— Finance Minister Samuel Tweah urges CDC partisans
Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., is craving the indulgence of Liberians across the country, especially partisans and sympathizers of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), to help make President George Manneh Weah a “Benevolent Dictator,” a move he thinks will help to speedily put Liberia on path of development and rapid transformation.
During one of the many endorsement ceremonies of CDC’s Senatorial candidate, Representative Thomas P. Fallah in Monrovia, the Finance Minister said that the President needs to be made a “Benevolent Dictator” so that Liberians can be afraid of him in order not to question his administrative actions and decisions. He said the CDC administration needs to start taking tough decisions and, as such, there is a need to re-orientate the whole government in order to achieve that goal.
“Look, we need a benevolent dictator. It means somebody like Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who alone can sit in a room and make a decision that will change the whole country faster,” The Minister said, adding that “this is what is happening in many Asian Countries, where the benevolent dictators just say, ‘OK, I’m not here to hear what the other people get to say or their views. I will build that road and put the money there.’
“Because at times,” the Minister continued, “you want to build that road, and some other people will say do the land… and when everybody starts democratizing your decision, then you are slowed down. But we [the CDC government] need tough decisions so we can re-orientate the whole government,” he noted.
According to Wikipedia, on online encyclopedia, a “benevolent dictatorship” is a government in which an authoritarian leader exercises absolute political power over the state but is perceived to do so with regard for benefit of the population as a whole, standing in contrast with the decidedly malevolent stereotype of a dictator who focuses on his and supporters’ self-interests. A benevolent dictator may allow for some civil liberties or democratic decision-making to exist, such as through public referenda or elected representatives or with limited power, and often makes preparations for a transition to democracy during or after their term. It might be seen as a republican form of enlightened despotism.
The Finance Minister, who many consider to be one of two de-facto leaders of the state, noted that President does not have the resounding mandate for people to be afraid of him—“So this is the mandate that we want you to give him this December 8,” he said in reference to the Senatorial polls across the country that will see fifty percent of the Senate membership elected.
As progressive as this sounds, critics maintain that a dictator is a dictator, no matter how kind or how cruel.
Minister Tweah’s statement has since been hit by a barrage of criticisms as many fear that it has the propensity to lead Liberia back into its dark days as Liberians are no longer willing to live under a dictatorial leadership.
One of such persons who vehemently criticized the CDC stalwart’s proclamation is Mr. Abduolaye Dukulé, an adviser to former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who said calling on Liberians to vote for Legislators to turn Weah into a “benevolent dictator” is at best a reckless statement.
“This makes it compelling for the opposition to win and for Liberians to vote for those who want to preserve democracy,” he said on his social media page.
Mr. Dukulé, who many consider a veteran diplomat and Communication Specialist, noted that Liberians must rise and do the right thing at the polls in December if they are to dream of someone becoming a “Benevolent Dictator.”
“The Upcoming Liberian Benevolent Dictator! The future of democracy, accountability and governance hangs on the outcome of the December 8, 2020 senatorial elections. The mid-term electoral process, which concerns half of the Senate, will tilt the balance of power in the Senate,” he said, noting that President George Weah’s administration could come out emboldened if it wins the majority, especially in the race in Montserrado, Nimba and Bassa counties. “A victory, however small, will give Weah a mandate.”
For the people of Liberia, he said, the outcome of December 8 is even more important. “Today, on social media, I listened with great concerns to the Minister of Finance, Hon. Samuel Tweah, saying that people should vote for CDC candidates because the only way the country can develop is to make Weah a ‘benevolent dictator’, — exact words — so that the President could carry out projects as he feels, without anyone checking.”
“This is bad on several levels. First, Tweah is breaking the law by openly campaigning while serving as an official of government. Second, it is dangerous because it comes from the man who holds the purse of the nation,” he said.
Mr. Dukulé said that the biggest danger of Tweah’s statement is the open threat to democracy. “Liberia has lived under autocracy, one way or the other since anyone can remember. President William Tubman, who stayed in power for close to three decades, was the archetype of autocracy. After him, the country found itself stranded in a culture of bad governance, corruption, and nepotism.”
“Ten percent of the Liberian population got killed because the country was trying to free itself from the scourges of autocracy. Calling on Liberians to vote for legislators to turn Weah into a “benevolent dictator” is at best a reckless statement,” he said, noting that this makes it compelling for the opposition to win and for Liberians to vote for those who want to preserve democracy.
“December 8 is an important date. The future of democracy depends on it. Tweah is not just anyone in the Weah administration. If he is dreaming about turning the already overwhelming presidency into a dictatorship, well, that may be the plan being discussed. It must be stopped,” he said.
However, this is not the first time that Minister Tweah has spoken of making President Weah a dictator and the CDC a perpetual ruling party.
His latest comments about making Weah “Benevolent Dictator” reminds many of a similar assertion made in 2017 that President Weah and the CDC will rule Liberia for the next fifty years.
“President Weah and the CDC will rule this country for 50 years. Thank God our country is back into our hands,” the then senior strategist of the CDC told journalists immediately after the National Elections Commission (NEC) Chairman at the time, Cllr. Jerome George Korkoya, officially announced Weah as the winner of the 2017 President elections.
Many believe that such disclosure coming from a stalwart of a party that just won an election is a clear indication that what could be considered a perpetual rule by the party has been an issue of lengthy discussions among hierarchy members of the Coalition.