Editorial: Mr. President, Speak To Your People

Monrovia, Liberia- April 15, 2019: The worsening economic reality in Liberia needs no amplification.

President George M. Weah of Liberia

In the local parlance, “People are sucking air”.

In a recent video shared widely on Liberian social media sites, desperate marketers openly voiced frustration with the Weah Administration and its inability to curb the economic downward spiral; especially the declining Liberian dollar. The marketers are simple and good indicators of the local strength of supply and demand which drive the economy.

No one is “buying” because of the lackluster economic environment and the diminishing purchasing ability of the ordinary Liberian.

The sentiment of economic disappointment expressed by the marketers is a reliable representation of the view held across all sectors of the Liberian society that the hard time is too much.

It is reasonable to establish that Liberians are making the effort to speak to President Weah and his Government about their concerns; whether it is through angry marketers, the position of Coalition of Opposition Parties, peaceful marches and protests, mob violence or silence.

The fundamental question is whether Government is listening and, if so, what is its response.

What is baffling to Liberian citizens, and perhaps to the international community of economic observers is the “loud silence” from President Weah to the “status quo” of frustration, hard time and hopelessness ordinary citizens are enduring under his Administration.

In challenging times, citizens expect leaders to step up and inspire, motivate and lead. The President is not speaking nor is he motivating or leading.

This business of the Administration’s silence is clashing with confidence in Government. That confidence was the “Hope For Change” and blank check that some desperate Liberians, who, against their better judgment, as it is becoming evident, gave to the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and President Weah when they elected him in December, 2017.

The blank check of “political capital” that the CDC led Government obtained from the people of Liberia, was, in the real sense, a “credit” which needed to translate to tangibles that will put food on the table, a job and escape from poverty.

The crises of confidence in Government are not just localized to the home theater. International business analysts and observers see a direct correlation between poor governance and Government’s inability to attract investments and infrastructures which are critical drivers of any economy; Liberia being no exception.

Liberia is identified by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as one of several sub Saharan countries with slower growing countries and where “there is a need to pursue reforms to facilitate economic diversification, and address remaining economic imbalances, many of these cases, private investments remain weak, and a strong focus is needed to address the constraints that are holding such investments back…”

A successful Liberian international business executive Mr. Sage Thomson, in an analysis of the Liberian situation, says, “…with our current inflation rate north of 30%, my goodness… why would any investor or bank want to do business with us? We don’t have a great story to tell the world. The President is jetting off without a serious business pitch. And that pitch starts with stability in your country. But guess what…food inflation is at 31% as of December 2018 and it is fair to say that it is very much higher currently in Q2 19.

Basically, government officials consume our GDP without understanding that you cannot run a nation or have any serious currency without productivity! Growth is driven by capital, labor and productivity… and productivity is 60% of what determines if a country is going to succeed or not.“

Thomson also cites the contributory challenge of uncontrollable “urbanization”. According to him, “another area of massive concern is urbanization.. Monrovia is tremendously overcrowded without any plans, for a secondary city for people to migrate to, for example, Ganta, Nimba County, Gbarnga, Bong County, Zorzor, Lofa County, etc…”

He attributes this uncontrollable factor to the frantic free -fall situation that Liberia is experiencing.

The series of anti-government protests in the last two years are indications that non- Administration supporters are effectively controlling the narrative to the disadvantage of Government. Control of the narrative that the Administration is corrupt and ineffective is winning over independents and some supporters of the Government who see confirmation everyday of some of the questionable actions or inaction by Government.

The once popular CDC is being openly challenged in debates in the public square and electoral contests for public office. Some Liberians are even accusing the Weah Administration of choosing to violate the Constitution rather than face the public embarrassment of losing by-elections due to its declining popularity; case in point being the delay in formally informing the National Elections Commission (NEC) about the vacancy in the Senatorial seat in Montserrado County in order to trigger preparation for and holding of a by election.

While it may be true that the Weah Administration may have simply forgotten to inform the NEC of the vacancy, equally, so, they’ve created room for opposition and independents to point to ineffective governance. This lapse contributes to sustained erosion of confidence and the desire to find an alternative leadership to the present Government.

It is no secret that political and social tensions and divisions are rising due to the economic malaise. And the creeping realization is that Liberians are slowly but surely reaching the point of no return when they would rightfully and peacefully call for a change in Government by invoking Articles 1 and 7 of the Constitution.

Article 1 says,  

“All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments…”

Article 7 maintains that, “…freedom and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia…”

The Weah Administration must “speak” credibly to citizens and begin to lead in all areas. It will require making some difficult choices which would include discarding some entrenched economic and political positions, realization that government critics are not “enemies of the state” but patriots; and even adopting some solutions offered by the opposition bloc.

