Time for Weah to leave the pitch

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf would have a tough path ahead of her even if George Weah would get out of her way. Governing a nation without running water, widespread electricity, navigable roads outside the capital or a functioning economy would be a challenge most leaders would run away from. Johnson-Sirleaf seems to be taking the right first steps, travelling to New York and Washington for medical appointments and preliminary meetings with US officials, whose support will be critical as Liberia seeks to rebuild. Her trip has already been rewarded with a laudatory editorial in the New York Times… which doesn’t guarantee the US will keep paying attention, but is a nice first step.

Her challenger, football star George Weah, on the other hand, is making all the wrong moves. Last weekend, he made a set of inflammatory speeches that led to rioting in the streets of Monrovia. Returning from trips to meet with Ghana’s President Kufour and South Africa’s President Mbeki (two countries likely to be critical economic and security partners to Liberia in the future), Weah declared that he was the lawful president of Liberia and that the recent elections had been fraudulent. Unfortunately for Weah, the Liberian electoral commission has dismissed Weah’s charges of widespread fraud. They acknowledge that there were “errors”, but argue that these errors had “negligible effect” on the election outcome, where Johnson-Sirleaf took almost 60% of the run-off vote against Weah.

Weah certainly isn’t the first poor loser in West African politics. But he’s got a somewhat unique position. An internationally-famous football star, he’s probably the world’s most famous Liberian. And he’s unambiguously a hero to many of the thousands of unemployed – and armed – former combatants in Liberia’s long civil war. UNMIL (the UN peacekeeping Mission in Liberia) has reacted swiftly and decisively to end rioting precisely because they’re worried that any violence could spiral out of control closely. UNMIL has 15,000 troops in Liberia – the UN’s largest and most expensive peacekeeping operation – and Johnson-Sirleaf, in an interview with Germany’s Der Spiegel, says she believes they’ll need to remain in place for at least three more years.

Sirleaf and Weah met on Saturday and shook hands, which is a step in the right direction. But until Weah agrees to give up his increasingly desparate-looking campaign and join Sirleaf’s government, a lot of Liberia-watchers are going to be holding their breath as January 16th – Sirleaf’s scheduled inauguration – draws closer.

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5 Responses to Time for Weah to leave the pitch

  1. Kwasi Appiah says:

    I heard him on the radio for the first time last week on public radio. The guy was ranting the whole time, talking about justice and his right to the presidency being stolen from him. They say he only has high school education and it shows in every sentence he uttered. I have heard rumors the president elect might offer her a cabinet post (Minister of Sports?, which might help assuage his ego.

  2. Leon Q. Ledlum says:

    It is unfortunate, for us Liberians, to have some few people with a hidden agenda, to have succeedded in convincing Mr. George Manneh Weah, into believing that he was the solution to Liberia’s political woes. Mr. Weah was without doubt, a formidable footballer, who has made a lot of money also from the game of football on the world stage.

    He has no track record, to indicate what role he had in questioning the dictatorial era of Liberia, nor is he on record for expressing his political phylosophy if he ever had one. All I know is that he was a fan of Samuel Doe, with whom he played football games from time to time to entertain the late dictator.

    But as peole are so cunny and would use any means to attain their objectives, these politicos wannabies, set at using Weah to achieve just that, and knowing very well that he had nothing to bring to the reconstruction or the development of a devastated nation like Liberia. All they cared for is/was their quest to attain political power at the detriment of a wanting nation.

    They in their naivite misjudged the peolpe of Liberia, by believing in fame, instead of education and experience. The people of Liberia know better, and gave him what was his:- a solid rejection. This guy has told so much lies about what he is and not, only to often time come back to retract his own statement, or to state that he was mis-represented or mis-understood.

    He was once a Christian, then a Muslim, then back to being Christian; a Liberian, then a French citizen by naturalization, then again a Liberian, because he was not a French, but an honorary French citizen. A high school graduate, with a Master from Packwwod University in the UK, then not a high school graduate but a drop out! Report have it that he cannot prove that he even completed the 4th. grade, yet alone graduat from high school.

    Who then is Mr. George Manneh Weah?

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  4. ChrisGrear says:

    I have read most of the entries on your site, concerning George Weah.The majority of these are very negative, they are mostly attacks on the character of Mr.Weah and his ability to govern the Liberian people.
    We, first and foremost as Liberians have come to understand that a career politician is not what we need, rather a person who has the country at heart.
    The president best known for building Liberia was not quite out of middle school.
    We should also keep in mind that it is the opinins of Liberians that matters the most not a person who knows nothing about the country or has any stakes in it.

  5. Ethan says:

    You’re entitled to disagree, Chris, and you’re right that I’m hardly an expert on Liberian politics. I agree that the most relavent opinion is that of Liberians, but I think it’s important that the world as a whole watch politics in Africa closely, and I wrote what I believed to be true leading up to the elections. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for reading mine.

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