Another sad day in the life of the George Weah presidency has unfolded with deep undertones and far reaching implications for the future wellbeing of his government and his intended second-term bid. By all accounts, it was all for the wrong reasons, simply because there were no compelling reasons to have warranted the kind of police response to peaceful demonstrators publicly expressing their angst over rape, a cross cutting issue of common concern.
Rape has become an issue of common public concern because incidents of rape have continued to mount, despite the passage of legislation making rape a non-bailable offense under which many have been convicted and are currently serving lengthy jail sentences. This legal provision making rape a non-bailable offense has attracted vigorous opposition from some quarters. Those opposing the Rape bill have consistently maintained that it undermines the legal principle of Presumption of Innocence until proven guilty.
Since his assumption of office, President Weah has proclaimed himself “Feminist-in-Chief” and has spared little effort promoting this image of a feminist deeply concerned with issues that affect and tend to undermine the welfare and interests of women. Thus it was sad to see that President Weah, most probably acting on hints from his coterie of advisors, avoided the protesters who had sought to have him receive their petition in person. Although their march and assembly was peaceful, the Police intervened to break up the assembly, firing teargas and using violent tactics to disperse the demonstrators who were all clad in black as a sign of mourning.
It remains unclear just why President Weah opted to avoid a meeting with the leaders of the protest when such an occasion would have provided him an opportunity to shore up what is generally perceived as his battered public image. Again, he faltered and lost a golden opportunity which would have scored him some political capital as the nation heads to senatorial elections in December. His call to all his officials to go all out ensure victory has, in the opinion of political observers, been badly dented and could suffer a serious reversal of his political fortunes.
As this newspaper has cautioned time and again, President Weah should refrain forthwith from remaining behind the scenes and allowing unscrupulous individuals to lead him. While President Weah was avoiding a face-to-face meeting with the protesters, his own people, former President Sirleaf was gaining political capital when she came out of her fenced compound to meet with the demonstrators. They welcomed her with chants of “our old ma na come, our gronna pa sleeping”. Later she was joined by former Vice President Boakai who was also greeted with similar chants.
What that clearly showed is that President Weah, by his own actions appears not to be showing responsible leadership as should be and is expected of him. If indeed he is mulling a second term of office, he ought to know by now that he stands in grave danger of losing the vote at the 2023 polls if he does not wise-up sooner enough. Towards this end, the events of yesterday, videos of which depict brutal police action against peaceful demonstrators, have gone viral on social media. The fallout from this latest development, especially in the short and long term, may yet be too early to tell. But the signs are certainly not good.
Coming events, it is said, cast their shadows. And truth be told, the shadows appear ominous.