If Liberia wins in the end, regardless of who is in the Executive Mansion, it will validate that Liberia is greater than any one person or political party.

Mr. President, citizens are trying to get your attention. They are suffering! Speak to them!

West African Journal Magazine

Feature: Observing Integrity Obligations Is Cardinal For The Pro Poor Agenda

Map of Liberia

Monrovia — Apparent  failure by the five-month-old government in Liberia to keenly observe existing transparency, integrity and legal obligations risks creating  hurdles in the path of its pronounced eagerness to fast track its pro poor development agenda in the  country.

A code of conduct to ensure transparency extracted from the

constitution requires all officials in the three branches of government to declare their assets upon taking up  assignments as well as quitting office.

When former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf tried to enforce this integrity and transparently law enshrined in the constitution, legislators and judicial officials went up in arms saying they would rather declare assets to bodies established in their institutions.

Legislators even exempted themselves from  a cardinal clause which required government officials first to resign before contesting for elected positions. 

They resisted that clause, whose wisdom was to stem misuse of government resources for political aggrandizement, to appointed officials.

Sirleaf and most of her officials then declared their assets to the  LACC (Liberia Anti Corruption Commission).

Flag of Liberia

But five months on in government, President George M. Weah and his officials are yet to declare their assets while he implements quick impact community projects like the Doe community road without expressed budgetary allocation.

After breaking grounds for his flagship 14 military hospital, the President cut sod  for a multimillion dollar Mahatma Gandhi complex center on Bali Island saying Delhi offered to build it. The project will require a flyover to connect Crown Hill with Bushrod Island, but total cost and timeline of these projects remain undisclosed.

Ratification  for a USD 530 million loan agreement with a private company in Malaysia is pending at the Legislature. The money is earmarked for construction of road networks in southeastern counties.

But critics question the company’s creditworthiness saying its repayment term will impose hefty financial burden on Liberia.

“I know one day Liberians will get tired of me, so I want to leave a big mark before that time,” Weah often tell youthful partisans of his coalition for Democratic change. 

Because he wants to say and see it done quickly, Weah believes feasibility studies and competitive bidding at the PPCC impede the fast tracking of his pro poor agenda for a population having very high expectations from their populist President.

Strict adherence to these integrity regulations cannot be overemphasized because they determine a benchmark for international best practice.

After President William Tolbert accused Liberians of having no time for time, he created the Action for Development Ministry under his direct supervision to do quick impact projects.

By Tepitapia Sannah

Contributing Writer

Monrovia, Liberia

Building the “New Monrovia”: The Need to Plan Well and Protect the Environment

On March 26, 2018, barely two months following his inauguration as president of Liberia, Mr. George M. Weah launched two projects, which, if properly implemented, are likely to have significant impact on national development and enhance the quality life of the Liberian people.

City Map of Liberia
City Map of Liberia

During the early part of that day, President Weah broke grounds for the construction of Liberia’s first military hospital, which is expected to be well equipped with modern  facilities and a highly trained medical staff to cater to military and para-military personnel and their families.

The ground-breaking ceremony was followed by his boat-ride tour of Bali Island,  situated in the middle of the Mesurado River in Monrovia, where a 4,000-seat state-of- the-art international conference hall is planned to be constructed.

While mostly AFL personnel and their dependents look on and cheered, President Weah broke grounds for a 200-bedroom military hospital, which will be located at the Edward Benyan Kesselly Military Barracks in Schiefflin, Margibi County.

The site of the proposed hospital is on the main highway from the Roberts International Airport (RIA) to the Liberian capital Monrovia, directly opposite the main Schiefflin Barracks. A large billboard containing photo of the architectural design of what is set to be a teaching hospital to train men and women in arms in various medical disciplines, give motorists and passers-by a view of a beautiful structure that would enhance the modern architectural outlook of the rapidly-developing Monrovia-RIA corridor.

More importantly, given the urgency to develop Liberia’s broken health system, the need to construct the military hospital could not be more pressing. A military hospital, well equipped and funded, with qualified staff, would greatly help to enhance the quality of life of the men and women in arms and their families, as well as the Liberian population in general.

Even though the cost of the proposed military hospital has not been made public, its establishment provides an opportunity to plan well toward the future, in terms of the human, financial and material resources being harnessed to ensure that Liberians have access to first-rate medical services.

Flag of Liberia

  Flag of Liberia

Since the end of the civil crises, Liberia has struggled with a health care system so dysfunctional that many people continue to die from preventable and curable diseases, such as malaria, diarrhea, typhoid, pressure, heart attack, among others. Due to the dire state of Liberia’s health care system, many Liberians who can afford the cost travel to Ghana for better medical treatment.

