Liberia’s George Weah: Slipping one into the net

By Nicholas Norbrook
Posted on Friday, 20 January 2023 11:41

Liberia's President George Weah attends ECOWAS summit to discuss transitional roadmap for Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, in Accra, Ghana, July 3, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko

When Liberians go to the polls in October 2023, they are likely to choose George Weah for a second and final term as president. However, Weah does not enjoy country-wide popularity

Within a year of taking office in 2018, the country was rocked by huge demonstrations against the cost of living and government corruption.

Despite initial setbacks, Weah still has a few tricks up his sleeve, beyond the widespread nostalgia for his days playing for elite European managers like Arsène Wenger, and the reflected glory of watching his son score a goal for the US at the World Cup.

Corruption haze

The first is a Teflon disposition to corruption allegations. Millions of dollars have disappeared from the central bank. Government auditors who were investigating graft have been murdered. Revelations about the many unreported properties that Weah owns in Liberia, the US and France, as well as multiple paternity suits, have raised few eyebrows.

Weah’s trump card may be economic: an agreement on a railway through Liberia from Simandou in Guinea – one of the world’s largest iron ore deposits. If the contract goes through, it means the funds will certainly help grease the wheels of domestic politics. The deal, however, remains snarled up in the junta’s current chaotic and self-interested decision-making.

If all else fails, there will be a campaign to dislodge the head of the electoral commission, whom Weah’s team believe will not help in any efforts to rig the elections.

Opposition schism

Weah’s opposition remains divided. The ‘poor man’s lawyer’ Tiawan Gongloe may rally large crowds, but he is unlikely to break through. Former vice-president Joseph Boakai is uninspirational at 77 years of age.

Alexander Cummings, a former Coca-Cola executive, was thrown in prison in January by Weah’s regime on unlikely charges of falsifying coalition documents – something that Cummings commissioned Cherie Blair to dispute in a 16-page document.

Phone network and shipping magnate Benoni Urey is also flexing his vast fortune to run, having bankrolled Weah in previous rounds. The result is likely to be a split opposition vote that will allow Weah to slip through.

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