Liberia: What led to the Emergence of a George Weah’s Presidency?

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For us, we posit that the people’s illusion in President Weah was generated as the results of the consistent degeneracy of traditional and established political leadership in the neo-colonial Liberian state. For too long this traditional political establishment failed to address the nagging social contradictions, economic questions and usher in shared prosperity for the masses.

By Gabriel Moore Doe, Contributor

It is this discontent predicated by social decay and economic doom which accumulated and wrongly fed by the whipping up of populist rhetoric (albeit fallacious and illogical) by the CDC which germinated into the people electing Weah as a messiah to save them from impoverishment and stagnation. Any analysis on the contrary which doesn’t take into consideration these objective factors provide no scientific basis for the election of George M. Weah. 

The masses became fed up with the traditional political elites and establishment politicians who had run and controlled the political show in the country and distributed poverty, disease and ignorance to vast swathe of the population instead of ushering a glorious pattern of inclusive economic development and transformation to laid the basis for the social development of the country. The masses seeing over the years that while poverty crush them on all fronts and reduce them to nothingness the political elites and establishment figures basked in affluence and displayed vulgar wealth.  Against such backdrop, the people decided to dispense with these establishment figures and hand power over to a political deadwood. For the masses it was a total disqualification of the camp of the political elites regardless of whoever headed the presidential ticket of its different factions in 2017. 

And this is due to the fact that many different elements from such political formations, instead of mobilizing the people and allowing them have a collective ownership of the country’s productive forces and that they develop them to provide the basic needs for themselves and their offspring, have been the local lackeys  of foreign monopoly capital which owns the fundamental levers of the country’s economy and thus has put a stranglehold on the development of the productive forces for the benefit of the indigenous masses – a reason for which other sectors (Science, technology, arts, philosophy, literature) of the society have lagged behind despite the country being the oldest independent African nation. 

These glaring contradictions along with the absence of a genuine revolutionary party with the social base to tap into the mood of the people and direct the struggle to the logical conclusion led to the people entrusting political leadership to a camp which doesn’t have the revolutionary finesse and understanding of the historical trajectory: the CDC. And in the last analysis, the lack of the revolutionary party to direct the struggle, and as history, nature and politics don’t tolerate a vacuum, CDC then emerge to fill the vacuum.

Can I say that the 2017 Election saw the rise of Liberia’s version of the far-right in Europe, America and Brazil – a political phenomenon in these countries which is as the result of the degeneracy of establishment politics which has only served at the whims and caprices of the fat-cats and at the disadvantage of the workers and youth in Rome, Berlin, New York and Rio?  We could agree but the emergence of far-right politics in the aforementioned places of the world comes with popular ideas like anti-immigration, anti-austerity, anti-minority, etc. to mobilize the people. What we have in Liberia is a legion of scoundrels and venal rascals who have no alternative to neo-liberal economic methods and theories but only took advantage of the objective reality in the country, utilize the popularity of a simple footballer in order to have the opportunity to plunder the national treasury and later abuse the mass of the people when the latter have seen no future in such formation. 

The Coalition of Democratic Change (CDC) presented no platform. They campaigned with no socioeconomic philosophy. But the people did not care! Their major objective was to get rid of the failed political establishment that expressed itself in the Unity Party (UP). Thus, it must be said without timidity that the CDC has not the understanding of the contours of history to carry the struggle forward. A Liberian Political Philosopher once said a nation is built by men and women with ideas and noble objectives and not imps whose aim is to get rich quick or die trying. The CDC of George Weah is the latter and not the former. As a result, the people’s revolution will be defeated. Already, there are seething contradictions and the regime is experiencing cracks and leaks that indicate impotence and sclerosis. 

The role of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in consummating the CDC’s victory and giving her Unity Party (UP) a fatal political bloody nose in 2017 was more of political opportunism and contempt for the mass of people than what is being parroted in the mass media to make her looks like a champion of Liberia’s modern democracy – that she played a neutral role to provide a level playing field in the process of the first democratic transition in the political history of the country in 73years. 

