and we’ll always pray for you and we hope that you come back home, again,” said President Weah.
In 1996, just before the infamous “April 6” war in Liberia, El Hillo was appointed by the United Nations as Senior Protection Officer of UNHCR, when the country had half a million of its citizens living in internally displaced camps, and some 800 000 others seeking refuge outside of the country.
That mission ended in January 1999 when he was appointed Executive Assistant to the United Nations’ Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees in New York, after which El Hillo served in various high-profile capacities with the UN in humanitarian works in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Tanzania, and Kenya, among other countries.
He was, again, sent to Liberia in 2016 as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General for Peace Consolidation with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and later appointed as
United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative in Liberia, a post he now leaves.
In remarks after he was decorated by President Weah,. El Hillo described the honour as one that the United Nations Secretary General and the entire UN family will share, adding: “I think it is quite
evident that the emotions are overpowering, and I am truly humbled and wholeheartedly accept the honour bestowed upon me.”
He said as he prepares to leave Liberia, it is clear in his mind that the nation is most definitely on the right trajectory as opposed to the time (in 1999) when he first departed, being doubtful of where the
country was heading because of the many years of difficulty it had gone through.
Despite the challenges Liberia experienced, he continued, the country has been resilient and has come a long way in a short period of time, when not long ago it was a recipient of the UN peacekeeping support but has now become a proud donor or contributor to UN peacekeeping
operations in Mali.
Moreover, he pointed out that while citizens look up to the government to address social needs; it was equally important that everyone, irrespective of backgrounds and views, works in unison with the government to sustain the peace and support development programs.
“Mr. President, yes; sometimes there is agitation, sometimes there is frustration, but this is all part of a human process of wanting the best out of life and working the best out of a country and this is
where Liberia has proved and shown to the world that peace is possible,” said El Hillo.
Born in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in 1963, El Hilo joined the UN in 1989, serving as Resettlement Assistant and helping thousands of refugees mainly from Ethiopia resettle in Europe, North America, and Australia.