“State of the Nation Is not Strong” -Unity Party Thrashes Weah’s SONA

MONROVIA: Opposition politicians see it as their natural obligation to listen keenly to the annual messages of incumbent administrations and critique them for the sake of posterity. The former ruling Unity Party that is hotly contesting within the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) framework to democratically unseat the Weah-led government in 2023 says it totally objects to President Weah’s catch phrase, “the State of the Nation is strong.

“The State of the Nation is not strong. The State of the Nation has never been strong since the president took office. Maybe when the President talks to his closest advisors, that is the image that they paint. Or maybe the President is just not sincere about where the country is. For those of us who talk to ordinary people, we know there is nothing shiny about the city. From the trash on the street, to the insecurity at night, to the rising cost of education, to inadequate healthcare, the people in this country have been neglected by the President and his government. Mr. President, leave Jamaica, talk to the people, and come back and let us know what you think about the state of the nation,” the Unity Party said in a caustic response Tuesday to President Weah’s Monday Annual Message to the 54th Legislature.

First acknowledging its own shortcomings, the Unity Party said while itself has failed to perfect those ideals, they never lost sight of their obligation to make Liberia better. The UP prayed that while for the next 200 years, the party should not lose sight, and may never lose the conviction that liberty, justice, and equality, it is important to note that the George Weah’s administration continues to fail the people of Liberia while painting a picture that Liberia is a shining city on a hill.

“But we know the truth. And the truth is this: He has more music releases than policy achievements. He played more football, basketball and volleyball matches than he went to work in the entire 2021. He barely goes to work. At work, he barely works.  It is a national embarrassment that we have a President who simply does not care about working. For all the talk about his youthful energy, we have seen nothing to indicate that it is being used for the interest of the country. The Unity Party knows what it takes to serve the Liberian people: late nights, long meetings, long hours preparing for big decisions. Our leaders served for 12 years and Liberians saw the long hours they worked to bring results. President Weah doesn’t have that endurance or patience.

“While the President won the Most Valuable Player in the County Meet, we should award him another MVP title: Most Vapid President. The President is low on energy, short of ideas, and simply unfit to steer the affairs of the county.

“Even after four years, the CDC-led Government has manifested President George Manneh Weah’s determination to rule by whim and caprice and to set the country firmly on the path of backwardness. His policies and actions have been characterized by economic retrogression and bad governance. This government has simply rained hardship and pain nonstop on our people. Sadly, he seems to not care.

“We listened with dismay and disappointment as the President address yesterday was grossly insincere, comical and focused on trivialities. He has again wasted a golden opportunity to focus the minds of Liberians and our development partners on the cost of living challenges and herculean tasks of nation-building. Instead, he has left Liberians more confused and disillusioned about the future of their country,” the Unity Party stated.

Going further, the UP said President Weah stated in his SONA that his government has no political prisoners but mysterious deaths are on the rise, yet professionals died in a car and the President prejudiced the case by alleging that they were boyfriend and girlfriend.

“The boss of Internal Audit died and we were informed that he fell from his balcony. Mysterious deaths all resulting from revenue generating agencies of a government where L$16 billion and U$25 million disappeared in thin air,” the UP stated.

Going forward, the UP said, the President also informed Liberians that the Invincible Park Project is 100% funded by him but later on states that NASSCORP, NPA and Maritime supported the project.

“This confirms that our pension money is being used to fund projects that President Weah would boast of as his personal projects. This is why we move to remove George Weah’s government which is facilitating the theft and misappropriation of pension money. This mismanagement might, in fact, soon lead to the collapse of NASSCORP,” the UP said.

The UP also indicated that President Weah boasted in his SONA of press freedom but refused to highlight the high level of media censorship currently practiced by his government. Yet his government has denied some suspected anti-government stations, including Punch FM, the right to operate in Liberia while granting permit to Bana FM only because they are pro government.

“President Weah presides over a deeply divided country, largely of his own making, while paying lip service to promoting national unity. Liberians exercising their legitimate right to protest under the constitution are brutally suppressed with police batons, teargas and water cannons.     Petitions demanding answers to serious issues of life and death are treated with scorn by the government. The President has politicized the County Meets, the biggest source of unity since the end of the war.  Yet, Liberians remain undeterred and daily life in the country has become characterized by protest. Business confidence is at its lowest as companies seek to relocate to neighboring countries.