On the contrary, it is clear to the blindest of the blind that Ellen provided moral, financial and technical supports to George Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC). This woman used the budget line of the National Security Agency (NSA) which is not subject to audit to funnel thousands of US dollars to the CDC during the height of the election campaign. She facilitated through bribe the crossing over to the CDC of influential political actors like Nimba County’s Prince Y. Johnson. On the eve of the second round of the Presidential Election, she was seen with the CDC’s candidate (George M. Weah) breaking ground for road construction in Bong County.  

This woman had along with her son Robert Sirleaf and his funny friends colossally gang-raped the republic through mortgaging mineral and natural resources to her international friends who in return gave her shares in gold mining companies, hotels, etc. The little taxes and royalties generated from these multinational corporations, instead of being put at the service of the people in education, health, infrastructure, etc., were not only budgeted to pay the huge salaries and emoluments of bureaucratic parasites in the three branches of government, the taxes and royalties were also pillaged on a vast scale. Plunder, waste, and profligacy were the staple of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – led government. So she feared that any credible government after her would have subjected her to a judicial commission of inquiry to account for her stewardship. 

Therefore, she had no choice but to strengthen the political tool of the most gullible party in the race. She did not trust that her Vice President who was the candidate of the Unity Party (UP) would provide her immunity from investigation and prosecution because of people like Varney Sherman and Wilmot Paye that he had in his circle. For her, opportunistically going into a political marriage of convenience with George Weah who was already popular among the people would have been best for preventing her from going to jail and ensuring the protection of her stolen wealth. In all spheres, she gambled rightly and I think political maneuvering is her forte. Here we are, after almost a year of the CDC’s government, there is no prospect of investigating and prosecuting Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her criminal cabal. But we can assure Ellen and her accomplices that there is no statute of limitation on the prosecution of corruption cases and the confiscation of stolen public wealth. A revolutionary government would ensure the restitution of all plundered wealth and the jailing of the economic gangsters who think the republic is a plantation where one gets hurried affluence.     

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s contempt for the masses has its origin in the latter’s overwhelming support for the April 12, 1980 Military coup d’état that took from power the 133 year old oligarchy of the True Whig Party that isolated the mass of the people not only from the economic realm as it is common in a capitalist state but also from political participation in the nation-state. Ellen, despite her father being a German and her mother a native Liberian had more tie to elements of the oligarchy and felt as part of the social formation (Americo-Liberian) that makes up such backward reactionary and parasitic oligarchy. This contempt for the people became more entrenched when the military on April 22, 1980 executed 13members of the oligarchy and the people celebrated in their mass in the streets of Monrovia.  

In addition to Ellen’s thirst for power, wealth and social status, her contempt for the people saw her support the Charles Taylor’s 1989 revenge against the people.  This revenge mission that was wrapped as the liberation of the people from the dictatorship of Samuel K. Doe massacred, slaughtered, raped and displaced the masses in abundance. It is rare in history to see a liberation war victimizes those that were to be liberated but it was done in Liberia. So Ellen had her last laugh on the people again in 2017 when she supported the most backward and ideologically bankrupt group of people to lead the charge of the republic.  

Ellen understands better. If she were someone who has love for the country and people, she would not have duped the country in the first place to in the after math follow the people in supporting the tragic farce just to hide the many shady deals she went into. She would have, like other patriots did despite the objective condition, educated the people about the danger of gambling the country to these people who have no vision and direction but are adherents of bandit capitalism that is now being used to brutally exploit the people. Just in less than one year of George Weah’s stewardship of the country, the nation is not at the brink of the abyss but is already in the abyss. Instead of resolving the contradictions that brought them to power, they have elected to widen the contradictions. 

President Weah drew up the most incompetent and inexperienced cabinet ever in the country’s history. No wonder there is inefficiency and ineffectiveness on a vast scale in the public bureaucracy. The President preaches pro-poor but he and members of his cabinet are living rich. In less than a year, the President is building gigantic private structures and purchasing land around the country. Cabinet members such as Finance Minister Samuel Tweah, Minister State Nathaniel McGill and Mayor of Monrovia Jefferson Koijee have followed suit in the acquisition of exotic properties.

