Liberia: Qatar “Commits More Funding for Lofa Road Phase II”

President George Manneh Weah (right) and Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani  

.... However, the release did not state the value of the Qatari Emir’s commitment, rather, he promised ‘more funding for the road construction after an appeal from Weah.

It is an eerie coincidence that, as the Executive Mansion released a dispatch announcing that Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, has committed “more” funding toward the pavement of the Lofa road, Liberia’s Finance Minister Samuel Tweah nearly lost his life on the same road on November 27.

The funding for the Lofa Road, according to President George Weah’s office, would kick-off phase two of the pavement of the Gbarnga-Mendikorma Highway Project. 

However, the release did not state the value of the Qatari Emir’s commitment, rather, he promised ‘more funding for the road construction after an appeal from Weah. The President's office also remains mute on whether the project will take place during Weah's first term, which ends next year, or not. 

“The President of Liberia and Emir of Qatar met for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 2022 World Cup being hosted by Qatar,” the release said. “During the bilateral meeting held on November 27, in Doha, Thani committed more funding for the Second Phase of the pavement of the Gbarnga-Mendikorma Highway Project (Lofa Road). 

“In addition to committing to funding Phase II of the Lofa Road, the Emir also agreed to assist the Liberian Government in meeting her development goals as enshrined in the Pro-Poor Agenda Prosperity and Development (PAPD),” the release said. 

The Gbarnga-Mendikorma Highway Project, which the Weah government is claiming that the Emir of Qatar had promised to pave, is divided into two lots — with work on the first lots ongoing since 2021.  The second lot, however, has not yet been touched and is deplorable during the rainy season — hampering the agricultural productiveness of a county that is considered the food basket of the country. 

However,  the Peninsula, one of the leading English dailies in Qatar, launched in 1996,   would not confirm or deny whether the Emir of Qatar made such a promise but noted that Thani met the Liberian leader at the Al Thumama Stadium with his accompanying delegation, “who is visiting the country to attend FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 matches.”

“During the meeting, they discussed the bilateral relations that bind the two countries and ways to enhance and develop them,” the newspaper said. 

The executive mansion release, however, comes as Weah's decision to be away from Liberia for 48 days, which includes a nine-day stop in Qatar to watch the FIFA 2022 World Cup,  has been criticized greatly by the public. 

The Executive Mansion, while responding to the criticism on Nov. 26, says it was alarmed by a series of misinformation, misrepresentation, and unbalanced reportages by the likes of opposition figures and in a few media outlets regarding the President's current engagements abroad. 

According to the President's office, it has been misleadingly contended that his scheduled visit to Qatar was to watch his son play at the World Cup with no benefit to Liberia.

“The Office of the Presidential Press Secretary wishes to state for the record that the President’s trips are official international engagements and that Liberians are assured that as the president continues his international engagements, his beloved country, Liberia, reigns prominently on his mind and that he would spend every second of his time to scout for and bring back benefits, as is often characteristic of his travels, for the people of Liberia.

The President is however expected to return home on December 18, making his trip probably the longest by a sitting president since President William VS Tubman, who only traveled by land and sea, never by air. President Weah has been out of the country since November 1 — getting a daily incidental allowance of US$2,000, in addition to his per diem for accommodation, meals, and of his security detail, according to the Finance Minister, Samuel Tweah.

The incidental allowance for the President’s 48-day trip (Nov. 1 to Dec. 18) alone costs US$96,000 which excludes costs of accommodation and per diem, for himself and his entourage — irrespective of the country the president is in.

The trip, during which the President is watching his son play for the US national team at the World Cup, could cost as much as or more than his incidental allowance, once the accommodation and per diem costs of his entourage factor in.

On this 48 days trip, Weah is traveling with his wife, First Lady Clar Weah; and other senior cabinet officials, including the Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority, Lenn Eugene Nagbe; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dee-Maxwell Saah Kemayah, Sr.; the Minister of National Defense, Daniel Ziankahn. 

Others are Weah’s Special Aide, Sekou Kalasco Damaro; Ministry of State Chief of Protocol, Nora Finda Bundoo; and some members of the presidential security detail. 

And since taking office, Weah has faced public criticism for the frequency of his international travels, with critics claiming that he is abusing the privilege. The President is accompanied on these trips by a retinue of public officials, that include ministers, designated special advisers, other aides, and required security detail — all at the expense of the Liberian taxpayers. 

According to the executive mansion, the commitments are in addition to an agreement signed by the Government and ASPIRE for the construction of sporting facilities in Liberia, and training of young people and coaches in various disciplines, the president's office said. 

It added that the Liberian Chief leader, among other things, requested cooperation and investment opportunities between Liberia and Qatar in the areas of aviation, education, agriculture, forestry, health, road development, energy, low-cost housing, and infrastructure sectors as well as manufacturing.

“I look forward to the coming of Qatar Airways to build a public-private partnership with actors in the Liberian private sector, with the view of establishing a local airline in Liberia to serve the sub-region,” Weah said.

As a result of the President’s requests, the Emir has agreed and promised to send a delegation from the Government and Qatari Business community to visit Liberia in early 2023, the release added, 

“Under the Leadership of the Liberian President, diplomatic relations between Liberia and the State of Qatar continue to witness positive developments at the Ambassadorial level, and within the multilateral system; including, but not limited to the International Organizations, Inter-parliamentary Assemblies, and the United Nations; based on the shared vision to increase the prosperity of our two countries and peoples,” the executive mansion noted.