Last Friday January 22, 2021 marked exactly three years when popular soccer legend and football icon, George Manneh Weah, who rode on the waves of popular support from mostly the country’s disadvantaged population, many of whom are young people, was elected to occupy the nation’s most top seat—the presidency.
The nation’s 24th President made series of promises to the Liberians people at his inauguration ceremony at the Samuel Kanyan Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville—an occasion that was graced by a mammoth crowd that also had scores of regional leaders in attendance.
That historic ceremony came on the heels of an overwhelming victory where the legendary icon won 14 of the 15 political subdivisions (Counties) of the country.
“I George Weah, Your New President, I Will Not Let You Down, I Will Not Make Liberians Spectators In Their Own Country, I Will Connect Liberia With Paved Roads,” the President said amid unceasing applauses.
Despite the enormous challenges that greeted the Coalition for Democratic change (CDC) government upon its ascendency, the President and his lieutenants have been significant strides, especially in the areas of roads connectivity, construction of modern markets, giving opportunities to young people to serve in government.
Within hours of taking over the presidency, Weah issued an ultimatum to outgoing government ministers and civil servants to return all government equipment, including cars, or face arrest. The President also took a 25% pay cut—setting an example of giving back the huge renumerations that public officials, especially those at the echelon of power get.
The National ID Registry began rolling out biometric cards system with an initial focus on government employees in an effort to root out ‘ghost employees’ and save millions in dollars for other development initiatives.
Such moves were applauded by the media and the public at large and raised hopes of a change in political culture.
And as it is known, humans are resistible to change and the tendency to accept change in a society like Liberia is considered nearly impossible and the President’s early actions and populist rhetoric were in tension with the political realities of managing an entrenched political class and a political system designed to defend their privilege.
And surrounding himself with people linked to past corruption and mismanagement, or with ties, directly or indirectly, to key figures in Liberia’s civil war, somehow do not go well with his supporters and well-wishers, but he has been doing all to put the country on the right trajectory for prosperity and development.
George Weah’s election as president of Liberia in January 2018 was widely hailed as a popular victory over ineffective or corrupt politics and was the first peaceful handover of power since the end of the Liberian civil war. Seen as a victory of the people over a political system viewed as ineffective (at best) or corrupt (at worst), Weah’s election brought with it the high expectations of not just his support base but the country as a whole.
However, despite early signs that he would take on bureaucratic excess and corruption, rebuild infrastructure and drive economic development, Weah’s first year in office has been haunted by the old guard of Liberian politics, hampered by limited resources and dogged by controversies over missing money. Continuity seems to be winning out over change.
Weah’s European links have helped secure a €27 million economic cooperation agreement with the EU, an important early success for his ambitions to lift a million Liberians, about a fifth of the country’s total population, out of poverty within the next five years.
Action is essential as prior to his ascendency, half the Liberian population live below the poverty line and the country is falling behind the region on education and infant mortality.
The economy was hurt by the Ebola outbreak and the drop in commodity prices, with growth only beginning to recover in 2017. Foreign aid also began to decline in 2016 with the end of the Ebola crisis, creating foreign exchange and inflationary pressures.
Liberia’s infrastructure gap is a further challenge, and one that has confronted successive administrations. According the World Bank, only five per cent of Liberia’s 11,423 kilometres of roads are paved, and many are often impassible in heavy rain.
The President began addressing these critical issues upon coming to power. 14th Military Hospital, The construction of housing units for fire victims and other less fortunate people, the President Pro Poor housing unit projects in Grand Kru, Grand Gedeh and others, the 14th Gobachup International Market including other markets in Montserrado and Nimba Counties among others as well as the ongoing Presidential street lights electrification project which has so far been welcomed by the people unlike before.
Moreover, they named the construction of the headquarters of the National Port Authority first time since its existence as well as the construction of the corporate headquarters of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, the coastal defense force project on Popo Beach that now saves forceful evacuation of residents along the Sea side in district sixteen, Montserrado County
Outstanding among his achievement is the free tuition for all public Universities and Colleges and digital registration process at the state run University of Liberia, as well as the Payment of the West African Examination Council (WAEC now WASSCE) fees for all 12th and 9th graders and many others.