The Ebola epidemic that began in 2014, which caused the death of over 4,800 victims and collapse of Liberia’s health system, underscore the pressing need to plan and institute a modern health care system that would ensure accessible and affordable high quality treatment for the people and effectively respond to any possible future epidemic outbreak.

Development of Liberia’s health care system must be undertaken in line with the institution of policies and programs to safeguard the environment. In the stride to develop a modern Liberia, care must be taken to avoid environmental degradation, which could lead to natural and man-made disasters.

This leads to the other topic under consideration, which relates to President Weah’s plan to transform Bali Island into a modern city. Speaking during his visit on the island, President Weah said he intends to transform Bali Island into the “New Monrovia” commencing with the construction of the 4,000-seat state-of- the-art international conference center and other standardized structures.

President Weah indicates the Actual Location of Bali Island on the Map of Monrovia

   President George Weah Identifies Site of the New Capitol Monrovia on Map

According to the Liberian government, construction of the international conference center will be funded by the government of India, under the bilateral relationship subsisting between both countries.
Situated on the Mesurado River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean just a few miles away, Bali Island and its surrounding areas are naturally beautiful and picturesque. Unfortunately, the breath-taking view of the island and the entire Mesurado River waterfront have been overshadowed by heap of garbage and stench.

Speaking on the island, President Weah said while he was a child “growing up in Clara Town, Bushrod Island, playing just across the shores of the Stockton Creek, I often looked into the direction of the Bali Island, viewed an undeveloped tourist attraction.” Although located on a naturally beautiful riverfront, Clara Town is a slum community.

Whenever he gazed from his community towards the Bali Island, President Weah said: “I wondered what was going on there. I did not know anyone who knew what was going on there. There was no road, no bridge, or ferry to get over here.”
According to the Liberian Leader, his dream to see the island develop began from that moment. He noted: “From here I began to see a New City of Monrovia emerging from the ashes of the Old City of Monrovia.” He explained how he envisioned skyscrapers, office buildings, shopping malls, banks, among others, on the island.

President Weah’s vision and plan to build a “New Monrovia” are notable. However, in the process of national development, the Liberian government and people must focus on what is called “smart growth,” which is an approach that covers a range of development and conservation strategies that protect the health of the people and natural environment, and make the communities more attractive, economically stronger, and more socially diverse.

President Weah Tours Bali Island for the contruction of modern Conference Center.jpg

 Liberian President Tours Site of the New Capital Monrovia

The transformation of Bali Island into a modern city community must reflect a well-developed plan to ensure sustainable progress and to enhance the quality of life of the people. Equally important, a thorough environmental impact assessment must be made to ensure that the area is not exposed to environmental degradation that could cause natural disaster in the future.

Under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands – the inter-governmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources – Liberia, which is a signatory to the convention, has five sites designated as wetlands of international importance. Liberia’s Ramsar-designated wetlands sites, which provide a favorable habitat for a variety of plant, animal and marine species, include the following: Mesurado Wetlands in Monrovia, Marshall Wetlands in Margibi County, Kpatawee Wetlands in Bong County, and Gbedin Wetlands in Nimba County.

Bali Island is located in the Mesurado Wetlands, which according to a Ramsar report, provides a favorable habitat and feeding grounds for several species of birds, and it also hosts the vulnerable African dwarf crocodile, the Nile crocodile, and the African sharp-nosed crocodile, as well as mangrove already being devastated due to human activities.

According to the Ramsar report, the Mesurado Wetlands is already facing environmental degradation as a result of being used for firewood collection, as a dumping site, for car washing, as well as threat from pollution.

There are also reports that other wetlands and mangrove in Monrovia and its environs are being destroyed rapidly due to poor urban planning. Widespread unregulated construction in wetlands and water channels, cutting down mangrove forests for firewood, and turning drainage into dump sites, are some of the challenges threatening the future wellbeing of the environment and bio-diversity in Liberia.

More wetlands and mangrove forests across Liberia are reported to be increasingly impacted negatively by human activities. Even more disturbing are reports of the continued use of dynamite, which is exploded in the water to kill fish and other marine species. There is an urgent need in Liberia to regulate the use of dynamite, which is clearly seen to have a destructive impact on the environment and bio-diversity.

President Weah Disembarks Liberia Coast Guard Boat when he left Bali Island (1)

                    President Weah and Entourage Disembark from Coast Guard Boat

What was seen as a manifestation of government’s commitment to the preservation of wetlands in Liberia, President George Weah issued a proclamation declaring February 2, 2018, as “World Wetlands Day,” which was observed throughout Liberia as a working holiday. This year’s observance was held under the theme: “Wetlands for A Sustainable Urban Future” and under the national theme: Save the Wetlands, Save Our Future.”

