The euphoria and pageantry that characterized the official inaugural ceremonies of former football icon, George Manneh Weah, as the 25th President of Liberia has ever since evaporated, as the man who transitioned from professional soccer instantly to politics enters third year of his presidency here, seriously beset by voluminous challenges, ranging from the economy, governance, rule of law, corruption and national reconciliation.
He took over the helm of power from a rather more experience and long-time opposition leader, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but claimed to have inherited a broke economy.
The Weah administration also alleged to have met the nation’s reserve virtually empty. However, ex-president Sirleaf challenged that in a BBC’s interview when she informed the entire the world her government left US$150 million and called on the appropriate officials in the new administration to check records on the book.
The governing Coalition for Democratic Change-led government never came back to the Liberian people to state clearly how much money it met in the reserve, but immediately embarked on series of ambitious infrastructure projects, including a coastal road project, a military hospital and several community projects, that were initially announced as the President’s personal initiatives, which later proved to be on the contrary.
Besides, President Weah demolished his private homes and constructed new ones, including 10 duplexes, all in the first year of his leadership amid public outcry to declare his assets.
However, as the dust settles and realities set in the second year, the government became entangled in financial crises, beginning with lack of proper accountability for newly printed 16 billion Liberian banknotes brought into the country and US$25 million withdrawn from the national reserve to mop up excess liquidity in the economy.
Every other step along the way has seen the administration sink deeper into financial problems, creating serious cash shortage in banks in the latter part of its second year in power, and the government’s inability to raise adequate revenue to pay monthly salary of employees.
But this was not the hope President Weah gave to Liberians, particularly his supporters and international partners, including foreign delegates and diplomats who gathered at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville on January 22, 2018.
“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!!”, the President had promised.
Liberians seem not to be seeing these promises fulfilled, as the ordinary citizen in street continues to feel the pinch of the economy characterize by hyperinflation and three-digit exchange rate.
But the President has even begun to give more promises on the heels of his third term, as he told the joint assembly of the 54th National Legislature recently during opening of its 3rd Session, saying, 2020 would be a year of practicality and progress.
President Weah: “2020 is a year when we will consolidate our gains and launch Liberia upwards and onwards on a solid platform of policies and practical programs that will begin to turn our economy around.”
Liberians hope this would not been another barrage of promises, as they look forward to seeing the government providing tangible solutions by delivering basic services and restoring rapidly declining public confidence. Story by Jonathan Browne