Some Liberians, particularly with opposition leaning, have been celebrating the bizarre comments recently made by a United States Congressman against the George Weah administration. Such comments, describing the administration callous and kleptocratic, naturally seemingly resonate with opposition elements who have had wild perception on the integrity record of the ruling elite, and more so since the allegation comes from an American official and since America is regarded a ‘saintly’ proponent of democracy, human rights and accountability. Well, not all Liberians do subscribe to the US Congressman’s unprovoked outburst. There are some who are asking many telling questions that appear to throw ample light on what is considered his ‘persistent ingrained venom’ for the CDC and its founders. The Analyst’s Correspondent reports.
Liberia’s media, both traditional and social, have lately gone adrift with mixed opinions following a verbal outburst by a United States Congressman Christopher Henry Smith.
It is not known exactly what or who tickled the Republican lawmaker, who is serving his 21st term as the U.S. Representative for New Jersey’s 4th congressional district, into launching the barrage of crude verbal missiles at President George Manneh Weah and his administration.
What is clear to many pundits is that Congressman Smith has been in a Pharaoh-Moses aggression with George Manneh Weah and the CDC for a mighty long time—requesting for their heads while they (Weah and the CDC) were still in the political womb of Mother Liberia.
That is, long before the current president and his party got elected to take the mantle of political leadership, meaning while they had not taken state power, Congressman Smith campaigned for a political abortion that will deny the CDC life and birth to the political scene.
It can be recalled that nearly six years to the birth of the CDC as a ruling party, specifically in 2011, Rep. Smith advised against an inclusive, if not a power sharing, government that would have accommodated the CDC into the Government emerging from the disputed elections of that year.
Pattern of anti-CDC venom
Following polls in 2011, the National Elections Commission announced publicly the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) victorious at a press conference by the head of the Commission who read the results but in hours admitted errors and turn over the favorable figures to the then ruling Unity Party to be the winner of the elections.
At the end of those elections, which the UP purportedly won, the CDC made claims and protested, but the international community pestered if not cajoled the party into submission with proposal for their inclusion into the emergent administration.
Congressman Smith vehemently campaigned against the inclusion prospects, advising that if there were opposition parties standing for inclusion in the government, CDC which was largest opposition bloc, should not be one of them.
Though Rep. Smith succeeded in denying the CDC prominence to the national stage as per the abortive policy against political inclusion, that did not forestall or quench his detestable ego towards the CDC.
Even while the CDC, now metamorphosed into the Coalition for Democratic Change, was in its puberty as a ruling establishment, there came Congressman Smith again picking beef with the newborn.
As there was little or nothing to hang on as alibi to vilify the new administration, or justify his aggression and annihilation campaign against the CDC, Smith settled down with the choice of going for the head of youthful official Jefferson Koijee.
While the CDC was less than a year, Rep Smith unleashed a volley of attacks against the leader of the CDC youth wing.
“Human rights advocates are increasingly alarmed by the deterioration of civil and political rights and the corruption that is occurring in Liberia under President George Weah,” the US Congressman wrote to colleagues in 2019.
He continued: “I am especially concerned by allegations surrounding Monrovia Mayor Jefferson Koijee and the thuggish behavior of the Congress for Democratic Change Security Force he heads. Credible allegations of serious human and civil rights violations–including attempted murder, rape, unlawful arrest, detention and torture–have been attributed to Mayor Koijee by the International Justice Group, a US-based non-government. organization.”
He said in light of especially “our historic ties to Liberia, the United States Congress will be closely monitoring the mass public demonstration that is scheduled to occur on December 30 in Monrovia, and I call upon the government of Liberia to respect the free speech and assembly rights of Liberian citizens. Anyone who suppresses these fundamental rights, or engages in ongoing corrupt acts, may very well become subject to targeted Global Magnitsky sanctions.”
As per Rep Smith’s sweeping allegations, coupled with his mistaken tagging of Jefferson Koijee as “Congress for Democratic Change Security Force”, it is amply clear that he was acting on gross misinformation or a deep-seated grudge for the CDC and the Weah administration.
Koijee’s response to the Congressman, including a visit to the US to clear his name, nearly shamed the Congressman who nearly went underground or silent on Liberia since.
Smith’s Recent Verbosity
He’s out for it again. In a video broadcast widely circulated on the social media, Rep Smith opened his mouth wide again, taking direct aim at the entire George Weah government.
“In Africa, we have a special relationship with Liberia which was founded by freed American slaves,” he said. “Unfortunately, President George Weah leads a Kleptocratic government that is engaged in political corruption from the day he assumed office by depleting the government’s coffers for personal use while the people of Liberia suffer.”
He gave no specifics, leaving pundits to wonder whether such lack-of-factual-details statement actually comes from a lawmaker of the world’s chief proponent of democracy and public integrity.
The Government of Weah has not openly spoken to the Congressman’s statement, nearly giving approbation to it, though there are unconfirmed reports that the government is taking advantage diplomatic channels available to it.
US Embassy Calms Nerves
As celebrations were rising up in corners of the country’s opposition community over the Congressman indictment of the Weah government, the United States Government through its embassy near Monrovia issued what seems to be a shaming though tacit riposte that effectively has defused the uproar.
In a statement, the United Embassy states: “Representative Smith is a member of the House of Representatives. He represents one of the many diverse viewpoints of our elected officials, which is a strength of our democracy. He does not, however, speak directly on behalf of the Biden-Harris Administration or the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Embassy has consistently raised concerns over corruption in our private conversations with the government and in our publicly available reports, including on investment climate and human rights.”
Liberians React to Smith
Some Liberians concur with the Embassy that Smith’s personal view does not necessarily reflect the views and policy of the United States Government, which in various reports in the past were released publicly and backed with research findings.
“What I see is that Republican Congressman Smith is just a loud noisemaker who does not care about facts and evidence,” said student activist Philip N. Tobasson, Jr. “He is unrepresentative of the great United States which defends democracy and transparency with logic, facts and maturity. Smith has made himself an intellectual vagabond for his reckless utterances and parochial dispositions from which the US is distancing itself.”
Tobasson said further in response to someone’s post on the Facebook: “Remember, he is a Republicans. Most Republicans’ dispositions on Africa and Africans are derogatory, demeaning and racist. They are anti-masses, and it would not be a surprise that he would make ridiculous statements about a regime that is pro-masses.”
Another Liberia, apparently a supporter or partisan of the CDC, has besmirched the US congressman, saying Rep. Smith’s statement is further evidence of a pattern of behavior that demonstrate ingrained venom for President Weah and the CDC.
“From the chain of utterances of Representative Smith, it is now clear to anyone that he harbors ingrained hate, bitterness and venom for the CDC from day one,” Kathrine Jerbo said. “Remember it is he who advised CDC from being included in the administration that emerged from the 2011 elections in this country. One can surmise that he had this ire since 2005. Then in 2019, he attacked Jefferson Koijee recklessly and falsely. Here he is again. Is this man sound? Or his psyche is impaired by CDC hate?”
- Alieu Tamba, a classroom teacher on the Busrod Island is also pissed with Rep. Smith. He said in an interview: “Representative Smith must be ashamed of himself right now. He’s not a spokesman for the US Government. In fact, he’s not anti-corruption campaigner as he tries to pretend. All the mess that Trump created in America, including corruption, adultery and sedition, what did Smith say to him and his administration? What did he do or say when Donald Trump insulted journalists, refused to release his tax returns, when he railroaded American democracy? How dare he put his mouth of Liberia without evidence. Shame on him!”