According to the proclamation, the observance was intended to raise public awareness and highlight the vital roles of healthy wetlands in reducing the impacts of extreme events such as flood, drought, and cyclones on the communities and to help build resilience to such conditions.

It is hoped that the government would back words with actions through increased support to empower Liberia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce environmental regulations, as well as institute public awareness programs on environmental conservation.

Through proper urban planning and adherence to environmental regulations, Monrovia would escape environmental disasters similar to the 2017 mudslides in Freetown, capital of neighboring Sierra Leonean, which killed over 1,140 people and left widespread infrastructural destruction.

Following several days of torrential rainfall, devastating floods and mudslides occurred in and around Freetown on August 14, 2017. According to reports, the destructive behavior of the mudslides was exacerbated by a number of factors, including poor infrastructure, cutting down of trees, and ineffective drainage system.

Let’s hope that in the construction of the military hospital and the transformation of Bali Island, care would be seriously taken to plan well for Liberia’s future and to protect the environment.

By Our Correspondent

West African Journal Malazine

UN Pressures Liberia To Implement TRC Report

Liberia – TRC Full ReportThe new Weah administration in Liberia has been put on official notice by a representative of the United Nations regarding the implementation of recommendations of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

DSG Amina Mohammed
UN Deputy Sec General Amina Mohammed

Addressing a National Peace Conference in the capital Monrovia on Thursday, the Deputy UN Chief said, “…It is also critical to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation, and for the legislature to pass key bills that will support local inclusion and reconciliation.. These would be timely measures that would assure Liberians that there is strong resolve to see a conclusion to the process…”

Madam Amina Mohammed who is visiting Liberia as representative of the UN to participate in the official end of the UN Mission in the West African country told the conference that, “…To ensure reconciliation and a peaceful and prosperous future, it will be crucial to deepen efforts to address the underlying causes of conflict in Liberia” adding that ” Prevention is critical in averting a relapse into violence.”

The country was plunged into one of modern day’s most brutal armed conflict beginning December, 1989 with a rebel invasion led by now convicted former President Charles Taylor.

An estimated 250,000 people died and another 1.5 million others were internally and externally dislocated. Neighboring counties also saw a spill-over of the Liberian armed strife on to their territories. Thousands others were maimed, raped and mutilated by bands of militias.

UNMIL Peacekeepers From Nigeria
UNMIL Peacekeepers From Nigeria

Following peace talks and cessation of hostilities among warring parties in Liberia, the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was set up after UN Security Council Resolution 1509 passed on September 19, 2003.

The UNMIL office was charged with supporting the implementation of the cease-fire agreement and the peace process; protecting United Nations staff, facilities and civilians; supporting humanitarian and human rights activities; as well as assist in national security reform, including national police training and formation of a new, restructured military.

With the gradual consolidation of peace, global body, in 2015, ordered the phased drawn down of peacekeepers. Initial troop strength was 15,000. Total UNMIL fatalities in the Liberian theater was 202 peacekeepers.

UNMIL formally ends its mission on March 30, 2018.

In its final report, the country’s TRC recommended the following leaders of warring factions for prosecution for human rights violations, including violations of international humanitarian laws, war crimes and egregious domestic laws of Liberia and economic crimes:

Charles Taylor – NPFL 

Prince Y. Johnson – INPFL 

*Roosevelt Johnson – ULIMO – J 

Alhaji G. V. Kromah – ULIMO – K 

George Boley – LPC 

Thomas Yahya Nimley – MODEL 

Sekou Damate Konneh – LURD 

*Francois Masssaquoi – LDF 

War lords Roosevelt Johnson and Francois Massaquoi are deceased. LPC militia leader George Boley was picked up by the Federal U.S. authorities in 2010 on immigration charges and subsequently deported to Liberia.

Several alleged human rights violators from the Liberian war have been identified and are facing prosecution in the US and Europe.

Emmanuel “Chuckie” Taylor, son of former President Charles Taylor – sentenced to 97 years  in prison in January, 2009 in a major torture case that grew out of a US investigation into arms trafficking in Liberia.

Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu – a former Defense Chief  and spokesperson for Taylor’s rebel faction and legislator in Liberia. He was picked up in Philadelphia in 2014 and is facing immigration fraud charges. Trial is pending.

Agnes Reeves Taylor – ex wife of former President Taylor was arrested in June, 2017 in the UK and accused of torture and war crime offenses and goes to trial in October, 2018.

Martina Johnson – a former commander in Taylor’s rebel militia who was arrested in Belgium in 2012 and is awaiting prosecution.

Colonel Moses Thomas – a former Presidential guard commander who has had civil suit brought against him in Philadelphia by survivors of a church massacre in 1990 in Liberia.

