By Prince Kurupati
The move from being an international superstar to being the President of a country was always going to be difficult for George Weah more so considering the state of the country he inherited. In his inauguration speech, Weah did acknowledge the worrying state of affairs in Liberia stating, ‘Our economy is broken; our government is broke. Our currency is in free fall; inflation is rising.’ He also acknowledged the high rate of unemployment saying ‘Unemployment is at an unprecedented high and our foreign reserves are at an all-time low.’
Faced with such difficulties, no one would have been ridiculed if they had suggested that a man without the requisite leadership experience such as George Weah could help curb all the problems facing Liberia and take the country to the next stage. Weah, in his first 100 Days in Office has however proved that he is the solution to Liberia’s problems.
Impressive international offensive
Weah knew from the word go that any major developments in Liberia would need the help of foreign governments and other international actors. On that front, Weah didn’t waste time to start his forays into other countries soliciting for help in developing Liberia. Abroad, the first port of call was France. In France, Weah met President Emmanuel Macron who he urged to influence the European Union in extending EU assistance for rebuilding his country. The European Union and Liberia have already opened discussions on how the two can best help each other move forward. Any support that Liberia is to get from the EU would be massive to the people of Liberia.
On the African continent, Weah has already visited all of Liberia’s neighbouring states and ECOWAS members including Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria. The fruits of these trips are visible for all to see. Nigeria pledged to help train Liberian teachers; the agreement is between the two governments of these states thus Liberians willing to train as teachers and approved by the government will have all their expenses catered for by the government. Ghana has also stated that it will be sending some of its doctors to work in Liberia as a way of reducing the high doctor-patient ratio, Liberia is currently facing. Cote d’Ivoire, on the other hand, has promised electric power from its grid. With Liberia looking for FDIs, power is one element that it desperately needs.
Unifying the nation
In his country, Weah has prioritised unity more than anything else. Liberia’s civil war ended in 2003 but the tensions between different ethnic groups can still be felt till this day. recognising that unity in strength is the most important thing Liberia need right now, Weah’s first act when he was sworn into power was to visit Joseph Boakai, his opponent during the elections and Liberia’s Vice President. Many Liberians saw this as a gesture of goodwill; during that visit, Weah stressed the importance of forgiveness and uniting for the common goal which is to move the country forward.
Another important step that Weah took soon after his swearing in ceremony was to cut his salary by 25 percent. Political observers in the country lauded this development saying that it shows Weah’s commitment to deal with the ever-increasing gap between the poor and the rich which has resulted in dissatisfaction among the ordinary folk.
Liberia a country for all
Weah recently announced his plans to amend the constitution to allow foreigners acquire citizen status while removing the law which prohibits foreigners from owning property. In his drive to promote investment, this is a crucial step which is going to inspire confidence among foreign investors and will lead to an influx of capital once all the prohibitive laws are removed. This will not just help to improve the country’s economy but it will also help in alleviating poverty, raise the standard of living and reduce the high unemployment.
It’s not smooth sailing however for Weah as he has faced criticism on some fronts thus far particularly in relation to the issue of corruption. Many argue that Weah has not deviated from the way his predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf conducted herself when it comes to corruption. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was often accused of employing and putting her close relatives to positions of power in various state bodies. Weah has had to face similar criticisms when it “emerged that three of Weah’s brothers had been employed at the Freeport of Monrovia. They were recruited by the National Port Authority’s acting managing director Cecelia Cuffy-Brown, a Weah appointee. Not only was this reminiscent of former president Sirleaf’s appointments of family members to key positions, but an investigation by FrontPageAfrica suggested that the new recruits were being paid four times the salaries of even the heads of their departments.”