Many Liberians here at home, and perhaps those in the Diaspora, are being embroiled in whispers, some grunting, over what appears to be the consolidation of companionship and amity between you and the political leader of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), George Manneh Weah. Many are asking the questions: is this a cat and mouse game what will in the end leave a victim and victor? Is it a solid sign of genuine national reconciliation and unity? These and many other questions are being traded amongst ordinary citizens, as well as other politicians, primarily because both of you represent the most divergent political forces that have influenced or impacted the country’s recent democratic culture. From campaign maneuverings and images of 2005 and 2011, you and George Weah define the political dichotomy, or alternatives if you would, for civic-minded Liberians during these contemporary times.
For good or for worse, though your appointment of the CDC strongman is still a subject of debate amongst pundits who are grappling with its meanings and clear focus, it has also become a major source of obscurity over alternatives both of you had represented. While we wouldn’t like to posit the contrasts between you and Ambassador Weah in the last seven years or so, and which had shaped the political taste and direction of millions of Liberians, and perhaps international actors, Mr. Weah’s appointment for a fulltime job in your Government—assuming that is the implication of the job—confirms critics’ long-held speculation that you have been endeavoring to take back the nation to an effective one party state which they contend you are a consummate progeny of.
Signs of such an endeavor have come slowly, solidly. We recall it started with radio-talk-shows-promoted “intellectuals” who bashed you venomously. These were young political enthusiasts, or lackeys who, in the name of their former political parties, took to the airwaves and criticized every policy and stance you took as President. It was not long when the Liberian public deciphered the true colors of these “political activists”—seeking your attention for public job. Today, the airwaves are resting from the noise of these jobseekers. You have successfully swallowed and co-opted them and quelled them without causing a pain and drop of blood.
Having succeeded at that front, you took on the giants themselves—longtime political parties and the bigwigs, who had commissioned their “young activists” to pick at you. By this time, you may have extracted vital intelligence from the young political defectees on the weaknesses and soft spots of their leaders. So, apparently, when you came out with the strategy of “negotiated political settlement—jobs sharing”, be it through mergers, or important cabinet posts, or placement on board of directors of lucrative parastrals of Government, the trick worked quickly and effectively.
Between that time and now, and despite your sporadic infiltration of the Congress for Democratic Change and your successively baiting of a vital segment of the party, George Weah and the CDC represented the only reason why anyone would be tempted to call Liberia a multiparty state. All other parties had gone into near-oblivion; courtesy of your magnanimous offer to jobs, cash and other favors.
There might be some Liberians who may argue that your successful co-optation of every known opponent into your “Government of national reconciliation” is welcoming and necessary, as it is in sharp contrast to the regimes of yesteryears which used brute force, intimidation and even murder to silence dissent. And in the view of the proponents of this school of thought, you have made Liberia a home all Liberians and Government an institution of all without discrimination. This is the same argument they appear to be putting up in defense of your appointment of George Weah.
But whether the silencing of dissent comes in the physical elimination of opponents or by means of jobs, cash and other favors, both lead to one particular situation—one party state or autocracy—which you and others fought and were bruised for. It returns the nation to so-say-one, so-say all. It wrecks the enormous resources, time and energy dispensed to attain multiparty democracy. It reduces confidence that the future is safe from the onslaught of “freedom fighters” who may want to justify their fight on the nation’s return to one-party state.
Certainly, that is not the legacy you would want to leave behind in 2017 and beyond. So, Madam President, why don’t you leave or spare George Weah of this “Government of reconciliation” charm that has clawed away every known opposition and created the semblance of autocracy. Why don’t you help Liberians, the people for whom you are credited for fighting for justice, democracy and multipartyism, to be able to have political alternative now and in the next few years to 2017? Think about these questions as we enter the New Year. Thanks for you attention.