Alieu Kosiah – a ULIMO rebel commander/ fighter who was arrested in Switzerland in 2014 and accused of war atrocities. He prosecution is pending

Isaac Kannah – charged in an October 2012 indictment with perjury and obstruction of justice for lying in deportation proceedings of George Boley. He was arrested on January 10, 2017, by Immigration and Homeland Security in Philadelphia.

Mohammed “Jungle Jabbah” Jabbateh – former Liberian rebel fighter convicted of immigration charges in October, 2018 in Philadelphia and accused of horrific crimes during the war.

An international investigator based in Washington DC says they are pursuing other alleged perpetrators around the world for arrest and prosecution.

Former President Charles Taylor
Former President Charles Taylor

Among several recommendations  advanced in the 370 page TRC report, several Liberians associated with warring faction leaders, their leaders, political decision makers, financiers , organizers, commanders and foot soldiers were recommended for public sanctions.

These individuals were to be barred from holding public office; elected or appointed for a period of thirty (30) years when the TRC Final Report was issued in June, 2009.

Allen Brown Sr.

Randall Cooper

Ethelbert Cooper

Toga McIntosh Gayewea

Jackson E. Doe

D. Bob Taylor

Dew Mason

Nyan Menten

Clarence Simpson

Harry Yuan

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Isaac Nyenabo

Kabineh Ja’neh

Archie Williams

Tonia King

J. Apollo Swen

Mr. Gayewea is a senior adviser to current President George Weah. Mr. Nyenabo was appointed by former President Johnson Sirleaf in February, 2015 as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary accredited to the Kingdom of Belgium with accreditations to the European Union, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. Associate Justice Ja’neh currently serves on Liberia’s highest court, the Supreme Court.

A current and close advisor in the orbit of President George Weah is Liberian businessman Mr. Emmanuel Shaw who was named in the TRC Report for further investigation.

Also listed for investigation is the current Liberian Ambassador to the United Nations Mr. Lewis G. Brown. Both men are associated with convicted warlord and former President Charles Taylor.

A prominent Taylor associate and militia combatant during the civil war Robert R. G. Bright was this week appointed by President Weah as a Cabinet level Economic Advisor.

DSG Amina Mohammed
UN Deputy Sec Gen Amina Mohammed Meets President George Weah

A prominent international war and economic crime investigator and source says they are concerned about the resurfacing of Taylor associates in the Weah Administration and want to know whether Taylor is still involved in the Liberian political theater.

An ex-wife of Taylor is the current Vice President of Liberia. Madam Jewel Howard Taylor was hand picked by President Weah as his running mate in the 2018 Presidential election. Although President Weah has denied any on-going communication with Taylor, observers says they are puzzled by the stocking of the Weah Administration with Taylor linkages.

A diplomatic source says international partners have privately warned President Weah about any connections he may be entertaining with Taylor.

Political Subdivision Map of Liberia map
Political Subdivision Map of Liberia

Diplomatic and international pressure are being ramped up on the new Weah Administration to be decisive and commit to implementing the TRC recommendations.

The Sirleaf Administration and prior Legislature failed to implement the recommendations, citing risk to national cohesion following years of back to back wars. Observers and activists , however, say, failure to fully implement the recommendations is not an option since they represent the only sure way of holding war perpetrators accountable for their roles and genuine reconciliation.

A former warlord and from the northeastern political sub-division of Nimba County Prince Johnson is a sitting legislator who has vowed to resist any attempt to prosecute him for alleged war crimes. Johnson who led the erstwhile  rebel militia known as the Independent National Patriotic Front (INPFL)  is responsible for the capture, torture of former Liberian President Samuel K. Doe and civilians in September, 1990 at the height of the conflict.

Main rebel leader Charles Taylor who won controversial Presidential elections served between 1997 – 2003 but was forced to step down from office by sustained rebel attacks and international pressure. He fled to Nigeria under a brokered deal but was eventually indicted by the U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone War Survivors
Sierra Leone War Survivors

Nigeria, under pressure from the U.S., agreed to turn Taylor over to the Court.

He was subsequently arrested and tried in Netherlands and convicted of ” aiding and abetting, as well as planning, some of the most heinous and brutal crimes recorded in human history” and sentenced in May, 2012 to fifty years in jail.

Taylor who is serving his sentence at a UK facility, may die in prison due to his age and length of the sentence.

Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier
Former TRC Head Counselor Jerome Verdier

In 2017, the former head of Liberia’s TRC and human rights lawyer Counselor Jerome Verdier, who fled Liberia for fear of his life, after issuance of the TRC Final Report released a statement in which he said, “…We are glad that the international arrests, detentions, deportations and travels ban of these war and economic crimes perpetrators will continue until they are eventually prosecuted for their heinous and egregious  crimes against human kind. There will be no hiding place. Not anymore..”

