Liberia: When Will Emperor(Weah) See He Has No Clothes?
FAMED DANISH AUTHOR, Hans Christian Andersen’s work is culturally embedded in the collective consciousness of many around the world and has become a consistent reference when presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity. His most famous fairytale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, about how two impostor weavers got the best of an emperor’s fondness for new clothes, is regularly referenced when depicting rulers and dictators’ numbness to everything going wrong around them.
“Nothing was true in her assertions. She said to you that only two women in our government but we have more than two women in our government; she said that the President must declare his assets, I have declared my assets since July 2018 – and I have my receipt of my assets January 28, 2018. If I was in the court today, I would open my phone and show you my assets declaration and you are going to see that those that are talking that I have not declared my assets are all fallacies.”President George Manneh Weah
THE CASE of Liberia under President George Manneh Weah is a clear example of a leader’s obsession with praise singers singing his best tunes while refusing to see the glaring realities of what is unfolding around him.
RESULTS from the just-ended Montserrado County Senatorial By-Elections which saw a convincing landslide win for opposition-backed candidate Abraham Darius Dillon; the preceding June 7 Save the State Protest and the embarrassing show of an empty SKD Sports Complex during the 172nd Independence celebration that saw several regional heads of state present, should have served as a wake-up call for President Weah to take stock and reexamine what has been going wrong and how he can pick up the pieces and save his presidency from sinking it all comes crashing down.
INSTEAD, PRESIDENT Weah remains entrapped in a bubble of belief that he is the best thing to ever happen to Liberia.
LAST WEEK while unveiling the revamped Old Road Market, the President used the occasion to once again rain attacks on the media, declaring that it is “unhealthy and harmful for the peace and development of Liberia for the media to report wrong in the face of truth.”
REFERRING TO HIMSELF as “a record breaker, talk-and-do”, the President urged Liberians not to listen to those in whose care the country was entrusted for more than 100 years and had nothing to show in terms of their achievements.
IN THE PRESIDENT’S own words to members of the Fourth Estate, “When you see good things, you must talk about it; when you see bad things, you can also talk about them”.
IRONICALLY, WHENEVER the media reports the bad things around the president, he seems to take issue with the press, when in reality, a lot of what the President considers “bad reporting” by the media is actually his own doing – or those around him, deriving from some of the very people he seems to have so much trust and faith in.
THE TRUTH of the matter is, the media did not force Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee to utter what he said recently which drew rebuke for the government and threatened the peace and security of Liberia when he declared threatened protests against any group protesting against the ruling party, going as far as to suggest any opposition protesting would result “in flesh and blood.”
MR. KOIJEE who is also the party’s youth leader, said his Youth Wing protest will be robust action against anyone or group who intends to destroy the democracy of the state irrespective of their positions. The mayor promised to counter react, reflecting on the past as opposition.
WHILE WE APPLAUD THE President for declaring that his government was working “untiringly” to fix the bad economy it inherited, we find it difficult to understand why he and his administration continue to suggest that it inherited a bad economy in the face of numerous construction of properties by the president and his officials. Where are they getting the monies from? How are they building the roads and markets it wants to media to trumpet in the backdrop of a broke inheritance?
THE MEDIA did not force the President to give his predecessor a passing mark on her presidency, he did it all by himself. His refusal to audit her administration in the beginning when he assumed office is now coming back to haunt him as he is already compiling his own misdeeds for someone after him to mount an investigation of he and his officials.
“In 2017 Liberians elected a former football star, George Weah, as president. Mr. Weah promised to help the poor and give corruption the boot. He is doing neither. Scandals have blighted his first 18 months in office and soaring inflation, which peaked at 29% in December, is hurting the poor in a country where more than half the population lives on less than $2 a day. The president’s conduct has not helped. He has built about 50 houses in a compound in the capital. He says he used money he had earned during his days of football stardom. But citizens cannot be sure of this, since he has refused to publicly declare his assets. ”The Economist Magazine
MORE IMPORTANTLY, the President’s utterance that “no other President before him has achieved what “I have achieved in less than two years in office,” speaks volume to the level of extreme the President has taken his unbelievable rhetoric in the midst of so much suffering in Liberia today.
A REPORT in The Economist magazine this week aptly depicts how far removed Mr. Weah, his officials and government are from the rest of Liberia.
THE ECONOMIST REPORT writes alarmingly about the unfolding realities in Liberia today drawing insights from Liberians speaking about the untold suffering they are experience in just under two years of the Weah presidency.
