Liberia: Is VP Boakai on Medical Tourism?



— UP says NO, leader is in US to honor ‘overdue’ invitations, but gov’t sources disclose provision of US$75K for medical trip abroad

The ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) was harshly rebuked a little over a week ago by officials of opposition Unity Party when the government disclosed to the public that it has initiated contact with the family of “ailing” former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai and was to render any assistance as would be deemed necessary.

The Weah administration, according to a statement signed by Information Minister Ledgerhood Rennie, expressed its willingness to do whatever it takes to help restore the standard bearer of the Unity Party, who was recently discharged from the ELWA hospital, to good health.

“As a statesman and political leader of a national party, his well being is of utmost interest to the country,” the statement signed by Rennie said. “The government wishes to express its concern following reports of the ill health of VP Boakai. In view of the forgoing, the government has initiated contacts with family members of the former Vice President and offered to help in whatever way they deem necessary.”

But the UP swiftly reacted to the GOL statement, terming it as a diabolical lie. “The UP and family members of Amb. Boakai refutes the criminally contrived propaganda as the public severely descended on such childish, irresponsible and desperate attempts by the Presidency to play politics with a momentarily unwell condition of a statesman,” a statement from the party noted. 

“UP considers the government’s release as yet another callous attempt to save face and create the false impression that Boakai’s health condition is very serious and he is unable to pay his medical bills.”

However, the UP political leader is currently in the United States of America, though debates are rife over the reason(s) for the visit. While many are of the opinion that the former Vice President’s visit is intended to seek advanced medical treatment abroad, the party has rubbished such claim, stating that their political leader has gone to fulfill some overdue engagements.

Days after the dismissal of the government’s alleged overture of assistance to the elderly statesman, Weah’s Special Aide, Sekou Kalasco Damaro disclosed that the government provided US$75,000 to the former VP to seek advanced medical services abroad.

Damaro noted that the funds ensured the departure of the former Vice President from the country on Friday evening after being discharged from a local hospital after falling ill for some days.

UP officials have also rebuffed that claim, noting that the former VP’s departure to the US is based on a prior schedule. The UP political leader, in a statement upon arriving in the US on Sunday, January 22, described the US$75,000 as nonsense and irresponsible.

The former ruling party stated in an earlier statement that Boakai was out of the country to hold several meetings on behalf of the party with Liberians and U.S. officials.

According to the UP’s press release, the trip, earlier scheduled for October 2022, was postponed to January 2023 due to the arrival in Liberia of a high-power business delegation led by Georgia State Senator Donzella James, followed by a brief trip to Nigeria late last year.

“While in the US, the Unity Party’s Standard Bearer will hold discussions with prominent Liberian leaders in the Diaspora, government officials, business leaders, and philanthropic organizations in efforts to rally support for his mission to rescue Liberia, while also seeking interventions for the JNB Foundation.”

The visit, the UP team said, is part of a range of programs designed to strengthen economic, political, and social ties with his Diaspora support base, while also harnessing his relationship with major actors in the global leadership platform.

Gbowee’s ‘outburst’ validated?

And because Boakai’s trip to the US to honor invitation extended him since last year comes on the heels of mounting public concerns about his health condition, some Liberians, including Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee who believes that the aging Boakai could use time off to cater to his health that would lead to a meaningful retirement for him, would find it a flimsy excuse. 

Gbowee, in a defense of her stance despite stinging criticisms and condemnations from Boakai’s loyalists, stated that the truth will prevail no matter how it is denied or resisted. 

While some insiders within the Unity Party would think that Gbowee’s recent counsel came at random, others within the hierarchy of the party consider it strangely coincidental — perhaps done on purpose, triggered by hints from within.

Gbowee is thought to have had some clues about what was happening within Boakai’s inner circle, as her advice, which has since been greeted with huge condemnation and criticism, did not only ruffle the feathers of Boakai loyalists but also thwarted — at least for a few days — UP’s plan to take its leader out of the country for advanced medical attention.

Reports emerged that there were plans to airlift VP Boakai immediately upon leaving the ELWA hospital but the plan had to be delayed after Gbowee’s post.

In response to the barrage of criticisms directed at her, Gbowee said that the reactions of members of the former ruling party and sympathizers of the former vice president prove evidential that she has said the truth — because her critics’ retorts are symbolic of the stages that truth undergoes.

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is RIDICULED. Second, it is VIOLENTLY OPPOSED. Third, it is accepted as being SELF-EVIDENT,” the Nobel Laureate said, quoting revered German Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

And for those Liberians who share Gbowee's perspective, the VP’s trip to the US, especially given reports of a sizable donation from President Weah, nonetheless seem to validate her point. 

Despite all of these, the crux of the debate has again come down to a sticky question: Who is saying the truth?

And as Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science would insinuate, the best politician is the one that is most insincere and deceptive — traits many believe the Unity political leader is incapable of …not up till now.