Liberia, the small West African country riven by back-to-back wars in the 1990s and a devastating Ebola pandemic in mid 2104 – 2016 is facing serious challenges in governance and the economy.
A new administration headed by footballer-turned politician George M. Weah is floundering under massive economic woes, very high unemployment and lack of technical capacity as evident from the growing discontent among the populace who are now regretting their choice of national leadership when they voted in democratic elections last December.
At a US Independence Day reception held on July 4th at the American Embassy in Monrovia, which was attended by President Weah, the local Daily Observer newspaper reports that the message from Washington DC to the Liberian administration was direct and clear; “…introduce broad reforms and take bold steps to inhibit (restrain) corruption in order to transform the business climate to attract domestic, regional and foreign investment, to grow the economy and seek fiscal and monetary stability…”
This is a stunning indictment of the poor governance style and incompetence of the Weah Administration which has demonstrated a poor understanding of national challenges, expectations and the consequences of unpreparedness at national governance.
In recent days, the visual of President Weah and some of his officials chanting sports songs at a soccer game and playing board games at his party headquarters during a “Pro-Poor Day” celebration of the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) shocked citizens and some in the diplomatic corp as “insensitive” to the growing calls for solutions to the deteriorating economy and increased suffering of the ordinary Liberian. Social media is replete with stinging criticisms of President Weah and his administration for the inability to respond to the economic challenges and utter silence.
Liberian Voters in Last Election
Tension is rising among the ordinary citizenry and this is reminiscent of prior situations where a highly disaffected Liberian population who felt powerless to effect any meaningful change in their condition resorted to calls for the resignation of their President including Samuel William R. Tolbert, Samuel K. Doe and Charles Taylor.
There are already some rumblings and a small peaceful protest led by University student activist Martin Kollie, who along with some members of the Student Unification Party (SUP) at the state runned University of Liberia, staged a pop-up demonstration in the eastern suburb of Redlight, District, Paynesville as the motorcade of the President headed back to the capital Monrovia from central Liberia; the same day the President received an honorary Doctoral degree from a private University.
The message from the small demonstration which snarled the Presidential motorcade and was joined by some citizens was that President Weah needs to address the deteriorating economic situation now!
Supporters and some Liberians at home and in the Diaspora were shocked at the bold protest attempt at challenging the popularity of President Weah who clinched the Presidency with 61.5 percent of the vote.
University Student Protesters
This also signaled the first crack in the ruling CDC’s armor at the level of the Presidency. The natural response by supporters was denial of the student led demonstration and the branding of students as “troublemakers” who are being influenced by some hidden politicians and enemies of the administration.
The threat of another anti-government demonstration by some students receded late last week with the intervention of the local ECOWAS Civil Society Group which pleaded with them to, instead, pursue “dialogue” with the Liberian government.
The U. S, neighbors and international community are watching developments with concern since they had to contain the conflagration and combustion which engulfed Liberia in the 1990s because of political instability and the introduction of armed responses by various factions.
Practically, the international community and the United Nations will not allow another episode of poor governance and then have to expend treasury, blood and resources to repair Liberia again as was done between 1990 — 2018 through ECOWAS, ECOMOG, EU, AU, MRU and UMIL.
International intelligence agencies profile Weah as “weak” and without political savvy and national vision in a recovering nation as Liberia. His popularity among the poor and uneducated is his greatest strength which propelled him to the Presidency because they identify with his poor upbringing and determination to succeed. Weah’s story is the story of many young and underprivileged Liberians.
However, the reality is that when the popularity of President Weah meets the expectations of his followers, his shortcomings as non-knowledgeable of complex national and fiscal issues and actual delivery of the “goods” he promised to lift his people out of years of economic and political misery are in very short supply. The needle on national progress is not moving in a meaningful way and ordinary Liberians are finding it very hard to afford their basic needs daily.
The U.S, through its Ambassador in Monrovia has set the clock for results and Weah needs to pay attention. He has to take some unpopular decisions against some of his political allies and friends in order to begin to appear as in charge.
The issues of corruption, questionable and incompetent individuals in his orbit, a less than credible judicial system, lack of a clear economic roadmap and timetable will contribute to a vote of no confidence in Weah by his own people and the international community sooner than later.
It is no secret that the US and other partners have begun to draw up a list of credible, professional and capable Liberians with whom they can develop governance and other relationships with, if this administration doesn’t pan out.
President Weah must search deeply within himself and find those strategies and traits that propelled him to international fame in his professional football days, couple those with political deal making involving the opposition, develop an effective team of technical, credible managers and tell his people what the plan is and how they will get there, and by when, if he is to turn this ship around, like he has been challenged by the U.S. to do.
By Emmanuel Abalo
West African Journal Magazine