By David S. Menjor
President George Weah has refused to accept criticism of how his administration has handled the country, saying that he has done remarkably well.
In the same way he had previously talked about improving the lives of Liberians, Weah boasted that his administration’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), which promises to be a framework for inclusion, more equitable distribution of our national wealth, and a rights-based approach to national development, is on course and working satisfactorily since its inception in 2018.
The PAPD, among other things, called for bringing growth back to the economy by increasing productivity through value chains with emphasis on agricultural processing and marketing; and promoting the production of rice, cassava, and vegetables using new and appropriate technologies because the agricultural sector is a major source of foreign exchange and livelihood of our people.
But the results have been uneven five years into President Weah’s presidency, as developmental partners including the IMF in its Staff Country Reports Volume 2021 noted that widespread poverty and inequality undermine the country’s most valued asset, preventing people from achieving their potential — facing some form of income or food insecurity and vulnerability.
And with the 2023 Presidential and legislative elections on the horizon, the Liberian leader has used the occasion of the seventeenth anniversary of his political party, the Congress for Democratic Change on June 18, to argue that he has kept his word despite a report that around 68 percent of the country’s poor live in rural areas where poverty incidence is 71.6 percent, more than twice as high as in cities (31.5 percent), according to the World Bank’s Poverty & Equity Brief on Liberia, updated April 2021.
“Wherever you are, I want you to know that we are doing great. We are developing. It tells you that the Pro-poor Agenda is working,” Weah said amid a cheering crowd of supporters at his party headquarters in Congo Town. “I want you to know that the Liberian people are resolved to give us a chance to complete our work. This is the journey that we started in 2018 and we will finish it in 2030.”
“We have been successful in creating the ‘Hope for Change.’ We must now all be aware that to continue to be successful, we must solidify power for change through casting our ballots again through the ballot box in the democratic space and in a democratic manner freely, fairly, transparently, and successfully.”
The Liberia leader donned his party colors, a dominant blue with a mix of red and white to allude to its popular maxim of “The Blue Revolution” then threw a jab at the conduct of the 2005 and 2011 elections results — reechoing claims of suspected foul play.
Weah added that during both elections, his CDC was in the lead in the first rounds of vote count but ended up losing to the Unity Party which was less popular compared to his party — a situation he claimed was provoking but his partisans remained calm and peaceful.
“According to public records, we won the first round with 28.32 percent in 2005. But in the second round, we who were first were told that we came second. How that happened, only God one knows,” he argued. “But being a peace-loving people, we continued our quest for leadership. Now it is the same God who has brought us here today because He had a brilliant plan for us. We did not burn the country down. We kept it peaceful.”
The election in the October 2005 elections, according to the official data from the National Elections Commission, Weah placed first in the presidential poll, winning 28.3% of the vote. He was defeated by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of the Unity Party in the 8 November run-off election, having collected 40.6% of the vote, compared to Johnson-Sirleaf’s 59.4%.
And in the first round of the 2011 presidential election, incumbent President Sirleaf of the Unity Party led the presidential field with 43.9% of the vote, followed by the Congress for Democratic Change candidate Winston Tubman with 32.7%. However, in the 2017 presidential election, the party, which was the largest component of the Coalition for Democratic Change, won the presidency under Weah against former Vice President Joseph Boakai.
Weah also claimed that the peaceful manner in which his partisans have conducted themselves over the years has contributed immensely not just to the survivability of the party but paved the way for its ascendancy to power — ensuring Liberia did not go to war because he did not become president then.
He told his partisans they must remain united because in union strong success is sure, and that they should do a deep reflection on the progress made so far and the need to hold together for the betterment of the country.
Weah added that his success at the presidency means Liberia is currently a nation where everyone can participate equally despite their political, religious and ethnic differences and the nation is now a place where there are no political prisoners or prisoners of talks or portions.”
“There are so many of our dear members who have been part of the struggle but are gone to the great beyond. They did not struggle in vain. The Liberia they wanted to see is Liberia today. Liberia where they wanted to see free education, this is Liberia. The Liberia where they wanted to see development is the Liberia today. The Liberia where they wanted to see the economy stabilized is the Liberia today. Liberia today is peaceful and true democracy is at work.
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“These noble partisans laid their lives for the freedom of peace, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press. This is now the country you wanted where all participate despite our ethnic and religious differences. No political prisoners. The struggle to develop the country, economy, education, democratic processes, and peace, and prosperity continue. We were tried and tested but through perseverance, persistence and with the courage of our conviction, we eventually succeeded. As it is often said, what God has for you will always see your face.”
“Today is our anniversary but we must be aware that the struggle to develop our country continues, the struggle to build our economy continues, the struggle for an educated and healthy population continues, the struggle for growth and development continues and the struggle for peace and development continues,” President Weah said.
Meanwhile, Senators J. Gbleh-Bo Brown, of Maryland County (Independent); Simeon Taylor of Grand Cape Mount County (ANC); and Morris Saytumah of Bomi County (UP); as well as Representatives P. Mike Jury of Maryland County Electoral District #1; Johnson Gwaikolo from Nimba County District #9 (Independent); and Mambu Sonii from Cape Mount District #2 (LP); all joined the CDC yesterday and pledged their support to the reelection bid of President Weah.