Reflections on President Weah’s Declared Zero Tolerance to Third-Term runs

President Weah (left) his friend, the former President of Guinea Alpha Condé (right).

President Weah’s declared “zero tolerance to military coups” could be, according to analysts, a tacit acknowledgment that he fears developments in neighboring Guinea could have a contagious effect on Liberia’s military. 

A declared Zero-tolerance to Third-Term runs should equate to Zero Tolerance to corruption is one sure way to avert the occurrence of a military coup, a renowned security official has told the Daily Observer

But because Liberia has experienced its share of military rule under which the lack of accountability and absolute disrespect for the rule of law, gross human rights abuse culminated in a civil war in which the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) suffered defeat at the hands of invading rebel forces, Liberia’s reconstituted military may likely prove immune to such an adventure.

Nonetheless, reports from insider sources maintain that top officials, especially in national security circles, appear deeply concerned and have since expressed strong apprehensions about what could possibly obtain given growing public discontent about extreme economic difficulties, rampant corruption including political violence which have attended senatorial and representative by-elections recently.

According to a former security official, the Brownie Samukai issue has become even more of a worrying concern in the wake of recent statements by Lofa Senator Steve Zargo hinting at external sympathetic support for Samukai from subregional military leaderships.

 Samukai, a retired soldier of the AFL and former Defense Minister, is said to have played a key role in the creation of the now dissolved Black Berets who were trained in Guinea and who proved their mettle in combat during the NPFL’s October 1992 Operation Octopus invasion of Monrovia. 

According to informed insider sources, hundreds of men have been militarily trained since the inception of this government and have been embedded in various state security institutions. Further, according to insider sources, it is believed that those individuals will be called into action to deter and suppress public dissent should the impending elections prove contentious.

This was, according to sources, plain and evident during public protests called by the Council of Patriots in mid-2019 and early 2020. Many of such individuals are also embedded within the ranks of the Monrovia City Police, whose strength has reportedly been increased significantly. 

Informed sources further note that those individuals were not trained by or with the consent of Defense officials and, as such, according to sources, AFL top brass are said to be keeping a wary eye on their activities. But as to whether their combat prowess can rival that of the AFL remains unclear since many of those trained are said to be battle hardened ex-fighters from the various warring factions.

But from all indications, according to a retired security official (name withheld) the main threat to the survival of the Weah government is the government itself. He notes that mass public discontent is a major source of instability for any government, the Weah government being no exception. The tighter and harder theharsh economic conditions bite the people, the greater the public discontent.

Such mass discontent, the retired official maintains, is a recipe for instability, noting that soldiers being part of society are not immune from economic difficulties and increased hardships. Thus, what affects the people also affects them and, although they are pledged to remain loyal to the Constitution, experience suggests that such loyalty under extremely difficult economic conditions become frail, fragile and easily susceptible to rupture.

In this regard, President Weah’s declaration of a policy of Zero Tolerance to third-term runs by African leaders should be in equivalent measure also, Zero tolerance to massive corruption, the ostentatious public display of wealth and luxury by his officials and their general disrespect and disregard for the rule of law.

The potential dangers of military intervention in national political life, according to the retired official, can be significantly lessened only if African leaders govern their people in ways that make life better for the critical mass of the people. As to whether this truth has dawned on President Weah and his cast of officials remains unclear. 

However, in President Weah’s own best interests, according to the retired security official, the sooner he can realize this and begin to make life livable for most Liberians, he runs the risk of creating conditions that beckon and goad the military into interventionist mode. 

We pray that such never happens. However, prayers alone are not sufficient in the absence of visible concrete action to rein in corrupt officials and halt the continuing economic downslide. With such a short time (two years) left on his presidential term, such may prove to be a very daunting and uphill challenge.

Thus, a third-run appears out of the question in view of a yet uncompleted first term that bears little hope of public support for a second-term run.

However, where there is a will there is always a way.