Liberia: Bong Residents Decry Unprecedented Hardship As George Weah Near Six Years of His Presidency

Gbarnga — With less than two years to the 2023 presidential elections, residents of Bong County have called on President George Weah to attempt using the remainder of his first six-year term to assuage the pains of Liberians on many fronts due to "poor governance".

Largely criticized for having failed in governance, the Liberian leader was Wednesday urged to reverse "abnormal and deviant political practices," that keep preventing the nation from progressing.

Joseph N. Tokpah, a classroom teacher of two government-run schools in Gbarnga, while assessing governance under the current regime, noted that the administration has fared poorly in terms of the justice system, anti-corruption, economic regeneration and inclusiveness.

He noted that despite promises and commitments to combat corruption, graft practices remain a menace crippling socio-economic development, including poor public service delivery, fast-falling educational standard, dilapidating healthcare, bad roads, rising unemployment that precariously breed social vices like armed robbery, youth agitation, among other ills.

Also, motorcyclist Jackson Flomo, head of the Paulma Motorcyclists Parking, called on President Weah to use the remaining part of his term in office to restructure the country for the practice of true leadership.

While the three youth leaders of the county scored the government low in performance over the last four years, they noted that the president could still use the remaining months to save the face of his government by taking the bold steps of addressing the issue of governance system in the country.

According to Alvin Fofana, a youth leader in Gbarnga, all major yardsticks to assessing the first four-year of President Weah's tenure show negative results for the current administration going by its performance in the last four years.

"The economy is in its worst form in the country. The Liberian dollars are at its weakest point while the cost of living is very high, going by the prices of commodities and services.

"Corruption, which the then-candidate of the opposition, George Weah, and his party promised to stamp out is at an unprecedented level. So high is corruption in Liberia today that it is a miracle that the country has not gone under."

"We see officials of government dishing out cash in the name of providing loans to our people in Bong County, loans that haven't had an impact on the lives of beneficiaries. I strongly feel the monies that are being dished out belong to us and are intended to convince residents to vote for the regime again. But we have been enlightening our people to accept the money and vote President Weah and his "corrupt officials" out of office in 2023."

Fofana also scored the government low on security, which according to him is another area the Weah administration has recorded the opposite of what it promised Liberians shortly before and after it came to power in 2018.

"Liberians were assured of insecurity,

that they would be able to sleep with eyes shut and be able to move around freely in safety. But as is the case with the rampant ritualistic killings in the country, insecurity is at an alarming rate in the country," he said.

"Liberians fear of unwarranted attacks at any moment of being robbed and being harmed in various other ways."

Suggesting what the president should do in the remaining months, Fofana said, "One of the ways by which President Weah's administration can redeem the pathetic situation is to be more committed to Liberians and to be more democratic."

While he agreed that almost all the problems confronting the country started before Weah's government, he noted: "President Weah can change the scenario and write his name in gold if he takes the courage to address the bad governance system in Liberia.

While assessing the past four years of President Weah, Emmanuel Flomo, another Bong resident, said: "the nation has passed through difficult times under this government and is worse off in terms of insecurity, employment, corruption and the economy."

He stressed the need, however, for President Weah to rise above ugly perceptions of ethnic bias about his leadership style.

Stephen Peabody, who's a member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change intellectual response team in Bong County, acknowledged that the president came into office at a time of serious global challenges, which had taken a toll on the economy including developed countries, adding that he had managed the situation fairly well.

Peabody admitted, however, that in the area of providing leadership, which should have united Liberia, President Weah has not done well. "His leadership style is such that most Liberians believe that this country has been skewed in favour of an ethnic group. The appointments in critical sectors are not giving other people a sense of safety not to talk of a sense of belonging," he said.

Peabody advised President Weah to, within the next few months, address critical areas that could unite the country more and solve the electricity crisis.

For William Dolo, of the Coalition for Democratic Change Bong chapter, it may be unfair to totally label President Weah's administration a failure.

According to him, though, sometimes, individuals cannot be divorced from state institutions that they represent, it is important to restrain from the error of making individuals accountable for all that is wrong with the country or its structure because the country sphere has its own weak ends, which an individual, no matter how strong, cannot alter.

VP Taylor "a democratic error" to Bong?

Meanwhile, residents of the county have also slammed Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor for her failure to bring back the dividends of democracy to the county since her emergence in 2018.

From her failure to deliver on key campaign promises to residents, including her inability to transform the Dolokelen Gboveh High School into a technical school, women empowerment, and her failure to construct a house in the county, the residents described the former first lady as "a democratic error".

"The Vice President, like President Weah, hasn't done much for the people of Bong County. She has been milking Bong County, from serving as first lady to former President Charles Taylor who spent most of his years in Bong County before going on to become president of Liberia, to electing her as senator of Bong County for 13 years before going on to become Vice President of Liberia, not much she has done for residents of the county" David Forkpah, a resident of Gbarnga said.

"It has been over 14 years now since residents of the county entrusted the vice president with political power but her failure to construct a house in the county speaks volume."

Howard-Taylor's popularity in Bong County has been on a decline since 2018, having supported three candidates in previous by-elections and lost.

In 2018, Howard-Taylor supported Senate bid of Rep. Marvin Cole, who was opting to replace her after emerging as vice president to President Weah.

She failed to influence the votes in Cole's favor as the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change lost to Independent candidate Henrique F. Tokpa.

In 2020, Howard-Taylor failed to propel her anointed candidate Melvin Salvage in the District Two by-election despite spending over approximately $10 million Liberian dollars on campaign activities.

The election defeat highlighted how the former senator's popularity has plummeted, despite campaigning with Salvage in the nooks and crannies of the districts for over two months.

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