Senator George Weah Versus Sum of Most Liberians’ Fears


Monrovia – Senator George Manneh Weah appeared quite aware Wednesday afternoon that the moment he landed in Monrovia, it was necessary for him to address the small issue of the elephant in the room no one in his inner circle, had until now, wanted him to tackle.

Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]

It was the issue that has been on the mind of everyone lately. On social media, drumbeats have been echoing about a possible return to an ugly past most Liberians dread, a chapter in the annals of history preserved only for the most painful memories of relatives, friends and loved ones who helplessly watched as scores were sent to their deaths while a generation of Liberians fled into exile.

It was the elephant, that in the past few weeks, put some Liberians’, particularly opponents of his Coalition for Democratic Change on edge.

Talk Show host Patrick Honnah of the highly-rated Bumper Show on state radio LBS, warned: “This Country Will Not Fall in the Wrong Hands”. That was before an attempted arson at the home of his former sidekick, Smith Toby, now General Manager of OK FM. 

Media Figures – In the Line of Fire 

For now, the presidency which has eluded the football legend turn politician, is coming to grips with the stark reality of a haunted past lurking in the shadows of a rather complicated political predicament which could make or break Mr. Weah’s presidential quest or throw a monkey wrench in what could very well be the biggest game of his life.

In the days that followed, Henry Costa, another Talk Show host on Voice FM 102.5 went on a ranting rage against Weah and the Coalition for Democratic Change, urging his listening audience against returning Liberia to the dark days. 

In justifying his reasons for not supporting Mr. Weah’s presidential bid, Mr. Costa, who openly supported Mr. Benoni Urey’s presidential bid, told his listeners during the week that in 2012 supporters of Weah beat him up because he spoke against the party leader, repeating a refrain that is becoming more familiar with every passing day.

He claims Weah later told him, he was ruffled up to teach him a lesson. 

It was the same elephant that drove bloggers like Emmanuel Tophic Degleh to post on Facebook: “I foresee a fragile state…where journalists will be the target but we will stand against any foe of press freedom.” 

This week, critics of Mr. Weah were quick to pounce on an incident which involved an altercation of sorts between Mr. Costa and a mob of angry traders on Mechlin Street in Central Monrovia whom he believes were members of Weah’s CDC.

But Mr. Sam Mannah, spokesman to Senator George Weah would later dismiss Costa’s claim, stating that he believes those who carried out the attack were aggrieved citizens expressing their disenchantment against Costa. 

So, when Mr. Weah arrived Thursday, after stops in Dakar, Senegal where he met President Macky Sall, former Chair of the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) and a much-publicized worship service with Senator Prince Y. Johnson at Bishop T.B. Joshua’s church, his work was already cut out for him. 

Silence was no option, and Mr. Weah recognizing what was in the air declared: “I want to make it crystal clear that I will not engage in any action that has the propensity to derail the gains we have made.” 

The Montserrado County Senator urged Liberians not to be deceived by some of his critics who have been trumpeting assertions that Liberia will fall into lawlessness and chaos if he and the CDC are trusted with power for the next six years.

“If you look at our history, since 2005 we have remained peaceful even when we disagreed with the outcome of past elections,” Mr. Weah said. 

Weah’s CDC protested both the 2005 and 2011 elections. Now, the party is singing to a new tone. “CDC is and will continue to be a non-violent movement comprised of patriotic Liberians,” Mr. Weah explained.

“Those who spread such lies and fear”, he added, “are dishonest people who want to do everything to maintain the power even if the people spreading the lies have done nothing good for the country.

“They had 12 years of leadership that you gave them and they did not improve your conditions. I don’t think they can fix it in the next 6 years. It is time for a new breed of leaders to take the stage and make their contribution to clean up the mess.”

In the past few weeks, Liberia’s capital has been rife with speculations that the CDC and Mr. Weah were already compiling a list of people to go after once he was elected. Others suggest that Mr. Weah was looking to get even with those with whom he had crossed path in the past.

