President George Manneh Weah missed a great opportunity before the global stage last Thursday, 22 September at the 77th General Assembly of the United Nations to clearly tell the world his stance against corruption that has engulfed his government and left three of his key officials designated recently by the United States Treasury.
Corruption has eaten up the very fabric of this administration and eroded public trust in a government that was elected on the slogan of “Change for Hope.” But hope has evaporated and all that is left is mistrust and misery.
One would have thought that Mr. Weah could have seized the moment to reassure the international community, particularly the United States of his government’s resolve to fight corruption that has significantly undermined his leadership.
He had it all to change the discourse and recreate lost confidence, given the fact that the three officials designated by the U.S. were swiftly suspended and subsequently resigned. This was an important signal and a very crucial capital by his government that should not be allowed to slip away unnoticed.
Loyalists and Pro-poor defenders may argue the U.N. 77th General Assembly has a specific theme and was not the appropriate forum to discuss corruption. They may also contend that 15 minutes was too short a time to discuss everything. Totally wrong!
World leaders that sat in that sacred Assembly, including the United States Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who previously served in Liberia, are fully abreast of unfolding developments in the country, perhaps even more than Liberians may think. It does not help the Weah administration to gloss over these issues and pretend as if they do not exist.
If President Weah was proud enough to tell the world how the IMF positively graded his government’s economic performance (though he did not say in ABC terms measures taken at home that led to said praises) he should be equally realistic and open in talking about corruption both at home and abroad, especially so when it has become a serious concern of the West that his government looks up to so badly for needed support.
It is important as a leader to speak on something and everything albeit how unpleasant that stands to undermine your ability to govern effectively and with respect. There should be nothing to hide because doing so does not mean they are addressed.
The next time President Weah has such an opportunity to speak before the world body he should seize the moment to comment on all of the major problems confronting his leadership and seek help, rather than glossing over them. If he could talk about elections that border on credibility, fairness, and trust, why dodge the issue of corruption? What is there to hide?
Leaders should not carry themselves in pretense, believing that they are smarter than the people or the comity of nations they are part of. President Weah missed a glorious opportunity to address the key issue of corruption. He had an opportunity to emphasize his government’s unrelenting commitment to aggressively fighting graft and pillage and seek collaboration with the United States and other Western allies to clean his government of unscrupulous officials bent on thwarting sincere effort to govern above reproach but did not utilize it. So sad for Liberia.