George Manneh Weah: Give It Up

By Winsley S. Nanka, CPA

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 14, 2005


The November 11, 2005 edition of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported that defeated Liberian presidential candidate, Mr. George Manneh Weah, has challenged the result of the November 8, 2005 run-off presidential election, indicating that the election was rigged in favor of Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. Mr. Weah’s aide is quoted as saying, “there is no other way to explain how Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, who won 20 percent of the October’s first round election compared to Mr. Weah’s 28 percent, held such a commanding lead”.

Mr. Weah lost the second round of the Liberian presidential election due to several reasons:

A. Mr. Weah failed to adequately address the issue of his alleged alliance with General Charles Julu and Mr. George Dweh, two notorious sons of Grand Gedeh County. Many Liberians who were victims of Dictator Samuel Kanyon Doe’s repression during the 1980s and early 1990 are very sensitive to any indication that the architects of his repression could be returning to power.

B. Mr. Weah failed to take action against Nimba County Senator-elect, former warlord Mr. Prince Johnson, when he reportedly hit a person with his vehicle in Nimba County, and beat the victim for standing in his way. At a minimum, Mr. Weah should have suspended Mr. Johnson from his campaign. In fact, the police should have arrested Mr. Prince Johnson for his behavior. Only in Liberia can a motorist hit a person, and then proceed to assault the victim without the law intervening.

C. Mr. Weah allowed Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf’s supporters to spread allegations about him without issuing an adequate response. His failure to respond to the charges made against him badly hurt him among the voters.

D. Mr. Weah and his campaign apparently became complacent believing that because they won the first round of the presidential election, they would win the second round automatically. This line of thinking was manifested in Mr. Weah aide’s statement quoted in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette above. According to sources, Mr. Weah and his campaign did not implement a massive “get out and vote” campaign to get his supporters out to the polls. Also, the result of the second round suggests that Mr. Weah failed to move significantly beyond his core constituency-the youth.

E. Symbolism is very important in politics. It is unclear why Mr. Weah did not lease a helicopter to campaign around Liberia during the second round of the campaign. His failure to do so gave Mrs. Sirleaf, who leased a helicopter, an added advantage.
F. The Liberian media developed an adversarial relationship with Mr. Weah. Most Liberian media institutions in Liberia and the Diaspora were bias towards Mrs. Sirleaf. It made it difficult for Mr. Weah to generate positive press in the Liberian media. Mr. Weah did not help the situation with his alleged anti-press statements reported by the Liberian press.

In view of the reasons stated for Mr. Weah’s defeat, he needs to withdraw his electoral challenge to Mrs. Sirleaf’s victory and accept the result of the presidential election because the international election monitors in Liberia have indicated that the election was free and fair. According to a United Nations spokesman in Liberia, quoted by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s article, “so far the level of fraud that he has indicated publicly, would not seem to rise to the level that would challenge the result of the elections”. Mr. Weah has alleged that 150 ballots were pre-marked for Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf at five polling sites out of more the 800,000 votes cast, the Post Gazette reported.

While Mr. Weah and his supporters have the constitutional rights to express themselves through public demonstrations, they need to be mindful of the adverse consequences of their actions. The Liberian people have suffered a great deed, and do not want any actions that would subject them to more adversity. Therefore, Mr. Weah has the responsibility to caution his supporters against any actions that would inflame the fragile security situation in Liberia.

At the same time, Mrs. Sirleaf’s supporters should be preparing for governance. Therefore, they need to focus on winning Mr. Weah, his supporters, and the others opposition politicians over. Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf and her supporters need the cooperation of Mr. Weah and his supporters to govern effectively. The derogatory statement attributed to Mr. Harry A Greaves, Jr, a top aide to Mrs. Sirleaf in the Pittsburgh Post Gazzette’s article that Liberians did not want to “entrust the future of the country to an unschooled footballer” is not helpful. The elections are over; it is now time for Mrs. Sirleaf’s supporters to make conciliatory statements toward their opponents.

Mr. Weah represents a significant segment of the population. His entry into the race introduced a large portion of the under-privileged young people to Liberian politics. They may otherwise not have been motivated to participate in the political process. Attempts to malign him at this point in time will not be helpful to the political process. Further, Mr. Weah’s challenge to the political order put the Liberian political class on notice that Liberian politics will not be business as usual anymore. If it fails to implement socio-economic programs that will improve the living standards of the Liberian people, there will be more George Manneh Weahs in the future.