Ironic Twist of Fate 

But on Wednesday, he said the CDC-led government will not engage in witch hunt, divisiveness or tribalism.

“Our country has suffered too long and it is time for a leader that will unite our people to move on. We want to build on whatever progress we have made as a country over the last 12 years and correct whatever mistakes or shortcomings that took place.” 

The irony of Mr. Weah’s current political predicament offers glaring contrast to his own experience during the dark chapter and ugly past under the Taylor regime. 

In 2002, then President Taylor reportedly sent militia to burn down Weah’s house in Monrovia and rape two of his cousins. Fearing for his life, Mr. Weah did not set foot in Liberia again from 2002 until Taylor went into exile. 

Mr. Weah insists that Taylor who was convicted on 11 charges including terrorism, rape, murder and the use of child soldiers by rebel groups in neighboring Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war, in which some 50, 000 people died, is not a friend. 

On Wednesday, Mr. Weah went even further, as he sought to draw a distance between him and Mr. Taylor.

“The notion again that the CDC is a movement to bring Charles Taylor back to this country is not true”. This is the lowest level that my opponents have taken our national politics.”

“Instead of telling you about how they will make your lives better after being in power for 12 years, my opponent and his people are lying to you that Charles Taylor will influence me when you make me your President.”

“I want you to know that the case with Charles Taylor is already settled in international court and we fully respect that decision and there is no way he can run Liberia from there.” 

The fear of Taylor’s influence on a potential Weah presidency fueled speculations in recent weeks that regional leaders against a Weah presidency have been pushing his rivals to endorse Boakai for President. 

But Mr. Weah sought Wednesday to dismiss the reports as false: “That this information they are spreading that certain international powers will not work with the CDC government is false, misleading and dishonest.”

“I have met with all our international partners and regional leaders and assured them that our government will play by the rules and seek the interest of the Liberian people who have suffered for so long. I want all Liberians to know that international partners are prepared to work with whoever the people choose to be their leader.” 

Critics point to Mr. Weah’s running mate, the former First Lady, Jewel Howard-Taylor, as the crux of his political problems. It was her assertions recently that a CDC victory would ensure that the Taylor agenda return to the table.

“Because of what happened in our government and the abrupt closure and arrest of former president Taylor we were not able to fulfill those promises.

The NPP is now strong, and so we want to call all of the NPP stalwarts across the length and breadth of Liberia to come on board and help us win these elections, we will put that agenda back on the table,” the CDC Vice Standard Bearer said. 

Racing Against Time 

Mr. Weah said Wednesday that his CDC has its own agenda despite being in a merger with the party of the former president and having his wife as vice standard bearer.

“The CDC agenda is not an NPP agenda. The CDC’s Agenda is not a Taylor Agenda. “

“Our vision for this country which we have clearly explained since the 2005 elections is about an inclusive form of government with everyone having equal access to opportunities and resources including the poor and marginalized.” 

Ahead of the crucial runoff elections, Mr. Weah is racing against time even as aides work the clock in hopes of beating down fears about the unknown of his potential presidency. 

Mr. Weah is hoping that his humble beginnings will convince voters that he is not the monster being portrayed.

“My record as a proven patriot and achiever is there for all of you to see. I came from a very poor and humble background like most of you. I used my God given talent with the support of my late grandmother to lift myself out of poverty. I represented Liberia in the international arena with class and compassion.” 

Despite Weah’s assurances, many of his critics are keen to see a better control of his followers and a greater tolerance level for those in the firing line of criticisms directed at him. His supporters insist the recent wave of accusations attempting to link the CDC to attacks on its critics, are being driven by his opponents hoping to create a state of fear and erase some of the gains the party made in the first round.

For now, the presidency which has eluded the football legend turn politician, is coming to grips with the stark reality of a haunted past lurking in the shadows of a rather complicated political predicament which could make or break Mr. Weah’s presidential quest or throw a monkey wrench in what could very well be the biggest game of his life.