By Benjamen Quaye
A Liberian opposition figure recently posted in his widely read social media group (The Darius Dillon Center for Intellectual Exchange) a story about a political play between President Edwin Barclay and William V. S. Tubman. As the story goes, Edwin Barclay was president of Liberia whose term in office was coming to an end. He wanted a successor who would both protect him and allow him to pull the strings of power behind the scenes. The successor would in effect be a placeholder for Edwin Barclay to return to the Presidency after 4 years. The gambit worked to the extent that William Tubman agreed to be the placeholder. After Tubman became President, Edwin Barclay only saw Tubman on front pages of national newspapers. Tubman went on to rule Liberia for 27 years.
Similar ruse has once again revisited Liberia’s body politic. This time, President Ellen Sirleaf is Edwin Barclay and President George Weah is William Tubman. During the 2017 presidential election that would determine her successor, President Ellen Sirleaf abandoned her political party and natural successor in Vice President Joseph Boakai for George Weah and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), with the understanding that Weah would protect her and her family from the unsubstantiated fear that Joseph Boakai would prosecute her if he won the presidency. The political nuptial was made obvious when most of President Sirleaf’s ardent supporters switched their support from Joseph Boakai and the Unity Party to Weah’s CDC.
Prominent among those who abandoned party loyalty and principles at the urging of Sirleaf are current Information Minister, Eugene Nagbe and current Foreign Minister, Gbezongar Findley.
Eugene Nagbe was the General Secretary of Sirleaf’s ruling party, the Unity Party. He resigned his post in the party to endorse Weah’s CDC. The most brazen show of political chicanery was Findley’s endorsement of Weah. Findley had just endorsed Joseph Boakai 3 weeks earlier. It was rumored that Sirleaf had proffered him as Vice Presidential running mate to Joseph Boakai. Boakai, it is believed, rejected Findley as his running mate.
During the campaign to the runoff election between Weah and Boakai in 2017, Weah and the CDC switched their message from the goal of fighting the excesses of the Sirleaf government and prosecuting the corrupt, to protecting and defending Sirleaf and her family. Weah even suggested in a televised interview that his goal was to protect Sirleaf and her family. In a reciprocal move, Sirleaf, in an arrogant display of disrespect to Boakai, invited Weah to a ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the Gbarnga – Voijama highway, the funding for which Boakai helped arrange.
The combination of time and scandal has collapsed the Sirleaf-Weah relationship. Sirleaf’s son, Charles Sirleaf, the deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia, together with other former and current officials of the bank, has been indicted by the Weah government for allegedly printing the country’s currency to the tune of billions of dollars without legislative authorization as required by law. The move by the Weah government to treat Charles Sirleaf as a common criminal is said to have the former President peeved.
The former President is not going to sit aside quietly, leaving her son to the whims of the Liberian justice system. She will fight with her might; and might she does have. She is better connected in the international community than Edwin Barclay was. Her fraternal tentacles extend to the AU, ECOWAS, MRU, IMF, World Bank and the paid lobbying industry in the US. Former President Sirleaf may attempt to initiate diplomatic isolation of the Weah government and block funding for Liberia through her friends in international organizations like the World Bank and IMF. Her frontline foot soldiers are currently entrenched in Liberian diplomatic posts abroad. However, Liberia can take solace in the fact that unlike in past Liberian governments where the international community saw her as a social justice change agent, her twelve years as Liberian President removed the veil of pretense and exposed her political corruption. Her friends in Washington do not have the power to influence the Weah government. She thumped her nose at ECOWAS leaders when they advised her against interfering in the Liberian elections. I do not think they will be eager to address her grievances now.
Aware that she cannot win a fight with President Weah, she will initiate negotiations to suppress the case against her son and the others that were indicted. President Weah should not give in to the ploy of negotiation. The laws of the Liberian state must be enforced, and that justice must prevail for the Liberian people. President Weah should begin taking the following actions:
President Weah must purge her loyalists in the government, especially those assigned to diplomatic posts and in organizations such as the AU, ECOWAS, UN, MRU, and the IMO.
President Weah must review all concessions and contracts signed by the Sirleaf government to ensure that they comply with Liberian law.
President Weah must review the history of printing Liberian currency from 2006 to 2017 to ensure that no excess currency was printing during that period.
President Weah must call in reputable international firms to conduct a complete audit of the government covering the period from 2006 to 2017.
President Weah must respond to the call of the Liberian people to open a war and economic crimes court in Liberia.
With these preemptive steps, President Weah will be able to wall off and asphyxiate any tactical moves by former President Sirleaf to undermine his government. He will also renew the faith of the Liberian people in his ability to govern, something that for the past 12 months is moribund.
About the Author:
Benjamen Quaye resides in Seattle, Washington State, USA. He can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org
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