MONROVIA – Since President George Manneh Weah took to the podium to address the 77th regular session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, New York, USA on September 22, 2022, there has been a flurry of reactions from Liberians both at home and abroad, especially in fact-checking their president’s delivery. Mostly receptive have been the reactions to President Weah’s UNGA summation of Liberia’s current state of affairs, with some hardcore critics even commending the Liberian leader for improvements in his speech and message content. But in the mix of these lukewarm reactions, a stunningly damning voice has erupted from a Diaspora-based Liberian journalist who wonders which Liberia was President Weah heralding to the world body when he praised achievements under this government in tackling climate change, promoting women and youth empowerment, enhancing democratic governance, among others.
According to Julius Jaesen, publisher and owner of Democracy Watch, the myriad of falsities and the mediocre style of deliverance by the Liberian leader leaves little wonder why his sanctioned Minister of State was allowed to run the government.
“Experts say, reading with the proficiency of a third grader also equals to comprehending at the level of a third grader. After five years, not only has your reading not improved, even if we limited ourselves to the issues that you spoke about, the condition of our country has worsened,” Mr. Jaesen stated.
Regarding President Weah’s stated commitment to fight climate change, the vocal Liberian journalist said, the rising waves are dangerously sweeping Liberia’s coastline with little to no attention from the government.
“Heavy rains are displacing families while dirt and filth continue to pile up in urban areas, especially in Monrovia, which is considered to be amongst the dirtiest cities in the world. The world can take your “commitment” on the climate at face value but no one living in Liberia will believe you because we see what your “commitment” over the last five years have wrought to our lives and environment,” Mr. