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Commentary

Monrovia: The Litany of Failures and Underperformance of the Weah’s Government

By S.Karweaye

The switching on street lights in Monrovia and its surrounding that have since gone dime and the erection of invincible Sports Park was celebrated with much pomp and pageantry by the George Weah administration. To an onlooker or a visitor to the country, the review of the administration’s performances over the years was right on course and almost believable. The paradox is that the same people who set the examinations sat for them and graded themselves. Sadly, contrary to the current administration’s celebration of success, the grand ‘economic’ figures that were reeled out mean nothing to the ordinary person. The President, proudly at Invincible Sports Park has asked that we score him by the development is carrying out in Liberia. That is what exactly will be covered by this article; not from the perspective of the Weah and his government but from the angle of the perceived ‘beneficiaries’ of the various schemes and policies that have been enacted since 2018.

Considering the macro-economic issues which have been celebrated by the current government, the fact is several notable aspects of the economy which the government claims to have improved, only impacted a few beneficiaries. The government claims credit for a GDP growth of about 4%. It also beats its chest on the renovation of the Executive Mansion, having been destroyed during the administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2006. The government also touts its award of several contracts for infrastructure, especially roads, market buildings and solar panel street lights. Finally, the Weah government is very smugly proud of its so-called Invincible Sports Park, and 14th Military Hospital, but shunned away from the consistent power outages at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) and in Monrovia, poor educational and health services, etc. in the country.

In the area of providing safety and security for citizens, President Weah has just recently declared that government officials and ordinary citizens should buy CCTV cameras for security protection. Before the President’s pronouncement, the government had all but capitulated to all manners of security challenges in all parts of the country, from the ritual killing, and mysterious deaths of government auditors to the gruesome murders in cold blood of John Hilary Tubman, William Tolbert, Madam Maude Elliot, Princess Cooper, armed robbery, to all other strains of dissidence. And, of course, the government’s own pretense at, and overlooking serial human rights violations and repeated extrajudicial killings of innocent citizens by the security forces.

In the four years since the election of President George Weah, poverty has reportedly increased by 1.1% (50.9 to 52 ) according to the World Bank’s 2021 Poverty and Equity Brief. The brief revealed that “44 percent of the population lived under the extreme international poverty live on $1.90perday and poverty in Liberia is projected to increase over the next few years, driven by increasing food prices, lower commodity prices for minerals, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Worthy of note is the fact that it was also mentioned by the World Bank that a GDP growth rate of -3% is insufficient to reduce poverty in the country. In practical terms, under Weah’s administration, there appears to be No improvement in the numbers; roughly 2.4 million Liberians are unable to cater to their daily needs of feeding, transportation, and other human engagements.

Beyond all the trumpets being blown by the current administration for its performance, poverty still abounds greatly in the country which by all standards and measures should not be, given Liberia’s vast natural and human resource endowments. According to the 2010 Revenue Watch Index, Liberia is recognized and ranked 60.5 among natural resources-rich nations. But because these revenues are not properly accounted for and managed terribly, they benefit only a few who have access to the funds to the detriment of the citizenry.

Corruption and inequality are on the rise as attested to by Ms. Dana Banks, head of U.S. President Joe Biden’s delegation to Liberia’s Bicentennial Celebration. Her analysis of the Liberian situation, however grim, is so true. According to the Special Assistant to President Biden and the Senior Director for African Affairs at the Security Council, “Liberia has a host of anti-corruption institutions. But while these institutions are nominally and legally independent from the Government of Liberia, the truth is that the government fails to adequately fund them and exerts its influence upon them. She lamented that too many of Liberia’s leaders have chosen their short-term gain over the long-term benefit of their country. She said the expectation, sometimes, is that the United States and the rest of the international community will step in to solve Liberia’s long-term problems. So let me be clear. The United States is a proud and dedicated partner and friend of Liberia, but ultimately, only the Liberian Government and the Liberian people can tackle corruption, fight for accountability and transparency, and move this country forward.” I tend to agree with Ms. Dana Banks and there will be continuous agitations and unrest in Liberia until the country’s system is able to guarantee economic justice and equality to the people. It is unacceptable to have poverty amid plenty

Sadly, Liberia, at the end of 2021 ranked as the 136th most corrupt country in the world according to the 2021 Corruption Perception Index. In the 2019 CPI, Liberia was placed as the fifth place among the 10 most corrupt countries in Africa. At this pace, the only thing obvious is the fact that the nation is nowhere close to being taken off the corruption list.

The debt stock of the nation keeps soaring and has currently doubled what it was in 2017. According to statistics available on the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) website, the total debt stock at the end of February 2020 stands at US$1.47 billion of which domestic debts account for US$604.4 million (41 percent) while the external debt stock account for US$861.8 million (59 percent). What does the Liberian government have to show for its massive external and internal borrowing? Is it the erratic electricity supply or the invincible Sports Park and market buildings that service a fraction of the population? Government borrowing ought to inject needed cash into the social sector of government by funding critical priority areas such as health, basic education, water, and roads. Can we proudly say we have seen considerable improvement in these sectors under Weah?

