Liberia: Misguided Weah Must Steer The Shape Of His Presidency

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THERE’S NO EASIER OR SOFTER WAY TO PUT THIS. So, we will lay it the only way we know how: The presidential campaign season is over and President George Manneh Weah must realize that the future of Liberia and his own political life is at stake. If he fails to listen to the cries of the people, he will go down as one of the worst presidents in Liberia’s history.

HERE’S WHY.

PRESIDENT WEAH was passionate when he assumed the mantle of authority in January about the overwhelming mandate he received from the Liberian people to end corruption in public service while calling on those in his administration to put country before self.

SAID PRESIDENT WEAH: “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.”

NEARLY NINE MONTHS on, the President finds himself in a political bubble surrounded by a lot of people looking out for themselves to the detriment of his presidency and at Liberia’s expense.

A CASE IN POINT is the subject of our cover story today, highlighting the fact that Liberia is on the verge of losing €42 millions for rural electrification project in the southeast, the stronghold of President George Manneh Weah.

THE CURRENT RULING party swept through the southeast in the last presidential elections with ease raising the hopes of a region many left for dead, an area where youngsters sit around a handful of spots with electricity just to study and do their homework.

IN AREAS LIKE Grand Kru, ninth grade is the limit for most young boys and girls coming of age. Unless a benefactor rescues them, many resort to pregnancy are find themselves roaming around villages with idling around until the lives go to waste.

TODAY, Liberia ranks high amongst the highest proportion of out-of-school children in the world with the southeastern counties – Maryland, Grand Kru, River Gee, Sinoe, Grand Gedeh and River Cess – rating extremely poor and marginalised, lack access to employment and more than sixty percent living far below the poverty line.

PRESIDENT WEAH AND his government have been trumpeting a pro-poor agenda since the inception of the administration. In fact, when the President announced his pro-poor agenda two days after winning the 2017 election, optimism was high that the new government was poised to address the plight of the intrinsically poor population.

NOW WHEN THE OPPORTUNITY presents itself, those tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that the President fulfills his promise to Liberians, fail miserably, throwing away glowing opportunities to put the administration in the good books of its core constituencies.

A COMMUNICATION in possession of FrontPageAfrica shows that the electrification of the southeast is in peril and both the European Union and the Millennium Challenge Corporation are running out of patience with the new administration for dragging its feet on the implementation of the project.

AS A RESULT, the two stakeholders have put off a Euro 42 million package aimed at rural electrification in President Weah’s stronghold in the South – East due to the delay in the appointment of commissioners overseeing the Liberia Electricity Regulatory Commission.

MR. AUGUSTUS W. GOANUE, Chair and Secretariat of the Rural Energy Working Group(REWG), in an August 8, 2018, letter to the Minister of Lands, Mines and Energy, Mr. Gessler E. Murray outlined the risks regarding Liberia’s commitment to the rural electricity project.

THE REWG is a consortium of energy sector stakeholders with the objective to ensure the successful implementation of the Rural Energy Strategy and Master Plan for Liberia(RESMP) and related programs/projects, by fostering close coordination and cooperation between concerned stakeholders – relevant GOL entities, civil society organization, local and international NGOs, the private sector, donors, and development partners. The REQG is chaired by the RREA.

THE APPOINTMENT of the Commissioners is expected to directly unlock postponed development partner Funding and technical support.

MR. GOANUE informed the minister that on June 26th, the EU postponed approval of Euro 42 million package of support for the rural electrification in the South-East, supported by the RREA, due to the prolonged delay in LERC’s Commissioners appointment. Additionally, the Millennium Challenge Account, Liberia(MCAL) support to LERC, as part of the $257 million MCC Compact, has been significantly scaled-down pending progress on the appointments, as has EU technical assistance to LERC.”

CITING SECTION 13.1 of the 2015 Electricity Law of Liberia which provides clear direction with respect to the appointment of the LERC’s Commissioners, Mr. Goanue said, the stipulation provides of “one chairperson and two members” shall take place no later than October 2016(one year after the effective date of the law). These appointments, as legislated in the Electricity Law, need to be made by the President with Legislative approval.

MUCH OF THE BLAME is being laid on President Weah’s Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel McGill, who is believed to be the main figure stalling the appointment of the commissioner.

MINISTER MCGILL is said to be insisting on submitting his personal list of appointees in a bid to push his interest in a proposal for a controversial Karpower electricity plan with a ten-year contract stipulation, through which Liberia would be buying power from Karpowership even though it already has an absorptive capacity of only 24 % of current installed capacity at Bushrod Island and Mt. Coffee.

BOTH THE MCC and the European Union have reservations about the Karpower deal, expressing concerns that it could lead to serious repercussions.

THE DEAL IS ALSO SAID to have the weight of Mr. Ibrahim Mahama, brother of the former president of Ghana, who reportedly provided a fleet of vehicles as gifts and the use of his aircraft when needed. Mahama is also said to be good friends with Mr. Emmanuel Shaw, one of President George Manneh Weah’s principal advisors.

THESE ARE THE SAME behaviours which hurt former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf from fulfilling a lot of her goals during the twelve years of her presidency.

HER MINISTER of Public Works, Antoinette Weeks was renounced for stalling projects and giving donors the run around over projects beneficial to Liberia.

WEEKS’ ARROGANT display led to the struggling post-war nation to lose millions from the ArcelorMittal mining company for the construction of the Ganta to Yekepa road. The minister was also blamed for Liberia nearly losing funding for the Somalia Drive road, financed by the Japanese government.

TODAY, REFRAINS of the Sirleaf era appear to be sticking its ugly head in a government which promised change. Government officials have become notorious for leaving their homes late only to bulldoze their way through convoys with at trail of unbelievable convoys and unsurmountable speeds through busy traffic hours.

THE MESSAGE OF CHANGE and hope have been substituted to a sad arrogance and ineptitude exhibited at the highest level and against stakeholders only trying to help.

THIS NEEDS TO STOP. The buck begins and ends with President Weah. It is he who must seize the moment and work toward alleviating poverty and improving the lives of those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder.

FALLING INTO THE ABYSS of sycophancy will only lead to failure which is not an option for Africa’s oldest republic at this point. “The President Will Succeed” is the big chant of those pushing the line of the presidency. In reality, all Liberian could not be asking for anything less. But success will not come on a silver platter but with hard work, determination and a humble heart.

THE LATE PRESIDENT William V.S. Tubman, William R. Tolbert, Samuel Doe, Charles Taylor and the most recent Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf have all driven down this road before, some, along the way even actually believed their were invincible and in power for an entire lifetime.

THIS IS WHY those sowing the seeds of arrogance must look back on where Liberia has come and humbly work toward a new beginning as we chart a new course toward hope for a transparent and accountable future.

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