Failing President Weah and Failing Liberia

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Whether or not unease is again finding its way into the relationship between President Weah and his predecessor, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, remains a mystery at least for now.

But judging by remarks made by President Weah recently at the ground-breaking ceremony for the proposed sports park at the foot of the James Spriggs Payne airport runway, it does appear that something is indeed amiss.

During the ground-breaking ceremony which took place just across the street from the former President’s residence, President Weah threw pointed jabs at her for fencing in the area at the foot of the runway, which had been used for years as an informal sports pitch.

It was also where the Invincible Eleven Football club (IE) used to hold daily football practice in the past. However, the area has in the past few years been fenced off by the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority for exclusive use by the airport.

That decision, according to sources, was taken in order to avoid possible injury and or loss of life in case of accidents.

Recalling history during the nineties,  a jetliner owned by the then ADC Airlines crashed landed after overshooting the runway and plunged down a little slope leading directly to the area where the proposed sports park is to be erected.

Fortunately, most passengers were rescued from the downed aircraft as firefighters successfully doused the flames. But that accident sent a clear message that the area was potentially hazardous to those engaged in sporting activities in that area.

But the public is wont to question just why would the LCAA give authorization to the construction of a sports park in that area when those authorities are fully aware of the dangerous implications for sporting activity in such an area.

Although President Weah has said that the LCAA has assured him that no high rise structures will be erected that will pose a threat to the safety of air traffic, yet possible runway overshoots by incoming aircrafts attempting to land cannot be ruled out.

This was evidenced during the nineties. There were two non-fatal air crashes involving the Nigerian carrier ADC Airlines, the first in August 1994 and the second in July 1995, with both occurring at the James Spriggs Airport.

Twenty-eight years earlier, on March 5, 1967, due to pilot error, the Varig Brazilian airlines flight crashed during approach to Runway 04 of the Roberts International Airport.

According to sources, the flight took off from the Leonardo da Vinci airport in Fumicino (Rome) Italy with a planned stop-over at Roberts before flying  direct to Brazil.

Further, according to sources, 71 passengers and 19 crew were reported to have been on board. Fifty (50) passengers and one (1) crew member perished in the flames that engulfed the aircraft.

This remains, up to present, the worst aviation accident in Liberia’s history. It should serve to remind authorities at the LCAA of the potential danger being courted by the erection of playground facilities in a proscribed area.

Monrovia is an ever-growing city with ever growing unmet transport needs and, the James Spriggs Payne Airport has in the past, especially during the civil war years, played a crucial role ferrying passenger in and out of the country.

And there can be no doubt that the facility will continue to play an even more crucial role in the future.

Evidently, expansion may probably even be required but with a sporting facility erected on the premises, it remains to be seen how the LCAA is going to address the situation.

President Weah’s decision to erect a sporting facility where he once practiced his trade that propelled him to stardom is indeed commendable.

But if such is intended merely to boost his publicly perceived fading image or to spite President Sirleaf, as his recent jabs at her during the ground-breaking would suggest, then he has missed the boat, according to political pundits.

They cite the construction, erection or up-grading of several community mini football stadia in and around Monrovia by Robert Sirleaf, son of President Sirleaf, as an accomplishment that President Weah, as an acclaimed ex footballer, has yet to match although, they claimed, it was done with public resources.

But granted indeed it was public resources, the point here is it was done by a man who to the best of public knowledge never played football at even fourth division level in Liberia, yet he did more, in the eyes of the public to advance football than our footballer President has done since taking the crown.

Now, whether recent remarks by former IE coach Solomon George, now Representative of District 6, that football in Liberia under the leadership of President Weah, a renowned ex footballer has died may have prompted the decision to erect the facility, remains unclear.

However, the political overtones of his remarks were clear, and it appears directed at President Sirleaf for reasons that remain unclear or difficult to explain.

Whatever the case is, according to political pundits, President Weah’s officials have failed him and failed the country by not telling him the truth about the hazards of having permanent structures constructed on a site that should remain free and clear of any obstacles whatsoever.

This newspaper, adding its voice to the debate, calls on President Weah to be mindful of history and relocate the proposed park and play-ground, which is a good idea, to another and more suitable location. Afterall, it is our children who will use the facility and we have the moral obligation and duty to safeguard and ensure their safety from hurt, harm and danger by choosing safe places for them to play and unleash their creative potentials.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Correction, Hon. George is the D7 representative. I agree that there is a need for more recreational areas, but not around an airport because there are too many risks involved. Great idea, but bad location. The president should not let his emotions get in the way by trying to “throw something” back at the former president, only to regret it later.

  2. It is my view that the James Spriggs Payne airport must be closed to air traffic for general public safety reason. When that airport was established (and I do not when), that area was far away on the outskirts of central Monrovia. Today, however, the area is now central Monrovia, and were I President Weah I would transform the place into a public or community housing project to go in pair with the sports park. If we think Monrovia needs a second airport then we must plan to put it elsewhere.

  3. This is one intriguing factor about the Liberian democracy: Weah does things his way even if the populace disavows what he is doing. And so, this episode raises the question once again as to whether we live under a democracy or a dictatorship.

    From the court of public opinion, many Liberians including those from Weah’s own CDC camp are saying they do not feel building a sports complex in the vicinity of the Spriggs Airfield is a wise decision, but as customary Weah will out rightly challenge their opinion and go ahead with the project anyway.

    However, electing the representatives and they performing their constitutional oath are two different things. This is the first test where the rubber has met the road. The house of representatives needs to introduce a bill, passed by the senate, and submitted to Weah urging him not to implement such project as it is inimical to the safety and welfare of the people living within the proximity of the airport.

    Truth be told, the finance for this project is not coming from his private bank account. It is the people’s money. So, why can’t he do according to their wish? I am sure the government could easily locate other places if it decides to. After all, it has eminent domain.

  4. I agree with Mr. James Thomas-Queh, President George Manneh Weah can construct the play-ground he has in mind, but shutdown the entire Airport situated and lying directly in the center of Monrovia, Republic of Liberia. A community housing nearby will mean development and advancement for Liberia and its people. Sitting back and doing as President Sirleaf and other Presidents of Liberia have shamefully doing, has not been helpful to Liberia and its people.

    Government-after-Government elected in Liberia has simply forgotten their national Responsibility and did nothing to develop that ground.

  5. Mr. John Doe,

    Mr. J Brownie Samukai, Joseph P. Johnson, and James N. Dorkor, as rational and highly educated Liberians, they knew better, and if President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, instructed and ordered them to withdraw the US$1.4 Million dollars from the Private Account of Members of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), they were responsible legally to prove their claim. The BEST EVIDENCE to support their claim, was and , the testimony of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Anything to the contrary, meant they were guilty, as charged.

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