President Weah has not indicated if he will fully implement the TRC recommendations.

By Emmanuel Abalo

West African Journal Magazine

George Weah Inaugurated As President Of Liberia

Monrovia, 22 January – Liberians experienced another historic moment Monday when it became the first African country to induct a former soccer legend, George Weah, as the 25th president of Liberia, perfecting the first democratic transition  in the country  since President William VS Tubman was inducted 3rd  January 1944.

President George Weah andVice President Jewel Taylor
President George Weah and Vice President Jewel Taylor

Mrs. Jewel Howard Taylor, former wife of Liberia’s ex-president Charles Taylor, was inducted as vice president alongside President Weah.  Both personalities received over 60% of the votes cast during the presidential run-off held here on Boxing Day 2017. They defeated outgoing Vice President Joseph Boakai of the former ruling Unity Party.

Guinean president Alpha Conde and Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe, current chairmen of the African Union and Ecowas, respectively graced the occasion. Ecowas was fully represented at the head of state and prime minister levels.

Several former international football colleagues including  Samuel Et’oo, Jay Jay Okocha and Didier Drogba also graced the historic induction of one of their kind as president.

Senator George Weah of CDC
Senator George Weah of CDC

President Weah was unequivocal in promising to  protect political plurality  as well as press freedom  and free speech. He promised to fully implement the Liberianization policy and urged Liberians to work hard in order to take charge of their economy, while cracking down on corruption in government will be on the front burner.

He promised salary increment for civil servants as an incentive to discourage graft. But as public expectation is very high amongst impoverished Liberians, Weah called on all citizens to join hands with him in order to improve their lives saying he and the government cannot do it all.

INAUGURAL SPEECH OF PRESIDENT GEORGE WEAH

Distinguish Ladies and Gentlemen

My fellow citizens, I am humbled and thankful for the trust and hope you have put in me. I am filled with joy and pride to see so many friends from across the world join us in celebrating what is truly an historic moment for our country. To all our citizens and international guests, we thank you for coming.

I have spent many years of my life in stadiums, but today is a feeling like no other. I am overwhelmed with the crowd and the energy here today, and I guarantee you, when we finish, there will not be a winning or a losing side. Today, we all wear the jersey of Liberia, and the victory belongs to the people, to peace, and to democracy.

The tens of thousands of Liberians here today, and many more in our communities across the country who are listening gathered together around radios in the palava hut, it is to you we are responsible to deliver the change you deserve. Indeed, we must deliver the change that our people need, in order to transform their lives for the better.

I promise to do everything in my power to be the agent of positive change. But I cannot do it alone. First, I call upon the revered institution that host us today and from which the Vice President and I come– The Legislative – our co-equal branch of government, to work with me to create and pass essential laws that are needed to complete the foundation of this nation.

Together, we owe our citizens clarity on fundamental issues such as the land beneath their feet, freedom of speech, and how national resources and responsibilities are going to shift from this capital to the counties. The people expect better cooperation and more action from their government. We can do better, together.

Today, we Liberians have reached an important milestone in the never-ending journey for freedom, justice, and democracy; a search that has remained central to our history as a nation.

Many of those who founded this country left the pain and shame of slavery to establish a society where all would be free and equal. But that vision of freedom, equality, and democracy has not yet been fully realized.

That human longing for true and lasting freedom has revealed itself in many ways since Liberia’s founding. Sometimes the drive has been divisive and confrontational; and too often violent, bloody, and deadly, as it was in the 14 years of civil conflict, when the absence of equality and unity led us down the path of destroying our own country.

Notwithstanding the harshness and immeasurable cost of the lesson, we have learned that equality and freedom are never just a final destination that a people or a nation reaches. These are fundamental human rights that our people deserve and that must be held up and measured against our actions, our policies, our laws, and our purpose as those elected to serve the people.

Almost 15 years ago, Liberians laid down their arms and renewed their hope for a better and more equal society. With the help of regional partners and the United Nations, we chose democracy as our path, and elected the first post-war Government, which was led by Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Your Excellency, I thank you for laying the foundation upon which we can now stand, in peace and to advance progress for our country.

But this Inaugural Ceremony signals more than a peaceful transition from one democratic administration to another. It is also a transition from one generation of Liberian leadership to a new generation. It is indeed a confirmation that democracy exists in Liberia, and that, it is here to stay!
We have arrived at this transition neither by violence, nor by force of arms. Not a single life was lost in the process. Blood should never be the price tag for democracy. Rather, this transition was achieved by the free and democratic will of the Liberian people, guaranteed by the rule of law.
This Inaugural gathering also celebrates an important precedent: that we Liberians can, and will, rely on established institutions and the rule of law to resolve our political disagreements. This demonstrates the maturity of our institutions and that we as a people have learned valuable lessons from our brutal history.

