Liberia: George Weah, more interested in football than the presidency?

Damien Glez
By Damien Glez

A French/Burkinabé artist and editorialist.

Posted on Thursday, 1 December 2022 16:54

By Damien Glez

Liberian teeth are gnashing. President Weah is travelling abroad for a month and a half, in particular to encourage his son, who does not even play for the Liberian team, at the World Cup...

“The World Cup should not be politicised,” say those opposed to boycotting the current controversial tournament. This has not stopped Africans from scrutinising the Qatari visits of the continent’s political leaders and judging their appropriateness.

Ghana’s Nana Akufo Addo? He leads a nation that has qualified for Qatar 2022. Rwanda’s Paul Kagame? He is currently carrying out his continental responsibilities, heading up the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). Senegal’s Macky Sall? He is both the president of the African Union and of a country that qualified for the World Cup.

What about the president of Liberia? The former footballer George Weah made his continent proud in 1995 by becoming the first and only African player to receive the Ballon d’Or (awarded by France Football magazine to the best player of the year). The man who loves to use politico-sports metaphors is the guest of honour of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).

Growing discontent

The media could not help but notice that Weah’s stay in Qatar was also a family affair. Backstage at a match, the head of state was filmed hugging his son Timothy, who scored against Wales. Liberia, however, did not qualify for the finals of the tournament. For those less connected to sports news, the colours worn by Tim’s mother indicated that their son was defending the flag of the US…

President Weah left his palace a month ago, on 1 November, but does not plan to return to the country before the end of the World Cup on 18 December. The Senate had initially been informed of a stay that was to end on 23 November after “a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings with counterparts and business leaders”. However, it was not until 18 November that senators were informed that Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean would be managing the president’s business, in consultation with the country’s vice president, Jewel Howard Taylor.

There are those who consider the remote announcement of an extension of his absence to be particularly cavalier.

Will this go on until the end of the football fiesta? It seems the Qatari trip takes up only nine days of the official schedule, which makes reference to the 13th edition of the Peace and Sport International Forum in Monaco from 30 November to 3 December. President Weah is expected to participate in the US-Africa Summit on 13 December.

Whatever the destinations, more or less familial, some have cited the supposed cost of this 48-day trip for the state coffers, knowing that Weah has regularly been criticised for the frequency of his trips abroad.

There are those who consider the remote announcement of an extension of his absence to be particularly cavalier. Even so, the president has responded that the interim management of power will be handled via “telephone contact” with him. Presumably outside of match time.

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