THE REPORT which mirrors what FrontPageAfrica and other media have been reporting, states: “After the fighting stopped in 2003, the world poured in aid to support Liberia’s transition to democracy and to prop up the administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a wily World Bank veteran who was elected president in 2005. By 2010 the west African nation was receiving $360 in aid per person. Helping to keep the peace was a un mission that cost more than $500m a year. Since then, however, the world has lost interest. By 2017 aid had slumped to just $132 per person. In 2018 the United Nation’s peacekeepers packed away their blue helmets and went home. Left in their wake are a failing economy and a weak state that has been hollowed out by corruption and is still riven by enmities.”
The people, having heard of the weaver’s abilities and the cloth’s fictitious properties, were amazed and offered thunderous applause to the beaming Emperor. None of them were willing to admit that they hadn’t seen a thing; for if anyone did, then he was either stupid or unfit for the job he held. Never before had the emperor’s clothes been such a success.
THE REPORT notes how widespread corruption is making everything worse for the Weah administration, citing a poll by Afrobarometer which found that half of Liberians had to pay backhanders for public services.
THE REPORT NOTES: “In 2017 Liberians elected a former football star, George Weah, as president. Mr. Weah promised to help the poor and give corruption the boot. He is doing neither. Scandals have blighted his first 18 months in office and soaring inflation, which peaked at 29% in December, is hurting the poor in a country where more than half the population lives on less than $2 a day. The president’s conduct has not helped. He has built about 50 houses in a compound in the capital. He says he used money he had earned during his days of football stardom. But citizens cannot be sure of this, since he has refused to publicly declare his assets. “It raises eyebrows,” said Anderson Miamen of Transparency International, a corruption watchdog.”
THE REPORT CONCLUDES that President Weah while governing a country as poor and fractious as Liberia is an unenviable task, President Weah is simply not up to the job. He is said to forget key facts, bungle media interviews and drift off in meetings.”
THIS IS A DAMNING INDICTMENT of a President and government from the influential Economist, likely to pose major problems for Mr. Weah’s presidency in both the short and long term.
PRESIDENT WEAH must realize that the media is the only hope for him to see the realities of what is unfolding before him. Those singing his praise for the purpose of landing and keeping a job have been around since Liberia became independent in 1847 and are unlikely to go away any time soon. Tuning out their sycophantic noise and focusing on the plight of those languishing at the bottom of the economic ladder is Mr. Weah’s best hope to salvage what’s left of his presidency.
PRESIDENT WEAH must understand that the media is not here to sing his praises or sing the songs he wants to hear.
LIKE THE EMPEROR in Hans Christian Andersen’s famed fairytale, Mr. Weah is sadly, either unable to see the truth or simply refusing to acknowledge it exist.
IN ANDERSEN’S FAIRYTALE, the two swindling weavers entered a city and made an emperor believe that they could create a suit for him that would be invisible to people who are unfit to hold their office, or excessively simple.
THE IMPOSTORS preyed on the emperor’s love for wearing fine clothes and spent all of his people’s money on them.
THE EMPEROR actually fell for it, and paid the swindlers an enormous sum as they set out to “create” the clothes; knowing they would only need to go through the motions.
THE EMPEROR EVEN sent several advisors to gauge the weavers’ progress and they all returned to the emperor telling him how magnificent the clothes were and not wanting to appear unworthy for seeing nothing at all; the cloth didn’t exist!
WHEN THE CLOTHES WERE FINALLY finished, the swindlers already having counted the gold and jewelries they had received, organized a procession to show off the Emperor’s new clothes as the entire city gathered in the center to view them.
HAVING BEEN “DRESSED” by the swindlers, who remarked how wonderful he looked, and how light the cloth appeared on him, the emperor appeared before his people.
THE PEOPLE, HAVING heard of the weaver’s abilities and the cloth’s fictitious properties, were amazed and offered thunderous applause to the beaming Emperor. None of them were willing to admit that they hadn’t seen a thing; for if anyone did, then he was either stupid or unfit for the job he held. Never before had the emperor’s clothes been such a success.
DURING HIS SPEECH at the Press Union of Liberia award Saturday night, President Weah boastfully declared that there is no law on the books forcing him to declare his assets.
A DAY EARLIER, at a program in Popoo Beach, the President launched a blistering attack on Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee, this year’s Independence Day Orator, over her assertions that he is yet to declare his assets and make them public.
SAID THE PRESIDENT: “We have to make sure that we go for the facts. We listened to our National Orator and I said there at that time she spoke very well. But in her assertions, there were all false allegations. Nothing was true in her assertions. She said to you that only two women in our government but we have more than two women in our government; she said that the President must declare his assets, I have declared my assets since July 2018 – and I have my receipt of my assets January 28, 2018. If I was in the court today, I would open my phone and show you my assets declaration and you are going to see that those that are talking that I have not declared my assets are all fallacies.”
