23 January 2018

Liberia: 'Inadequate Planning' Eclipses Historic Inauguration of President George Weah

Paynesville City — For many the inauguration of President George Manneh Weah was filled with excitement, enthusiasm and it signaled a new beginning for Liberia, but it was the poor planning by organizers of the event that dented the ceremony.

Despite spending US$900,000 on the inauguration ceremonies leading up to Monday, the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex was almost in disarray due to poor security protocol coupled with poor planning by the organizers.

Several people were injured as the police failed to control the thousands of Liberians who had gone to see the ceremony.

Images circulating on social media showed injured people who had turned up to witness the historic event held for the first time outside of Liberia's capital, Monrovia.

There are reports two persons died as a result of a stampede outside the stadium.

FrontPage Africa has not been able to independently verify the deaths but our reporters on the scene witnessed huge crowds struggling to enter the stadium before the arrival of President Weah.

Police spokesman Sam Collins later told FrontPageAfrica via mobile phone that "a good number of people" were injured.

They were taken to the hospital after two separate gates collapsed at the outer entrance of the stadium.

Collins said the accident occurred when hundreds of people tried forcing their way into the stadium.

He, however, said there have been no reported deaths but the police are still waiting medical findings from the hospitals.

Reports on local radio stations early Monday morning quoting the office of the Chief of Protocol, called on Liberians from all walks of life to attend the event even without official invitation.

That announcement probably attracted more Liberians, as they began trooping to the SKD Complex in hundreds to witness the event.

Crowd control later appeared to be a major lapse of the Liberia National Police and other security apparatus on Monday.

Earlier, security checks at the main entrance of the stadium were abandoned after the process appeared to have slowed the entry of guests. Many guests scrambled to enter after the security protocol was discontinued.

It was to the disbelief of several guests that most of those rushing in to attend a program being attended by foreign heads of state and diplomats would not properly be screened before entering the facility.

Inside the stadium, several foreign guests were seen sitting or standing around under the sun.

And some guests described the protocol as dismal as security and protocol officers hastily paced around the podium to rearrange seats for international guests as they arrived.

As guests arrived, several ministers and former lawmakers were asked to give away their seats to the foreign guests.

Eleventh hour finishing touches during the early hours of Monday morning pushed workers to complete the stage by 2 a.m.

According to the breakdown of budget for the program, US$43,000.00 was spent on the construction of a stage for entertainment and US$12,000 for the interior decoration.

For the preparation of the venue for the inauguration ceremony, US$66,000 was expended, while US$56,000 was spent on the construction of the stage.

The venue preparation for the main event was put at US$66,000 while stage preparation was US$56,000.00. The inaugural committee also spent US$36,000 on infrastructure cleanup.

FPA tried effortlessly to contact Ambassador Jervis Witherspoon, Liberia's Chief of Protocol, to respond to inquiries about missteps at the program but he ignored several calls and text messages.


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