The 2018/2019 budget has 89percent recurrent expenditure with high prospect of another budget shortfall. Billions of Liberian dollars printed to replace mutilated notes are reported missing at the same time the President and his handlers are seen recklessly buying and building properties. 25million USD taken from the country’s foreign reserves to mop up excess liquidity was siphoned by the President and Finance Minister as the usage of the money cannot be accounted for properly. In addition to growth constraints in the economy, President Weah’s flouting the rule of law to feather his nest. These have led to no additional investment in the economy. Multinational companies are scaling down operations while businesses in the service, wholesale and retail sectors are closing down.  

Inflation grew from 10.8percent in June, 2017 to 24percent in June 2018 according to the World Bank. People living standards are declining daily. Petite traders, market women, farmers, handicraftsmen are facing difficulties and the productivity of labor is very low in the economy. Government’s approaches to resolving the economic quagmire are perfunctory instead of sustainable. The president announced in February that he negotiated with rice importers to reduce the price of the country’s staple. On the contrary the prices of 25kg and 50kg bags of rice keep increasing. He announced tariff reduction on the importation of over two thousand commodities with the objective of reducing prices. Ironically, the prices of those basic commodities keep increasing. The president is building a military hospital when in fact the current government hospitals are without drugs, equipment, and trained doctors and nurses. 

The government committed the country to two bogus loan deals in which it was reported that 10million USD was expended to expedite the deals. The deadlines for the disbursement of all tranches of the Eton and Ebomaf deals are overdue and we are yet to hear from the government about the loan deals. In the midst of the grinding poverty, the President owns a private that was reported bought USD 30million. When the media reported the news of the private jet in May, 2018, President Weah and his handlers denied and said the jet was given to him by a Burkinabe friend was later given a road contract. The government launched a Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development that has the huge ambition of lifting 1million Liberians out of poverty in five years without taking into consideration the messy economic situation which makes it impossible to achieve such objective. Worst of all, the document adopts imported neo-liberal economic approaches that have failed the country since its cooptation into the international capitalist order after the Second Imperialist War in 1945.    

And these people run with the view that they would be given the amount of years that was given the failed political establishment. This is how mechanical they are in their understanding of historical development. It took the True Whig Party 133years to be exposed and ransacked. Samuel K. Doe was never given similar luxury of time. So was Charles Taylor. He was not even given a complete one term of office. It took 12years for the Unity Party of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to be given the exit door. Similar opportunity will not be given the CDC especially with not only the economic woes it inherited from the UP but also the lazy application of the same economic model as well as the accompanying misrule and plunder. Any government that refuses to resolve the contradictions that brought it to power must not expect the people to sacrifice and ensure the survival of such government. Like we always say, the sine qua non of man’s existence is to progress and ensure a better life for him and his offspring. And man has always adopted different methods of resistance against individuals and outmoded institutions that tend to uphold the status quo at the expense of his survival.  

Our responsibility now is never to allow the CDC use money and other forms of political maneuvering to consolidate power since it cannot create the viable material condition which will provide courage to the people to sacrifice for the perseverance of the regime. Politics and nature abhor vacuum. We must not sit and watch the vacuum be filled by another formation of the other side of the same coin, thus providing the condition for recreating the social contradictions at a higher level. The degeneracy of the Workers Party in Brazil and the ruling class proscribing of Lula Da Silva from contesting in the October 2018 Election led to Bolsonaro, the far-right reactionary filling the political vacuum in the most populous Latin American country. The failure of establishment politics in America and the Democratic Party’ s denial of Bernie Sanders in favor of Hilary Clinton (one of the prime beneficiaries of the political establishment in the US) led to the emergence of Donald Trump in 2016 even although Trump is no different from the representatives of the ruling class in America.  In Liberia, there is no time necessary than now to start the building of an alternative and genuine political platform through which the exploited masses of Liberians can express their anger and frustration and be assured of total socioeconomic emancipation. 

Gabriel Moore Doe is a Research Fellow at the Independent Democracy Forum in Liberia. He can be reached via [email protected]        

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