AGAIN, THE MEDIA did not select Ms. Gbowee as this year’s July 26 orator, the President and his handlers did.
FOR THE RECORD, the issue has never been about the President’s assets declaration, it has always and continues to be his refusal to make them public.
FOR THE RECORD, several efforts by FrontPageAfrica and other media outlets to use existing laws on the books in Liberia to have those assets made public have been rebuffed by a complicated process and bottleneck guarding those assets from being made public.
FORMER PRESIDENT Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, to her credit, declared her assets twice during the course of her presidency and did not hesitate to make her last declaration public. Copies of her declaration forms were made available to the media for scrutiny via the office of her press secretary.
IN THAT DECLARATION, former President Sirleaf disclosed her total worth of her assets at US$1,707,279.64. According to Mrs. Sirleaf’s declaration, she earned L$1,645,500 as gross salary per annum and US$72,000 in allowances per annum. The asset declaration form also shows that President Sirleaf had US$49,933.76 in her personal checking account at IB Bank, EJS Farm account also at IB Bank has a balance of L$379,502.20 , EJS personal Account: L$630,363.31 and a saving account with a balance of US$9,777.72.
IN FOREIGN ACCOUNTS, President Sirleaf had savings with Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina in the tone of US$153,006.00 and a UNFC account with a balance of US$7,300.
FOR TREASURY BILLS or investment in securities, President Sirleaf recorded having US$704,314.00 with Vanguard Mutual Funds in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and US$61,003.00 with American Funds, Los Angeles in California.
FOR REAL ESTATE, PRESIDENT Sirleaf valued her current residence – a one-storey building with a swimming pool and a palava hut at US$164,100. She also owns a bungalow which contains a boys quarters, palava hut and an external kitchen at Corina Park, Congo Town, valued at US$117,300; a compound with two concrete buildings in Congo Town worth US$103,000.00; a vacant family plot on Broad Street worth US$50,000; a US$77,411 residential property in Caldwell, Bushrod Island; a structure on Benson Street valued at US$44, 016; a US$56,800 bungalow on Congo Town back road. She also owns a vacant 513 acres of land in Todee District which she valued at US$51,300 and four acres of vacant land in Paynesville worth US$4,000. According to the President, her garden is also worth US$5,000.
IN CONTRAST, President Weah waited six months after the deadline to declare his, which both the General Auditing Commission and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission have refused to make public.
IN THE ONLY ASSETS made public by Mr. Weah, on his 2014 asset declaration forms which he filed with the National Elections Commission (NEC) during his quest for the Montserrado County Senatorial seat, he disclosed that he had four properties, two in Florida, USA, one on 9th Street, Sinkor, Monrovia and another in Rehab Community in Paynesville.
THE 9TH STREET PROPERTY, according to that declaration was worth US$150,000, the Rehab structure was valued US$100,000. The Miami, Florida property – US$1.4 million while the other property in Florida was put at US$900,000.00. He further declared at the time that he earned US$200,000 over a period of 12 months (July, 2013 to June 2014) from his real estate in the United States. The only savings mentioned in that declaration was US$50,000 in Chase Bank in the U.S.
THE PRESIDENT has repeatedly said, he cannot make his assets declaration public because it is my privacy. “I have kids and families to protect. So, I gave them access to all my banks, so they have to protect me. Information about my assets cannot be made public. For those government officials who have not yet declared their assets, I have told them to do so because they have to abide by the law.”
TO THE CONTRARY, Liberia’s history which saw thirteen former officials of the Tolbert administration executed by a kangaroo court for corruption, demands that President Weah make his assets public, especially in the wake of the construction of his many properties and amass of so much wealth just under two years of his presidency.
SIMILARLY, former President Samuel Doe was killed by Prince Johnson for refusing to reveal where he kept his wealth.
MAKING THOSE assets public is important for the public to gauge wealth accumulation against those previously declared when Mr. Weah sought the Montserrado County Senatorial elections.
AS INDEPENDENCE DAY orator, Gbowee said recently: “The fight against corruption is not in words, it is in action. You must walk your talk. You cannot preach against corruption and then not declare your assets and keep it locked up. Show us what you came with so that in a few years when you’ve got two houses, we can know that you already had those resources in the bank.”
THE PRESIDENT, like all public officials must declare their assets and make them public. Liberia’s perplexed history has too many recurring themes eclipsed by perceptions regarding accusations against rulers and leaders who went to their violent deaths shrouded in the uncertainty of what they had or did not have – and what they accumulated while in office. President Weah owes this much to history and to those before him to make his campaign theme, Change for Hope a living reality that his government is far removed from the past and is truly here to make a difference, not a repetition of more of the same.