Liberia: Pres. Weah Banks on ‘Achievements’ for Reelection

President Weah is seen in this file photo during the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change campaign launch held at the iconic Antoinette Tubman Stadium.

…. Says he is has done much and is the only capable person that can lead Liberia toward prosperity

President George Weah has emphatically declared that his administration’s ‘unmatched achievements’ over the years will lead to his re-election.

Weah, in a fervent display of confidence, told a crowd of voters in Gbarnga, Bong County on September 13 that his administration’s accomplishment over nearly six years shows that he is the best presidential candidate who can lead Liberia towards a prosperous future.

The President’s optimism is grounded in his belief that he has done more for Liberians “throughout the length and breadth of the country” than any of his competitors. He has been crisscrossing Liberia with such campaign rhetoric —underscoring his determination to secure another six-year term.

“As a ruling party and government, we have achieved a lot in the infrastructural development of the country,” Weah boasted. “Fellow Liberians, I am your President, your developer, your talk and do. Today, your children can attend public universities free of charge. Today, parents do not have to struggle to pay WASSCE fees like they did before.”

“We are here because of what we have achieved together and to also show the world how true democracy works. Some of those who claimed to be rescuers had numerous leadership opportunities to work in public service for years, and they did nothing but squander all the opportunities. The Weah-Taylor ticket that has done so well in a relatively short period.”

The President, whose administration has yet to release a full assessment of his development plan, has to his credit some achievements that fall far from his ambitious target of reducing poverty and improving the living standards of Liberians, as captured in his administration’s  Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

In terms of infrastructural development, Weah has been able to make some modest gains, particularly with road connectivity but the bulk of its ambitious road projects, which are expected to boost economic activities in previously undeveloped areas, remain under construction and are far from completion. 

In education, the President can boast some gains as well, particularly his ‘Free Public Universities Tuition Policy’, which has allowed thousands of Liberians to attend colleges nearly free — with the University of Liberia being the biggest beneficiaries.  

The policy, which has increased enrollment rates at public universities, has not been backed by quality investment, which is one of the reasons why Liberia’s Human Capital Index is as low as 0.32, performing better than only three countries in the world — out of 174 countries assessed by World Bank in a report last year.

By 2020, the human capital gap in Liberia was mainly driven by poor education — indicating that a child born today in Liberia (PDF) may attain just 32% of their potential, the World Bank said.  In the West Africa region, Liberia has the lowest human capital development together with Mali and Niger — two politically unstable countries.

On health care, the Weah administration boasts of some considerable investment in upgrading healthcare facilities, with a few new hospitals, particularly the US$20 million Emirates Hospital in Bopolu, Gbarpolu County, which was constructed with funding from the United Arab Emirates. It has a capacity of 125 beds and is equipped with all modern facilities. 

Despite the accomplishments, the President has not done much in addressing the country’s growing poverty and inequality levels. The Minister of Finance, Samuel Tweah, in June of this year, made a startling acknowledgment of the Weah administration’s failure to considerably reduce poverty as envisioned in its development agenda.

The admission came as Weah, who upon his ascendancy, promised that by the end of his six-year -term, “one million Liberians” would have greater income security, while absolute poverty would be 23 percent across 5 out of 6 regions.

Poverty in Liberia, which according to the World Bank has been on the increase since 2018, affects about  50% of the country’s estimated 5.4 million people, wiping out nearly half of the gains made postconflict, during which the poverty rate declined from 64 percent to 42 percent between 2007 and 2014.

Extreme poverty is high as well, with more than two million Liberians unable to meet their basic food and non-food needs, with rural areas suffering the most.

As for the fight against corruption, Weah hardly talks about this on his campaign trail. Liberia is ranked as one of the countries that are yet to make significant progress in the fight against corruption, according to Transparency International in its 2022 corruption perception index.

The index paints a picture of endemic corruption and ranks Liberia 142 out of 180 countries.  The ranking indicates that Liberia is among the worst declining countries globally in the fight against, topping the list of countries with stagnated and declining anti-corruption efforts.

Still, the President is maintaining that his administration has achieved a lot in a space of a few years as he tells voters in Bong County that he remains the best candidate to continue the journey towards a more prosperous Liberia. 

According to Weah, his two main opponents, Joseph Boakai and Alexander Cummings, whom he did not name directly but referenced by their campaign slogans, lack the technical knowledge and vision to move Liberia forward.

Boakai, who is the country’s former Vice President, has a campaign slogan, “Rescue Mission” slogan while Cummings is referred to as the “Fixer”. 

In his dig at Boakai, Weah claimed that the former Vice President cannot show what he is coming to rescue, as he is a ‘failed politician’.  Similarly, he said the same things about Cummings who he says cannot fix anything.

“You need to stop listening to the rhetoric of opposition politicians who are claiming to be rescuers and fixers, as they have never rescued or fixed anything in Liberia and, as such, they lack the technical knowledge to do so,” the President said in a plea to voters in Bong County, which is one of six battleground counties.

“Make the right choice to follow and vote for the Coalition for Democratic Change, the people’s party, and the party of the young people,” he added.