17 January 2013

Liberia: Weah, Stop Allowing 'Silence to Mean Consent'


For the past fortnight, Mr. George Weah, political leader of the main opposition Congress for Democratic Change, has come under intense criticisms for accepting appointment as Peace Ambassador to spearhead the national peace and reconciliation process in Liberia when he remains an active politician.

His critics accuse Mr. Weah of conflict of interest for keeping the leadership of a political party and serving simultaneously as Peace Ambassador to reconcile the Liberian people, a role they argue, must be handled by a neutral person.

The fact that Mr. Weah, following his appointment as national reconciler, announced a campaign to contest the senatorial seat expected to be vacant in 2014, gives more steam to the avalanche of criticisms against his purported conflicting roles.

In one criticism, a former junior government official called on Mr. Weah to either resign from the Peace Ambassador position or that as political leader of the CDC because his political role as well as his ambition to contest in the 2014 senatorial elections would politicize the reconciliation process.

"This will invariably prejudice any reconciliation initiative by Mr. Weah who will be perceived by his political rivals as a competitor," insisted the critic, a former assistant minister of Afro-Asian Affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

The critic recalled how, to avoid conflict of interest, Mr. Weah's UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador portfolio was withdrawn after he decided to contest the 2005 presidential election. The critic also cited how Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was coerced to relinquish her job in the UN system after declaring intentions to pursue her political agenda in 2005, insisting, "It is only fair and honorable for Mr. Weah to do the right thing by giving out one of his roles."

For national harmony and growth of our nascent democracy, the critic directs all "political leaders and would-be statesmen, in particular, to demonstrate leadership and virtue by removing any and all impediments in the way of genuine reconciliation."

We express surprise that this call, coupled with a similar one earlier from Lofa County Rep. Clarence Massaquoi, has so far gone without official reaction from either the hierarchy of the CDC or Ambassador Weah

We warn that silence on such a very important national debate can establish indelible truism of the adage that 'silence means consent', which, of course, in rare cases can be to the contrary. We mean constraints beyond the control of certain individuals in certain cases at certain times, which coerce them to defer reactions.

But being on the center stage at the moment obliges that you--Mr. Weah--break silence on these criticisms.

Therefore, Mr. Weah, you cannot escape the onus to break silence on the accusation that serving simultaneously as political leader of the CDC and Peace Ambassador to reconcile the Liberian nation and people is a conflict of interest.

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