Authored by Julius T. Jaesen, II
It is always a good thing to take a reflective and retrospective look at promises made by politicians who sought our votes to ascend to the helm of political power. In western democracies, politicians are judged on their policy promises they sought political power on in order to create a better society that works for all and not few. There, citizens vote politicians who offer real-life solutions to their problems. But when politicians failed to live up to their promises, they risk the possibility of getting re-elected.
In a democracy, an election campaign is supposed to be an open discourse of persuasion. Ideally, candidates compete for popular support by presenting reasoned arguments about why they are most qualified for election to office. Voters then choose the contender whose policy positions most closely resembles their own set of preferences. Quite ridiculously in Liberia and many countries in Africa, however, elections are struggles over the access to the resources controlled by the state, which are the biggest prize in society. Given these high stakes, politicians resort to a variety of means – whether fair or foul – to attain public office. To be sure, candidates go through the process of presenting programmatic promises.
Also appallingly disgusting, in Sub-Saharan Africa, politicians are voted in power either on the basis of their tribal backgrounds or the size and depth of their pockets to respond to temporary joy and happiness of the voters. In this case, voters don’t take delight in issue-based campaigns; rather they found ease in the little dollars politicians offer in exchange for their votes. Contrary, Liberia’s case in Africa is slightly different. Politicians are elected to power either by being warlords or soccer athletes. Charles Taylor’s rise to political prominence in Liberia and perhaps Africa and the world, coupled with the election he won in 1997 was anchored on the blood-like and genocidal revolution he launched that took away almost 300,000 lives and destroyed properties valued over billion dollars. Like Taylor, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s claim to fame was the role she so well played as a notorious war financier and coups plotter. She plotted almost all coups that led to the removal of sitting governments from power. But for Weah, he was voted to the helm of power not because he extended compassionate hands and arms to Liberians, especially in difficult times, but it was simply and squarely on the basis of playing football for the Lonestar of Liberia.
Truth be told, Weah is not a conventional and traditional African politician we know. There is a proverb that says, “African traditional politicians say with their mouths what is not genuinely from their hearts”. They often build bridges with their mouths where there exist no water and paved roads where there is no land. They speak and make promises not from the depth of their hearts but from the tip of their lips. Certainly, in Africa, these politicians have existed for centuries. But for George Weah, he was pictured to be a sincere and honest leader who doesn’t deal in rhetoric and lies, considering that he himself came from poverty and the very dread of our society. So, after his inauguration, the hope of a better Liberia under his administration was high. The expectation by many Liberians, especially the poor and unlettered who voted him thought that he would deliver to expectation and make Liberia indeed, “A Glorious Land of Liberty”. Many people believe that Weah could not be like those dangerous masterminds and egoistic politicians who are unconscious about the well-being of the people that we have had for almost two centuries. But disgustingly and cruelly saddening, Weah and his officials are even worse than what people think of the traditional and conventional politicians we have had for years.
While it is evidently true that he was voted not on his campaign promises made in the 2017 presidential and legislative elections, yet his re-election will be squarely and fundamentally based on his campaign pledges of enabling a just society that provides opportunities and means for citizens to grow and live a dignified life. Since he now sits in the driving seat, Liberians will not reelect him simply because he played for our country. They’ll judge and reelect him by looking at the data and stats to see how many lives were improved and transformed under his administration. Certainly, our people are now concerned and are searching to know the promises made by the President in the election that brought him to the presidency. Hence, my article seeks and endeavours to lift Weah broken promises made to Liberians.
In 2017 presidential and legislative elections, Weah’s political manifesto presented to the public was anchored on four major pillars:
1. Power to the people
2. Economic and jobs
3. Sustaining the peace &
4. Governance and transparency
Certainly, these are the pillars contained in his so-called Pro-poor Agenda that he campaigned on, even though he was not voted largely on the above pillars.