“The Unity Party had a full grasp of Liberia’s endowment and potential when it inherited the wasteland of a country in 2006. Roads and bridges were completely destroyed making Monrovia a tapestry of burnt out and bullet riddled buildings. The streets had large craters. Social services and administrative structures were nonexistent throughout the country. The Mt. Coffee hydro dam was destroyed. The country was dark.. Liberia was burdened down with inherited external debt of US$4.9 billion with little possibility of further borrowing.  Months of arrears owed civil servants and other public sector employees. The country was viewed as a criminal pariah state.

“We brought this country back to life with proven leaders who put in the work, proven leaders who made tough choices, proven leaders who listened, and proven leaders who put the nation above party and above self. We deliver this country and we can do it again. Every sector needed urgent action.

“The Unity Party Government immediately set about restoring Liberia to international respectability and soon removed the stigma of a pariah. We then cultivated the goodwill of the international community and financial institutions to write off Liberia’s US$4.9 billion debt. Under the HIPC arrangement with the World Bank and IMF, the Unity Party government under our leadership initiated prudent economic and fiscal policies. There was no quick fix solution nor did it attempt to mortgage the country’s future in pursuit of bogus and vulture loans.

“These policies helped to garner international confidence. Our development partners worked with us to rebuild infrastructure, establish administrative authority and the rule of law throughout the country and deliver social services. For the first time in our history, we established the County Development Fund (CDF) and Social Development Fund (SDF) to encourage local ownership of the development process and stimulate local entrepreneurship in the counties. These would serve as first steps towards devolution of power,” the UP stated in its retort to President Weah’s SONA.

Giving Credit where it’s due

The UP critique of President Weah’s SONA was somehow encapsulated in its lamentation of the lack of accreditation from the Weah government for those projects that it had inherited from the Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

“President Weah announced that his government has built over 200 housing units in his home county of Grand Kru. This significant infrastructural development is commendable. However, this development should not only be concentrated in one region of the country.

President Weah boasted about payment of loans contracted by the previous government. He must be commended but also must be reminded that government is continuity. It is the role of government to honor its legitimate obligations. This loan repayment pales compared to the US$4.9 billion debt inherited by the Unity Party-led government and for which it successfully negotiated a debt waiver. Some of that debt was more than 50 years old from previous governments.

“The debt referred to by the President Weah was used to construct the Police Academy Road, SKD Boulevard Road, and the rehabilitated Monrovia streets among others. These roads were designed based on sound economic policy and are easing traffic congestion in Monrovia and boosting economic activities.

“Let us also remind President Weah that from March 21, 2019 to June 18, 2021 his government has taken a loan of Three Hundred Fourteen Million Seven Hundred Thirteen Thousand United States Dollars (US$314, 713,000) and we are not seeing the corresponding development of those loans.

“The Unity Party Government completed the construction and rehabilitation of over 700 kilometers of major roads connecting political subdivisions and vital economically productive regions of the country.

Yesterday, President Weah boasted of ongoing construction of about 388 kilometers of roads (including the Lofa Road) and shamelessly refused to give credits to the role played by the Unity Party led government. Here is what the CDC led government refused to tell you that; we concluded the financing mechanism to pave a key remaining major economic corridor: Gbarnga-Salayea-Korneah-Voinjama-Foya-Manikorma; the Unity Party Government established the Arab Consortium (Kuwaiti Fund, Saudi Fund, Abu Dhabi, OPEC, BADEA) to provide concessional loans.

“President Weah also refused to tell you that: the road project in Maryland commenced in 2015; Harper-Ivorian Border, Harper Junction-Pleebo-Karloken-Fish Town, River Gee County was constructed by the Unity Party Led Government. Additionally, as domestic resource mobilization; we left in place financing infrastructure, the Road Fund which was established through legislation in 2015.  We also negotiated SECRAMP (South Eastern Corridor Road Access Management Project) with the World Bank providing guarantee for the financing arrangement to pave from Ganta to Zwedru using the Road Fund Mechanism. Also, as part of the Trans West African Highway Project, we secured 50% grant from the European Union and a concessional loan from the African Development Bank to finance the pavement from Logatuo to Sanniquellie,  Ganta – Yekepa which commenced in 2015  and financed by the GoL. The Coca Cola Factory – ELWA Junction road expansion project financed by the World Bank. These are the same roads President Weah referred to yesterday when he boasted of ongoing 388 kilometers for which the CDC government will be only too willing to take credit. Pavement of major roads completed under the UP Government include the 90 mile Monrovia-Buchanan Road; 200 mile Monrovia-Gbarnga-Ganta Highway now named Suakoko; Fish Town-Harper Road; the SKD Boulevard and Kakata-Bong Mines Road. We completed the pavement from Harper to the Ivorian Border and up to Karloken and extensive work up to Fish Town, Rivergee County

