Liberia: Weah Challenges Cummings

— War of words heats up

President George Weah rarely responds to every criticism but, a scathing rebuke of his administration, delivered via an open letter by opposition leader Alexander Cummings, has ignited a fiery riposte. 

In a 1,868-word retort, Weah accused his opponent of  hypocrisy on grounds that he (Cummings) dined and wined in the very system he (Weah) is working “so hard to fix — yet he wants the public to believe that he has morphed into an advocate of the people — “the same ones you neglected during the years of civil upheaval.”

While the President did not provide proof of his accusation, he, however, used the opportunity to question Cummings' patriotism, asking where the Alternative National Congress political leader when sixty-plus concessions, awarded by the government “in which you served, were found to be bogus, illegal, and inimical to the interest of the Liberian people.”

“Let us take the debate to our people because they are the ultimate decision-makers on the issue of leadership in Liberia,” Weah said. “Instead of seeking to use unconstitutional means to circumvent the democratic process, come and face me at the ballot.”

“Never again will Liberia return to the dark days of violence. All those wanting to take state power must therefore submit to the will of the Liberian people because it is only through peace, unity, development, and democracy that our beloved nation can prosper.”

The President however noted that his response to Cummings has inadvertently accorded the opposition politician the attention he had long been seeking to revive a dead political stature, for which weekly press releases and statements which make unsubstantiated claims are issued.

Weah said that he owed it to the people of Liberia, the general public, and the world over, to correct the completely erroneous characterizations that Cummings and his “clique continue to spew out.”

He then questions the motives of Cummings to release to the public the open letter, which was meant for him even though he has tried to make himself available at all times to hear complaints. 

“I  have therefore endeavored throughout my tenure in office, to ensure that stakeholders such as yourself have the requisite access that will afford the opportunity to raise views, positions, and concerns that you may have on various issues of national interest with me and officials of my administration.”

“So when a communication supposedly meant for my attention appears first on the front pages of newspapers and social media, it is obvious that the intent is to achieve a political objective; an objective that has eluded you at the ballot box. But I am glad that you have finally found your voice,” the President noted. 

Cummings, who in time past has taunted the President with criticism, had on August 26, accused Weah of not taking strong enough actions against Nathaniel McGill, Sayma Syrenius Cephus, and Bill Twehway — the  three officials of his government who has been sanctioned by the US  “for their involvement in ongoing public corruption in Liberia.”

McGill, Liberia’s minister of state and the president’s chief of staff, is accused of a variety of corruption schemes, including directing warlords to threaten political rivals, bribery, and the misappropriation of state assets.

Cephus, Liberia’s solicitor general and chief prosecutor, is accused of shielding suspected criminals, blocking investigations into government corruption, and interfering with evidence to ensure the conviction of political rivals. Bill Twehway, managing director of Liberia’s National Port Authority, is accused of funneling money from the port into private accounts.

But the President's action to suspend them, according to Cummings, is tantamount to thumbing the nose of the US  and it raises suspicion of Weah's involvement in receipt of benefits from the thievery and abuse.

“Those involved are your close confidants and partisans. Your lack of decisive action could raise suspicion of your involvement in these activities and receipt of benefits from the thievery and abuse. It has serious implications for yourself and smears the image of our country,” Cummings wrote. 

“We will continue to demand you respond as you should on this important matter in the best interest of the Liberian people. Enough is enough - there must be consequences for dereliction of duty and commission of crimes in our country,” he added. 

Cummings then scolded the President's continued silence on Representative Solomon George, a CDC partisan, request of wanting to be Police Director “so that he can use that office to cause the disappearance” of Liberians known to be in opposition to your administration.  

Rep. George's remarks, according to Cummings, were dangerous, reckless, hate-filled, and incendiary statements and should have been “immediately and publicly condemned by you [the President.]”  

“That you applauded it was most disappointing and troubling. I should remind you of your oath as President to protect lives and properties as well as preserve our hard-won democracy. Every Liberian life is precious. Our peace and democracy were earned on the sacrifices - voluntarily and involuntarily - of Liberian and other lives. 

George, the Representative of Montserrado County electoral district 7, requested West Point when the President went to visit the district. 

The ANC political leader also reminded the President of the need for the recent decision by the Senate to restate a portion of the election laws, calling on election magistrates to reapply for the job 90 days after the enactment of such a bill. 

The Senate recently amended Section 2.24(a) of the election  law to state that: “90 days after the passage of this Act, all Elections Magistrates in the 15-Counties must be removed and positions considered vacant. This section also gives the right to those removed Magistrates to re-apply. 

But Weah, in his response to Cummings, said without a doubt that the expressed action by the US to impose sanctions on three officials of his government is a matter of grave concern that carries a lot of weight.

The President then defended the suspension of the sanctioned officials, reminding Cummings that the very US Government that he referenced has called for due process and the application of Liberian law as was stated by its envoy to Liberia.

“It is also disappointing to note your reference to a vote by the Liberian Senate to change elections magistrates, and your call on me to veto this decision by the Liberian Senate,” Weah said. “A vote by the Senate requires concurrence by the House of Representatives before it is submitted to the Office of the President for his signature or veto.”

”The continuous fear-mongering by you and others in the  opposition, seeking to prematurely cast aspersions on the sanctity of our electoral process, in the face of the excellent track record of the number of free, transparent, and fair elections which have been held since my incumbency; many won by candidates of the very opposition, is duplicitous and dishonest.”

On the issue of Rep. George, the President said all opinion leaders in his ruling Coalition for Democratic Change, are fully cognizant of the President's publicly held position on the maintenance of the country's hard-earned peace and the rule of law. 

“His recent statement was out of order.  It was no surprise therefore that he wasted no time in setting the record straight about what he truly intended to convey. But the insincerity on your part becomes so palpable when you are up in arms, pandering to the public gallery because of his comments when you would not garner the same courage to reign in an agitator of a lawmaker within the ranks of your own party who constantly threatens violence and denigrates women."