Liberia’s Weah Sides with Us President Trump On Venezuela
Monrovia – Liberian President George Manneh Weah drew a stark contrast and distance between his administration and that of Sudan and Venezuela, two nations which have in recent times been on the receiving end of rebuke from Liberia’s traditional stepfather, the United States of America.
Report by Rodney D. Sieh, [email protected]
“This is not Sudan, where one man ruled for 30 years and now the military is in control. This is not Venezuela, where citizens are denied their rights, where the legislature is unable to play its role, and humanitarian aid is blocked from reaching people in desperate need,” the President said in a nationwide address Wednesday.
President Weah said while Liberia continues to face many challenges such as managing inflation, creating jobs, and fighting corruption; his administration remains committed to democratic principles which are strong and central to the country’s development and stability.
Political analysts believe the reference may attract some attention from State Department and the White House, considering Liberia is one of the few African countries that may be siding with the US and its wayward policy on Venezuela in particular.
President Weah’s reference comes at a time Venezuela President faces acute pressure from the US. But critics contend that this is Weah’s strategy to grab attention from Trump in support of his bid to visit the White house. They argue that Liberia position may not sit well with other African heads of the state who have decided not to side with the US.
Others believe this may be a smart move considering Liberia’s relation with the US and the fact that Weah is trying to deepen his relationship with the white house.
The Venezuelan situation is the worst economic crisis in the country’s history, and among the worst in the world since 2014. The crisis intensified under President Maduro government, growing more severe as a result of low oil prices in early 2015, and a drop in Venezuela’s oil production from lack of maintenance and investment.
In recent months, the Donald J. Trump administration has been attempting to remove Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from power without success.
Things intensified in January when Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself the country’s rightful president, arguing that Maduro who has been in power for six years, rigged the elections last May.
The Trump administration immediately blocked the claim by Guaidó and has been working ever since to help him push Maduro out of power.
The US has sanctioned politicians and businesses and sent much-needed food and medical aid, and helped sustain a global campaign to back Guaidó and boost his popularity.
The Trump administration has gone as far as backing Guaidó’s military uprising against Maduro, declaring the administration’s full support.
One diplomatic observer said Wednesday that the Weah administration could also be looking to score points with the Trump administration following Liberia’s December 2017 snafu during which the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf voted in favor of a United Nations (UN) resolution calling on the U.S. to withdraw its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The Liberia vote came a day after President Trump had threatened that the US could withhold foreign aid for countries that voted in favor of the UN resolution. A total of 129 countries voted for the resolution while nine voted against with 35 abstentions.
Ambassador Lewis Brown, Liberia’s former Permanent Representative to the UN told FrontPageAfrica at the time: “We did not vote against the United States. We cannot vote against the United States. Liberia and the United States are deeply bonded by history and cherished ties of ongoing friendship and partnership. We voted for the shared values of peace, international law, multilateralism, and consistent with the decisions of the African Union which was adopted by Heads of State in January 2017.”
Prior to the removal of President Omar Al Bashir, the Trump administration said it was considering new ways to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism if it sees a fundamental change in its government and a commitment not to support terrorism.
The U.S. government added Sudan to its list of terrorism in 1993 over allegations that then-President Omar al-Bashir’s government was supporting terrorism. The Islamist Bashir was toppled last week by the military after three decades in power. The designation as a state sponsor of terrorism makes Sudan ineligible for desperately needed debt relief and financing from lenders like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Al-Bashir was been ousted on April 11, this year and arrested following months of protests after nearly 30 years in power.
The Venezuela and Sudan comparison in President Weah’s address to the nation Wednesday comes on the eve of a much-anticipated Save-the-State protest set for Friday, June 7.
Drawing some inspiration and similarities from recent turn of events in Sudan and the Arab Springs
Organizers are hoping to gather on the day in massive numbers to present a list of demands to President Weah in hopes of drawing attention to what many widespread corruption; rising prices and inflation.
The President, on Wednesday called for calm. “A nation is not defined only by easy and happy times, when everything is going well. Rather, a nation is defined by the ability of its people to overcome difficult moments in their history. And this is only possible when we come together as One People. Our strength will always lie in our unity, because if we are divided, we will never overcome the ills of our society. Fellow citizens, we Liberians have had some difficult moments, but those moments do not define us. Those dark times did not define us. We overcame that gloomy history and today Liberia is a shining multiparty democracy in which freedom is supreme.
The President said Liberia overcame both war and the disease with the help of our regional and international partners – and has undergone a successful democratic transfer of power.
Unlike Sudan and Venezuela, the president intoned Wednesday, Liberia has a multi-party, active democracy in which political dissent or criticism is tolerated. “Today, we have unprecedented press and media freedom and have decriminalized free speech by law. Today, Liberia is a democracy where civil society groups and organizations can advocate openly for issues they care about. Today, Liberia is a democracy in which our integrity institutions monitor our implementation of law and policy.”
The President’s critics and protest organizers say, things are not as the government is portraying them to be.