Incidentally, barely a few weeks after Weah’s celebration of ‘the achievements of his invincible Sports Park, SN Brussels Airlines aborted to land at RIA due to a dark runway. The plan ended diverting to Sierra Leone on low fuel. According to the United States Aid For Development (USAID), in the capital city of Monrovia, less than 80% of the population still lived in darkness. This indicates that either this government is not reading from the same script or those that authored Weah’s brandished ‘achievements’ live on another planet. It may also be that the government has been caught up in its web of lies, because however carefully managed a lie is, the truth will always come out in the end. Unemployment in Liberia has grown. According to the UNDP 2019 human index report, the unemployment rate in Liberia is 2.8. Most of the youth simply have no hope for what the future holds for them. The truth is that most of the armed robbery, illegal drug trades and drug addictions being experienced in the country are a direct offshoot of the idleness and unemployment among restless youths.

What is clear though is that not only is President Weah determined that he has passed his four years at the helm with flying colors, but he has also declared that he has passed the 6 years exam too, and will promote himself to a second term whether we like it or not. His surrogate voices like Acarous Gray and Samuel Tweah have already announced the results of the next presidential elections that we all hope will take place in 2023! These voices have made it clear that mayhem will be visited on the rest of Liberia if Weah does not contest and win the next presidential election. He has also embarked on a journey of annihilating any source of dissent within his toxic party, the opposition, and the country on multiple fronts. within the CDC, he has decided not to support CDC current Chairman Mulban Morlu for daring to gossip about him on audio. The National Patriotic Party (NPP)  accused its governing partner, the Congress for Democratic Change, of unilaterally making decisions and policies that impact the ruling coalition’s other members. In the light of all these, it is clear that when Weah loses the 2023 presidential elections, he will pull a Laurent Gbagbo stunt, dig in and declare that he has not lost, with his surrogates unleashing violence on anyone perceived to be in disagreement. The next year will therefore be a period of great challenge to Liberians during which round-the-clock vigilance must be the watchword of all those that care for our nation and its people.

We all need to be proactive in insisting that the next elections be free, fair, and credible. The former National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairman James Fromayan has condemned Davidetta Browne Lansanah’s leadership of the National Elections Commission (NEC) for what he terms a lack of independence, credibility, and trust to serve the country in line with the Law that created it. According to him, “it was a conflict deeply rooted in the rigged Presidential and Legislative Elections of October 1985. Those Elections were conducted by the then Special Elections Commission (SECOM) under the Chairmanship of the late Emmett Harmon, a veteran of traditional True Whig Party (TWP) politics, who was recruited by Samuel Doe to do for his National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL) what Harmon and his likes did over many years for the Grand old True Whig Party.” To ensure this, National Election Commission (NEC) must eliminate human intervention and manipulation of election results by ensuring that polling unit-level results go to a computerized collation center via encrypted technology on NEC’s VSAT and the nationwide public telecommunications network, thus eliminating paper-based Forms, as well as the collation centers of electoral fraud, manipulation, and corruption. 

Governing a country is a continuous process. Every president inherits challenges and opportunities, and it is in the course of managing these that reputations are made. If a government achieves results in sustainably improving power supply or growing our agriculture, that can only be good for the country. President Weah fails to acknowledge the opportunities he inherited but quickly disclaims responsibility for challenges that have only gotten worse under him, like economic hardship, food insecurity, unemployment, and poor road infrastructure insecurity. The progress, development, security, and well-being of a country ought always to be a national priority. Still, the blinkered partisanship of the government is unlikely to promote these national goals.

It is not the President’s duty to ‘try’. After all, he made promises during his campaign that he ought to fulfill. It is his constitutional duty to protect the lives and property of the citizens and it is our right as citizens to hold our leaders accountable. Rather than engage in petty arguments and gloating over marginal improvements in figures as compared to previous administrations, this administration needs to demonstrate its plans to not only halt the slide but leave a secure future for the next generation. Instead of taking all criticisms in bad faith, a government that genuinely has the interest of the people at heart should prove critics wrong by improving performance and being accountable to citizens. 

The foregoing litany of failures and underperformance of Weah’s government in social, political, and economic spheres will fill more pages than this column can take. Things have never been as bad as we have now and no public park or market building can mask the frustration of the people. The few people who praise the performance of this government or the direction it is headed are those who have benefitted inordinately from the skewed opportunities at the expense of the majority. Some of the major sectors of the country’s economy which would make a difference now and for future generations (security, electric power, healthcare, employment, and education) are being toyed with for political gains.


In the end, it was a truly shameful spectacle for the president to play around in a public park that does not have a basis in reality and claim achievements that few people can see or even feel.

Presidential hopefully, Judging the four years (lack of) progress of George Weah presidency, Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe was right when he said that Liberians voting the George Weah back to power in the coming 2023 Presidential elections is like one committing suicide.  

Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Are you more secure than you were a few years ago? Can you pay school fees without breaking the bank? Are more people in jobs than they were a few years ago? Are Liberians better united today than before Weah’s ‘election’? Do you even feed better than you did four years ago? The verdict is up to you.

NewDawn

The New Dawn is Liberia’s Truly Independent Newspaper Published by the Searchlight Communications Inc. Office is located on The UN Drive in Monrovia Liberia. The New Dawn is a bilingual (both English & French).
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