Under pillar one, “power to the people”, Weah opined and I quote verbatim, “Our people have suffered in the hands of bad governance and unpatriotic leaders, but I stand here today to assure you that you’ll cry no more under my leadership as President of the Republic of Liberia. No more will you go to hospitals and be rejected due to lack of money under my presidency”. This was one of the promises made by the president during the official launch of his campaign in the 2017 elections. But outrageously mocking, not only that our people have been rejected at hospitals; but sneeringly, almost all of our health facilities across the country are shutting down due to lack of gasoline to run them. Nurses, doctors and other health workers are not being justly treated by Weah and his government. Their salaries even though delayed for months by the government, have been slashed to the lowest – frustratingly discouraging them to attend to patients with utmost care and attention. Our hospitals have turned into cemeteries and mortuaries. Is this what you called power to the people? Certainly, this can never be power to the people. Young people are graduating from universities and secondary schools with zero hope of getting jobs and living a better future. Our market women who voted President Weah are today living with deep-seated regret – as their businesses crumble and no longer payoff due to the decaying state of our economy under a Weah’s presidency. Painfully sickening, our young girls are turning into street prostitutes more than ever before in order to find a livelihood. Certainly, young girls are forced into early boyfriend and girlfriend relationship to feed their parents. Yes, they are the ones made as breadwinners for families. Kids are not going to schools simply because parents can no longer afford to pay their fees. Also excruciatingly disgraceful, married men have been made irresponsible in their homes when it comes to meeting their families’ needs and obligations simply because they have been laid off their jobs because of a falling private sector under a coconut head president. There is a hyper-increase in the number of pressure patients at all health centres across Liberia due to the unbearable burden of hardship and excruciating poverty in our home soil. Pressure has become the new normal sickness for young people between the ages of 18 to 25 – doubling malaria that is resident with us.
Regrettably beyond belief, Liberians now likened their normal days to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration – where they now see their existing future order than Weah’s economic quagmire and woes. So, where is the promise that our people will cry no more under your leadership, Mr President? Forlornly and pitifully, I still see Liberians die untimely death more than ever before and their dreams and visions being ushered to the graves or burial chambers due to your reckless and ruthless misrule of the country, Mr President. Now, where is the commitment to your promise that our people have suffered in the hands of bad governance and unpatriotic leaders but will suffer no more, Mr President? Were you mocking our people and eulogising their unbearable suffering, Mr President? Certainly, I believe you were with no atom of doubt and peradventure.
Under the same pillar of power to the people, Weah pledged: “Ordinary Liberians will be given protection and the opportunity to succeed. My administration will seek to build a middle-class economy so that our citizens can be middle-class citizens. Previous governments have failed because they focused on building the economy from the top to the bottom where the rich keeps getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. Our economy will focus more on empowering the lives of the masses and improving their livelihood. I want to see a Liberia where market women and petty traders will have a sense of opportunity”. Today, ordinary Liberians live in their own country as though they live in the desert or as refugees elsewhere. The economy under Weah doesn’t lift the dreams of ordinary people. Liberians now, and even more than ever before, are made spectators in their own economy contrary to Weah’s empty promise that they will not be made spectators in their own economy. Mournfully, market women and petty traders no longer have that sense of opportunity under Weah than they considerably had under Ellen due to the imposition of an unjust tax system that discourages them from doing business. Under Weah, most of the government’s contracts are given to foreigners over decent Liberian entrepreneurs. Even Liberian citizens who are in the hospitality industry, the hotels, are not fairly treated. Hotels owned and operated by foreigners are given first-class treatment and preferences over our own people. So then, where is that middle-class Weah’s government promised? Ordinary Liberians are convinced that under Weah’s Liberia, they are living like second class citizens in their country. The economy is only benefiting a few political elites in the Weah’s corrupt circle and foreign business merchants. Weah and his officials are living in extravagance and opulence while the masses of our people live on wrangled bellies. The economy doesn’t favour the ordinary people but rather the corrupt elites in Weah’s cabal. No President and his officials whose policy is pro-poor will fancy in three pieces suits while their people can’t highly find a daily meal.
Under economic and jobs creation, George Weah opined in his campaign promise, “Fellow Liberians, there should be no reason at 171-year-old and the oldest independent republic in Africa, a bulk of our people still go to bed hungry and live in abject poverty. I intend to introduce a revised poverty reduction strategy where my administration will invest heavily in the agriculture sector by introducing merchandise farming and implementation of the food security program through intensive and domestic agriculture initiatives. We’ll go from county to county to encourage our people to get into farming. We’ll invite foreign partners for specialised interest in rice production and cash crops to teach our people professional farming. We’ll provide subsidies to our farmers to enhance their lives and make available scholarship to encourage more students to study agriculture. We’ll increase the agriculture budget”. When this pledge was made, Liberians in the agro-sector, especially rural farmers, celebrated that a long-awaited dream was coming into reality. They thought it was an opportunity to invest in them as local farmers by providing the necessary skills and financial support to take a leapfrog from subsistence farming to large-scale production of agriculture produce. As for Liberian academics, it was welcoming news giving that our primary exports/commodities, rubber, iron ores, etcetera, plummeted on the global market. Therefore, there was an urgency to move our economy into diversification. Paradoxically, the government of Weah has abandoned the agriculture sector that holds the key to lifting millions of people out of poverty. Where is the increase in the budget of the agriculture sector as promised by Weah? Under Weah, the budget for agriculture still swings below 3 per cent contrary to the 10 per cent support to the agro-sector recommended by AU and other international bodies to African leaders. Growth in the agro-sector still remains elusive under Weah and his Economic Management Team as smallholder farmers are faced with plentiful challenges. Many Liberians were of the conviction that Weah’s’ government as promised, would actually invest in agriculture and help increase smallholders’ access to the markets by improving the quality of production; building roads that link farms to local markets; constructing storage and processing facilities and providing marketing advisory services and facilitating links with exporters and well-established private companies through central farming. There is a lack of subsidies to local farmers as promised.
