21 August 2017

Liberia: 'No Amount of Negativity Will Distract Me From the Presidency'

Photo: FrontPage Africa
Supporters of soccer icon George Weah during the launch of his party's campaign.

CDC standard bearer George M. Weah, atop a vehicle with the party's newest member, Gbehzohngar Findley, waves to a doting crowd of supporters as they march across town to the party headquarters

In what some are describing as a political tsunami that swept across Monrovia and its environs over the weekend, the leader of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), George Manneh Weah, has called on Liberians and all the country's development partners to ensure that the October 10 elections are conducted in a free, fair and transparent atmosphere.

Making probably the most anticipated speech in the ongoing elections campaign season at the official launch of the 2017 CDC campaign at the party's Congo Town headquarters, Weah said that as the country heads to its first, true democratic transition in 74 years, it is necessary for all, including the Liberian government, the European Union, ECOWAS, UN, UNDP and the various diplomatic missions accredited to the country, to "work assiduously to ensure that we conduct a free, fair and transparent election as the party endeavors to make Liberia a better place for everyone."

Speaking from a prepared speech to the massive crowd of supporters, Senator Weah said: "Fellow partisans, our country is at a crossroad, and the launch of the CDC campaign marks the beginning of the party's history to sustain the peace. 59 days from today, we will be going to the polls to elect a leader of our choice as we transition from one leadership to another. Nevertheless, as the champion of peace, and in a spirit of true patriotism, I will like to use this occasion to call on all Liberians and stakeholders of Liberia to commit themselves to conducting a peaceful and violence free election."

Calling Liberia the "common denominator that put us together," Weah implored Liberians to resist any action that has the propensity to tear the country apart and deride the gain we have made as a people and nation over the years, adding that the "CDC is committed to violence free election."

Interestingly, thousands of partisans, supporters, and sympathizers patiently waited for Senator Weah over 12 hours at the party's headquarter as he toured other parts of Monrovia before heading to headquarter. Partisans of the CDC have described the 2017 crowd as a first in the history of Liberia's politics, with a call from the political leader to put it into votes come October 10.

Devoted CDC partisans parade their way to the party headquarters

Sounding a warning to the NEC and election monitors to ensure that the results are free of any issues, Weah warned that "the CDC will not sit there and allow its democratic rights to be infringed upon through the implementation of an electioneering process that will be employed with irregularities, which would ultimately produce a leader that is not elected by the people."

As the CDC head assured the Liberian people of the party's commitment to ensure a free, fair and transparent election, he also applauded all partisans for their sacrifices and support to the party's movement for change over the years. "Your commitment for a genuine change and steadfastness continues to drive my vision for a better Liberia. I cannot emphasize how deeply inspired I am by your resilience and commitment to the struggle for the emancipation of our people from poverty to abundance."

Because of his supporters' commitment, Weah said he commits himself to not "betray your trust placed in me to lead our political party to victory come October 10, 2017. I want to assure you that your sacrifices will not be in vain, but will see a first round victory. As a leader, I am adequately prepared to lead the CDC to victory and the country to a higher height and endless opportunities."

Referring to his critics and detractors, he said throughout the history of the party, "I have been plagued with criticisms" and questioned on why he decided to contest for Liberia's presidency, with some even suggesting "that I stay within the football sector, because it's my area. I have always found these things to be a sheer distraction intended to keep me from focusing on my vision for a better Liberia.

"When I embarked on my journey as a professional soccer player, I heard the same criticism or negative comments with some saying that I will not make it and will be a failure. But, I did not listen to them until I succeeded as one of the greatest soccer legends in the world. Today, those that said that I was going to be a failure are now calling me chief. I am not saying this to boast, because no amount of negativity will distract me from the presidency."

Taking time from the deafening screams of applause from the huge crowd, Weah delved into his humble beginnings in an effort to draw a parallel with the majority of Liberians, who he said he wants to free from the shackles of poverty. "I will begin with my personal story. Growing up in Clara Town, it was not easy to find food to eat, especially coming up with a single parent. But, later I noted that these challenges and experiences were meant to prepare me for future challenges."

"I have come to realize the reasons for these situations in Liberia, which can be attributed to an age old problem consisting of corruption, lack of patriotic leaders, a lack of vision, and inequitable distribution of the country's national resources among others. The more I realized the root causes, the more I began to develop an interest in becoming the change agent that Liberia needs. As goodwill ambassador for UNICEF I helped underprivileged children by creating awareness and inspiring hope for them, and later realize that I wouldn't solve all the problems back home as a private citizen, which was when I developed the interest in the presidency to see a better Liberia. I want to see a Liberia were everyone will get access to basic services and our people will be distant from poverty, nepotism will be abolished and middle income life will be observed throughout the country; and not a few people will be enjoying the country's wealth. I want to see a Liberia where no one will die, because you don't have money to pay hospital bills," he said.

Making a call across the political divide, Weah went on to say: "With the love for my country and the love my people have for me, we can all help to build the country and make it a better place for all. Dr. Martin Luther King said he had a dream. I too have a dream that to Liberia, with the status quo of bad leadership, I bring in a new sense of nationalism. I have a dream to take Liberia from the average to excellence, from poverty to abundance."

According to the CDC standard bearer, for too long the people of Liberia have suffered in the hands of bad governance and lack of patriotism, and assured that under his leadership Liberians will no longer cry from bad governance and leadership. Commenting on the divisive Congo-Native dogma as preached by some parties, Weah said: "There will be nowhere in Liberia that some group will feel as second class citizens in Liberia under my leadership, because I'm running as president of Liberia and not for a certain tribe, ethnic or religious group. There will be no elite or native Liberian as head of Liberia; neither will there be a Muslim Liberian." According to Senator Weah, his leadership for change is rooted on four pillars, including power to the people, economy and jobs, sustaining the peace, and governance and transparency, adding that: "As president, I will fight corruption on a serious note by cutting wasteful spending and ensuring that enough is enough to corruption and setting-up a special court for corruption and strengthening institutions that will quickly take public officials to the special court. CDC will not reshuffle corrupt officials in its government or protect them."

In an aside to the government, especially President Sirleaf, the CDC chief partisan called on them to stop financing long term projects as the country goes to elections, and to instead focus on projects that the government believes can be completed in the remaining few months. "As we proceed to elections, the government should only prioritize major project financing, particularly the projects the government believes will be completed within its tenure and other non-essential projects should stop immediately," he recommended to President Sirleaf.

Senator Weah said the CDC government will create the enabling environment where everyone will feel part of the government, with a stake in decision making, "with particular focus on ensuring we have a middle class economy." According to him, previous governments have failed, because of their intention to build an economy from the top to the bottom, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, adding that "My Presidency will focus on building an economy that will empower everyone."

Senator Weah noted that there should be no reason why citizens of Africa's oldest republic should go to bed hungry every day and continue to live in abject poverty, adding that a "CDC government will introduce mechanized farming across the country and ensure that farmers are subsidized to enable them send their children to school and have the chance to live better lives. We will also increase budgetary allotment to the agriculture sector and ensure that we have a bank exclusively there to support the farmers by empowering them to support food sufficiency in Liberia. We will ensure that the government purchase food from the farmers and sell it locally at an affordable rate, and export some as well."

The political tsunami that many feared would bring about clashes between opposing political partisans ended with all night parties across Monrovia, which many said is a testament to political and democratic maturity among Liberians. Weah ended his speech by lauding international partners for their support toward sustaining Liberia's democracy and for their commitment to Liberia's development.

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