Liberia: Marks of a Good Leader — Dependability and Responsibility

Liberia's President George Weah in Paris, France, November 11, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes


On the morning of November 11, 1994, residents of central Monrovia were awakened by the sounds of gunfire coming from the Executive Mansion. To most people, this was an unusual occurrence because the AFL soldiers, including those stationed at the Executive Mansion, had been confined to barracks, and more so because units of the West African Peacekeeping Force (ECOMOG) were believed to be deployed at the Mansion.

As strange as it may have appeared, it was nonetheless real. A former AFL General, Charles Julu, and a band of conspirators had forced entry into the Executive Mansion without the least resistance and before long the news had spread like wildfire-the feared General Charles Julu and his men had seized the Executive Mansion and declared himself head-of-state.

The then head of the Transitional Government was law Professor David Kpomakpor, who was under the full protection of the Peace Keeping forces. But the fact that nothing was heard of or from him during those few tense hours added to the general state of confusion that had gripped the city.

But the Force Commander, Major-General John Mark Inienger, reacted swiftly to the development, deploying troops to assault the Executive Mansion and flush out the coup makers. Hours after the exercise with the public still trying to make sense of what was going on, a rather sheepish voice crackled over the national radio ELBC.

It was that of the interim leader Professor David Kpomakpor, expressing thanks to ECOMOG for its intervention. All through those tense moments, his voice was silent. It was as if the country did not have a leader. And as the renegade General Julu would later put it, there existed a leadership vacuum that he felt obliged to fill.

He was quite right. It is in times and moments of crisis that a true leader distinguishes him/herself standing above the rest and rising to the challenge with bold decisiveness. Such is the character of a leader and the greatest character a leader should possess is vision. The leader must be able to see the bigger picture is to where his team/organization is headed and what it will take to get there given its capabilities.

Put into context, President Weah has in most instances maintained a stony silence on burning issues of national concern and, instead, leaving them to subordinates to handle. In this most recent case of the attack on peaceful students by elements identified as members of the CDC-COP right across the street from the US Embassy, condemnation of the attack came from just about everywhere except from President Weah.

And when he did do so — about a week later — the matter was more or less belated. Even in the face of live video evidence showing who the attackers were, the Justice Minister and the Director/Inspector-General of Police had their lips sealed shut.

There are suggestions from some quarters that the President had not been informed and was not aware of the violent episode that occurred across the street from the US Embassy. But for Heaven’s sake, the incident was filmed and went viral around the world via live stream on social media. 

And if it is true, then it suggests that his advisors are keeping him away from actual happenings in the country. According to informed sources, breakfast discussions are more about mundane issues rather than serious issues of governance with just about every official reminding the President about what a great job he is doing. And he apparently believes it, according to informed sources.

Whatever the case, President Weah now has an opportunity to dismiss as unwarranted expressed fears and concerns that nothing would come out of the matter. The main perpetrators have already been identified on social media and they are known to the Police. 

Trying as hard as he could to put a spin on the development, Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie, terming the violent attack as a mere confrontation between opposing student groups, did not hold water in the eyes of the public.  

It can be recalled that in the wake of the brutal killings of senior government auditors and LRA staff, President Weah, held his peace and when he did break the silence, he went completely off track, suggesting that the LRA officials found dead in a parked vehicle on Broad Street, were lovers, making it out in a vehicle when they met their untimely end from inhalation of carbon monoxide emission. 

Similarly, in the case of the suspicious death of Barthen Nyenswa, head of the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) who reportedly fell from an open door on a one-story flat, President Weah, in response to the development urged all Liberians to purchase CCTV cameras for their own protection, once again casting a distinct impression of leaving the people to fend for themselves rather than holding the state security responsible for the protection and safety of the public. 

In this recent case, President Weah has come out expressing condemnation but he has done so belatedly. In the opinion of the public, such belated responses to incidents and crises of such nature convey an impression of a leader who is either not in charge, far removed, or simply does not give a heck, as long as he is happily going about his business far removed from the humdrum of life in a broken economy.

As little or unimportant as it may seem, President Weah has a crisis on hand brought upon himself by the doings of those professing filial allegiance to him. Now he has been challenged by the international diplomatic community in Liberia to ensure justice by bringing the perpetrators and instigators to book.

But he had no need to wait for such a challenge from the international diplomatic community before responding. As a leader, he must be able to listen to others, observe what is going on around him and must be willing to change course when necessary or if needs be. And above all, he must at all times display a sense of responsibility and dependability.

Now he has to demonstrate that the Liberian people can depend on him by ensuring that the culprits do face unfettered and unadulterated justice. Such is the mark of a good leader.