My fellow Liberians, let not the splendor of these ceremonies, nor the celebration of electoral victory, make us forget how we arrived at this moment. We have arrived here on the blood, sweat, tears, and suffering of so many of our citizens, too many of whom died, longing for real freedom and equality.

Today, we must remember the hundreds of thousands who died, and many more whose lives were up ended and families displaced, because we lost sight of the fact that we can only reach a higher state of equality and freedom by treating each other with love and respect – not tearing each other down. Truly taking this lesson to heart will bring the dawn of a new Liberia.

So that their deaths would not be in vain, I solemnly pledge today, with the help of all of you, my fellow citizens, to build a Liberia of equality, freedom, dignity, and respect for one another.

Let us all stand for a moment of silence to remember those who died on our soil, in our conflict, and by our own hands. Let it never be so again.
THANK YOU. PLEASE BE SEATED.
MY FELLOW CITIZENS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:

On this day of inauguration, as we begin to build upon the foundation of this New Liberia, I, George forky klon jlaleh gbah ku gbeh Tarpeh Manneh Weah, your new President, must first give thanks and praises to the Almighty God for the blessings he has bestowed on our country. And I say “my people, thank you, yaaaaaaaaa” for entrusting me with the responsibility of leading the effort to build this New and better Liberia.
It will be my task, my duty, and my honor, to lead this nation from division to National Unity, and toward a future of hope and prosperity. I have here taken an oath before you, and before the Almighty God, to uphold our constitution and to preside over this Government and this country to the best of my abilities.

REST ASSURED, I WILL NOT LET YOU DOWN!!
And so, My Fellow Citizens, I want to admonish you, that the foundation of the New Liberia must be reinforced by the steel of integrity. We need men and women, boys and girls, whose integrity provides the foundation of the trust that is required for Liberian society to benefit her people.

MY FELLOW CITIZENS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
During my tenure as President of Liberia, the loudest battle cry that must ring from the mountains of Wologisi to the peak of Yekepa; from the ranges of Putu to the hills of Bomi; and from the coast of Harper to the shores of Monrovia, must be the cry of National Unity!

We should all strive to put aside our differences and join hands in the task of nation building. We must learn how to celebrate our diversity without drawing lines of divisions in our new Liberia. We belong to Liberia first before we belong to our inherited tribes, or chosen counties.
We must not allow political loyalties prevent us from collaborating in the national interest. We must respect each other and act as neighbors, regardless of religious, social and economic differences.

In the words of our National Anthem:
“In union strong, success is sure. We cannot fail.”
United, we are certain to succeed as a Nation. Divided, we are certain to fail.

MY FELLOW CITIZENS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
It is my belief that the most effective way to directly impact the poor, and to narrow the gap between rich and poor, is to ensure that public resources do not end up in the pockets of Government officials.
I further believe that the overwhelming mandate I received from the Liberian people is a mandate to end corruption in public service. I promise to deliver on this mandate.

As officials of Government, It is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit amongst our people, we must end it. We must pay civil servants a living wage, so that corruption is not an excuse for taking what is not theirs. Those who do not refrain from enriching themselves at the expense of the people – the law will take its course. I say today that you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
To the private sector, I say to you that Liberia is open for business. We want to be known as a business-friendly government.

We will do all that is within our power to provide an environment that will be conducive for the conduct of honest and transparent business. We will remove unnecessary regulatory constraints that tend to impede the establishment and operation of business in a profitable and predictable manner.​

As we open our doors to all foreign direct investments, we will not permit Liberian-owned businesses to be marginalized. We cannot remain spectators in our own economy. My government will prioritize the interests of Liberian-owned businesses and offer programs to help them become more competitive and offer services that international investors seek as partners.

MY FELLOW CITIZENS:
This victory could not have been possible without the support of the youth of this country, the women of this country, especially those who make their living by selling in the markets. To all of you, I want to say a heartfelt thank you. This is your government!!!
In the famous words of President Abraham Lincoln of the United States of America “…government of the people; by the people, and for the people.”

We could not have arrived at this day without our voices been heard loudly, and all our views, no matter how critical, being freely expressed in an atmosphere void of intimidation and arrest.

This was only made possible by the tolerance of my predecessor, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who protected the right to Freedom of Speech as enshrined in our Constitution.

Now, in my turn, I will go further to encourage and reinforce not only freedom of speech, but also freedom of political assembly.

MY FELLOW CITIZENS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
To change the structure of the Liberian economy will require huge investments in agriculture, infrastructure, in human capital, and in technology. We hope our international development partners will assist us in this transformation. Meanwhile, on behalf of all Liberians, I would like to thank the international community for the invaluable contributions they have made to our peace and economic development.