Today, Mr President, we are at 173 years with half into your administration but yet still poverty has worsened. The current World Bank data released on July 30, 2020, placed the poverty rate at 68.9 per cent in 2020 as opposed to 55.8 per cent in 2019. Most indices have unanimously echoed that more people to fall below the poverty margin.
Under governance and transparency, President Weah promised and I quote verbatim, “As your President, I’ll fight corruption in the strongest way by cutting wasteful spending and creating a zero-tolerance policy. I will create a specialised court to fight corruption decisively. And I’ll strengthen the Legislature that will quickly bring corrupt officials and public servants to book. There will be no recycling of corrupt officials in my government, and if you are caught for corruption, you’ll not work in my government. This is a promise to the Liberian people”. But when asked as to whether the promise of a fight against corruption has been kept incredibly, one needs not to be told that it is a mirage and dead promise. Liberians are not doubtful that the Weah government is the most democratic corrupt government humanity has ever known. We can see state-sponsored robbery under the Weah regime. We see boys and girls in Weah cabinet who are not well regimented in thoughts and character but take solace in looting the public treasury more than what we said with our eyes under the Johnson-Sirleaf era. Yet, we saw how our 25 million US dollars intended to mop up excess liquidity of Liberian dollars on the market got vanished and stolen by Weah’s Economic Management Team without any remorse after the Kroll report exposed them. Oh yes, we are inclined to how our donors’ money in the Central Bank of Liberia was used by Weah and his officials without the expressed approval or knowledge of our donor partners – something which prompted a joint press release from diplomatic missions in Liberia exposing the thievery of the government. Certainly, we do not need to be told that Weah government is more corrupt than all other governments combined, especially when we see Weah who was dragged to court for child support and couldn’t renovate both his Rehab residence and house on the 9th Street now buys lands all over Liberia and constructing palaces and condominiums on them while Liberians wallop in the cesspool of acute hardship. Indeed, we need not be told when we can see Weah and his Jamaican brother-in-law are involved with illicit logging in the southeast and are wiring millions of dollars out of Liberia to Jamaica annually while public hospitals and schools are underfunded. The evidence to prove the corruptibility of Weah and his cabal of thieves are aplenty. We can see and yet inclined to how through state loot and plunder, Weah’s official acquired properties in less than a year. And this, the Chairman of Weah CDC party, Mulbah K. Morlu, in December press conference, attested to the unexplained wealth and properties acquired by cabinet officials in a few months after Weah’s ascendancy and called for the setting up of a special investigative committee to establish how Tweah, McGill and others bought mansions and palaces overnight. Truly, we saw under the watchful eyes of Weah how his government entered into dubious loan schemes with 419 companies, ELTON and ELBOMA, using Liberia to pocket millions of dollars under the pretence of building coastal roads in the southeast. It sounds laughable and ludicrous when Weah promised that he’ll not recycle corrupt politicians. You still have corrupt officials from Ellen’s government in your administration. Also half into his administration as president, there is no political will to establish a specialised court to fight corruption in the public sector. Where is the wasteful spending are you cutting down when you ride in your presidential convoy additional four bulletproof cars valued over 1.9 million?
About the author
Julius T. Jaesen, II, holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the African Methodist Episcopal University on 34 Camp Johnson Road. He is a licensed grassroots political organiser, message development specialist, essayist, biographer, poet and researcher on Harvard University Academia.com and Grin.com. He is also a published author and currently an Associate Managing Editor at the Parrot Newspaper. He can be reached on the following:
Email addresses: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
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