“The UP government secured funding for Sanniquellie-Yekepa Road which commenced five years ago; Freeport- Red Light funded by the Japanese Government.

“The UP government’s complex road network cannot be compared to the pavement by the CDC Government of President Weah of community roads in Rehab and other communities which can actually be described as alleyways leading and without major economic returns. CDC’s road projects are intended to provide contracts to friends at exorbitant cost without proper procurement processes. CDC community roads smack of a scheme to hoodwink the Liberian people for short-term applause.

“Additionally, President Weah should not just lament about inheriting few million dollars in debt from the UP government, he should be honest to inform the public that he inherited a US$60 million dollars Ministerial Complex; and a reconstructed 4 turbines hydro-electric plant, 38 Megawatt of functional Heavy Fuel-oil Power Plants currently unused by the government. An over 458 million project-CLSG 225 KV Line conveying electricity out of the West African Power Pool is yet to become functional. Currently, Sierra Leone has concluded and is supplying its citizens with affordable electricity; while due to this government incompetence, Liberians are yet to benefit. The crisis this government currently faces in providing electricity for citizens, which has led to rationing of power, is not as a result of lack of the facility to provide electricity but the inability of the CDC-led government to effectively and efficiently utilize these facilities. President Weah did not report, yesterday, that because of his administration’s incompetence, one of the turbines at Mt. Coffee constructed by the UP government has already been destroyed contributing to the present electricity crisis in the country. Rather than stating how this government would address this crisis, President Weah went on to shout “LEC, thank you yah!” to mean that he is satisfied with their level of performance. This further proves that  President Weah’s government does not care for the concerns of the people. He doesn’t care that small business owners have to use all their profits on the purchase of fuel and for the serving of generators. He doesn’t care that, at night, students wanting to study have to find alternatives while our electricity can be compared to “Christmas lights”. Apparently for these the President says “LEC, thank you yah!”

“Additionally, we secured 257 millions committed funds from the US Government Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) as our first compact in 2016. Unfortunately, Liberia now under the CDC Government lost the chance of a second compact of over 500 million due to the gross incompetence and mismanagement of the Weah government to pass the MCC indicators over the past four years. It is interesting to note that the three other Mano River Union countries qualified for the second compact.

“Fellow Liberians: The Unity Party’s infrastructural blueprint for development was well thought out for long term and sustainable development. The emphasis was on those corridors that would spur growth, enhance agriculture development together with the promotion of value chain and jobs creation. It was left to the incoming CDC Government as should be in the interest of continuity.

“Health care delivery services, a crucial human capital development pillar of the so-called PAPD, was insufficiently reported on by President Weah in his Annual Message to the National Legislature. A pattern seen in the past 3 years of his Administration. It is not a slip-up; health care is not a priority for the Weah’s Administration.  It is without doubt that the health sector is crumbling. Despite a global COVID-19 pandemic, our president fell short of reporting to an unhealthy nation, the-state-of-our nation’s health. Noticeably, there is an acute shortage of drugs and medical supplies(including gloves) in our clinics, health centers and hospitals; weak supply chain system; feebler health system caused by 4 years of neglect and health workers working under harsh conditions,” the UP noted.

The UP response to President Weah’s SONA was attended by key stalwarts of the party including the Chairman, SG, among others. According to information gathered from UP insiders, the party decided to allow its Assistant Secretary General to read the statement in a bid to allow budding UP cadres to grow and shine within their respective areas of operations.

“This is a normal function of the Unity Party. Everyone important was present. We gave the floor to our Assistant SG to show her juice,” says Mo Ali, UP Secretary General, noting, “this is what democracy is about.”

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