Liberia: Joseph Boakai, George Weah Skip Liberia's 2017 Presidential Debate

Liberians are deciding who to vote for on October 10.

Monrovia — Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) standard bearer Senator George Weah and the standard bearer of the Unity Party (UP) have both confirmed to FrontPageAfrica they will not turn up for today's Presidential debate.

Senator Weah's spokesman, Sam Mannah, told FrontPageAfrica Monday that Mr. Weah due to an invitation from the European Union, Mr. Weah will attend the debate.

"I don't think he will be at the debate due to his meetings with the European Union in Brussels and also with the head of the African Union in Paris both meetings to take place September 25th and 26th.

He also met the President of Niger on the 24th of September. He traveled to honor an invitation from the European Union. The visit with the Nigerien President was just a stopover on his Way to his meeting with the European Union," he said.

However, the European Union Embassy in Monrovia informed FrontPageAfrica Monday upon inquiry that Senator Weah was not invited by them as stated by Mr. Mannah and that Mr. Weah was perhaps going on a private visit.

This would be the second time Senator Weah is failing to attend the Presidential debate, though he had promised to attend today's.

One executive of the Deepening Democracy Coalition (DDC) Malcom Joseph said Mr. Weah

Also speaking to this paper, Mohammed Ali, Deputy Spokesman of the Unity Party campaign team said the standard bearer, Vice President Joseph Boakai, would not attend the debate because he has a scheduled campaign launch in Grand Cape Mount County today.

According to him, all political parties have been advised by the Liberia National Police (LNP) to climax their rallies before or on October 4 so as to enable the police deploy its men throughout the country before Election Day on October 10.

"We've informed the organizers of the Presidential debate that our standard bearer will not attend because we have scheduled the launch of our campaign in Grand Cape Mount on September 26. Afterwards we will go to Gbarpolu and then Nimba, which is important to us," Ali said.

Debate organizers issued a statement last week confirming that seven Presidential candidates will be in attendance.

The Deepening Democracy Coalition said the debate set for September 26 at the Paynesville City Hall beginning at 1PM will address the economy (with emphasis on poverty alleviation); Youth empowerment (with emphasis on education and job creation); Land rights (in the context of natural resource management); Gender empowerment.

DDC Lists Seven for Debate

The DDC said: "Seven Presidential Candidates have consented to attend. They Include: Alexander Cummings... ANC Charles Brumskine......Liberty Party George Weah...............CDC Joseph Boakia.............Unity Party Benoni Urey................ALP Mills Jones................ MOVEE and Mcdella Cooper."

The DDC said the first six were selected based on their ranking from a recently conducted opinion poll commissioned by the Organizers of the debate, while Ms. Cooper was included because she is the only woman candidate in the Presidential race.

The Deepening Democraccy Coalition (DDC) is made up of the Liberia Media Center, The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding, The Press Union of Liberia, The Center for Transparency and Accountability, The Angie Brooks Center and the Liberia Women Media Action Committee.

These are six reputable civil society organizations. The debate is been supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa OSIWA. Invitation letters were dispatched to the candidates as a follow up to the initial invitation sent them on August 25.

On August 18 the DDC organized what has been described as the first professionally organized Presidential debate in Liberia with Urey, Cummings, Brumskine and Boakia appearing.

Weah, it can be recalled took aim at Mr. Alexander Cummings, standard bearer of the opposition Alternative National Congress following the first debate as he vowed to attend the next one.

Said Weah: "I came in last night [Friday morning] by 12 AM and I heard my opponents deliberated issues at the debate. But I want to say this, no one at that debate said the truth, and I can defend it. I know you're concerned but, but let me tell you, don't be misled when people come to you and tell you that you should vote for them because they managed US$80 million budget for or a billion-dollar company."

Cummings, in response, challenged Senator to show up at the next debate to defend his policies he outlined in his campaign manifesto.

Cummings retorted while appearing on the 50/50 talk show on Sky FM: "Let him show up in the next debate and let's have the discussion in public. Let's see who's articulate, let's see who is clear on policies.

If you read some of what they said, it's a carbon copy of what we've been saying around taking out wastes, around redirecting funds. So it's the best form of flattery when somebody copies you; he copies me on one hand and criticizes me on the other hand, but I think the Liberian people can see through that."

But Mannah told FPA Monday that the football legend's current travel means he will not be in attendance.

"He's definitely not going to be here before the debate then," Mannah declared, when pressed as to whether the CDC's standard bearer will not be in attendance.

The French newspaper, Jeune Afrique reported recently that Weah will be out of Liberia during the period of the debate.

"The candidate planned a trip to Europe on 25 and 26 September: in Paris, he should be received at the Elysee by Franck Paris, the head of the Africa Unit, and in Brussels by members of the European Commission," the newspaper reported.

Ahead of the October 10 Presidential election, Senator Weah has been meeting a number of regional leaders including Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo in February and Togo's Faure Gnassingbé in mid-August. The former international football star visited Alpha Condé.

On 23 August, at a lunch in Conakry, the 1995 Ballon d'Or spoke of the political transition in Liberia in the event that he won the election and assured the Guinean head of state, that it would guarantee judicial immunity to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the outgoing President.

Senator Weah also met Congolese leader Denis Sassou Nguesso on September 1, 2017 in his native village of Oyo and then Burkina Faso Roch Marc Christian Kaboré in Ouagadougou on 11th.

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