I thank the ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF WEST AFRICAN STATES, (ECOWAS), for standing with Liberia throughout these years. Many of our West African brothers and sisters shed their blood for Liberians during our conflict. This is a debt Liberians will never be able to repay.

We count these fallen West African soldiers among the martyrs of our history. Without their supreme sacrifices, this day would not have been possible. ECOWAS will continue to play a very meaningful role during my presidency.

I also thank the UNITED NATIONS for the important role it has played in Liberia. We stood with the United Nations at its founding when it was just an idea driven by ideals. Then, in our darkest days, the UN stood by us.

UN peacekeeping missions have ensured unbroken peace within our borders for more than a decade, and will soon demonstrate their confidence in us, by transitioning its task from peacekeeping programs of UN organizations which will continue in key sectors such as education, health, and agriculture.

Ending a peacekeeping mission successfully is something in which all Liberians and her partners should take great pride. We thank all member countries of the United Nations for your support and I promise to continue to build on the success that we have achieved together.
To the Government and People of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, we thank you for your strong support over the years.

The Republic of Liberia has a strong historic relationship with the United State of America, which has manifested itself and that relationship will even be stronger under my administration.

To the EUROPEAN UNION, I say thanks to you for your strong partnership with Liberia. European aid has provided critical support for Liberia’s recovery from war, and this continuous support will be important as we forge a new path of transformation.

Without Europe George Manneh Weah would not be standing here delivering this inaugural address as the 24th President of the Republic of Liberia. It was my success in European football that enabled me to give back to my beloved country. Europe will always have a special place in my heart, and, as President, I intend to strengthen my relationship with the European community for the benefit of all Liberians.

To the PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, I say “XIEXIE”. Our administration will continue to support the “One-China Policy”. China has emerged as one of Liberia’s most dependable allies. It is my hope that Chinese-Liberian relationships will grow stronger during my tenure as President.

The Samuel Kanyan Doe Sports Complex, built by the Chinese, where this Inaugural Ceremony is being held, is where I gained my exposure to the football world. It does not only stand as a monument of Chinese friendship toward Liberians, but It also stands as a symbol of peace and reconciliation for the Liberian people.

During our civil conflict, this was a venue that brought opposing factions together during national matches, effectively reconciling them to a single national purpose, Liberia.

And once again today, we stand at this same venue united for one purpose: Liberia. This is time that we put away our political differences to work together in forging a New Liberia, where the affordability of all goods and services will not longer be a luxury to the privileged, but rather a right for all Liberians.

To the AFRICAN UNION, I also say thank you for standing with Liberia over the past several years. Liberia has always had an historic relationship with the AU. As a founding member of the African Union, I look forward to participating with my colleagues at forthcoming summits, where we intend to utilize the resources and expertise of the African Union for the benefit of our country.

To other bi-lateral and multi-lateral partners, I say a sincere thank you! The World Bank, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Norway, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, to name too few, have also played important roles in Liberia’s emergence from conflict and will remain critical for the transformation we seek.

MY FELLOW LIBERIANS:
My greatest contribution to this country as President may not lie in the eloquence of my speeches, but will definitely lie in the quality of the decisions that I will make over the next six years to advance the lives of poor Liberians.

I intend to construct the greatest machinery of pro-poor governance in the history of this country. I will do more than my fair share to meet your expectations. I ask you to meet mine, for I cannot do it alone.

Mine is an expectation that you, fellow citizens, will rise up and take control and responsibility for your destiny. That you will look away from the things that divide us, and draw strength and energy from the things that unite us. Mine is an expectation that you will push yourselves to achieve the possibilities that are within your reach. That you will aim to do more for yourselves and expect other to do less.

And mine is a further expectation that you will discover a new sense of fairness and integrity; a new love for country and for each other. A love that will turn public servants and government officials into national champions for change. A love that will bring back home Liberians scattered far and wide across the globe – many of them highly skilled, talented, and experienced – to join us in building a New Liberia.​
The sooner we all merge our energies toward cementing these new norms and values, the sooner we will transform our beloved country for the better. In doing so, we must also learn the virtue of patience, and learn to lower our expectations, for I do not promise you quick fixes or miracles.

Instead, my pledge to you today is that my administration, with your help, will make steady and deliberate progress towards achieving the hopes and aspirations that you cherish in your heart for Mama Liberia.
Let me close with these re-assuring words from our National Anthem:

“With God above, our rights to prove,
We will over all prevail!!
Long live Liberia, happy land!
A home of glorious liberty, by God’s command.”
May God Almighty bless the works of our hands, and save the State.
I THANK YOU.

By Tepitapia Sannah in Monrovia

West African Journal Magazine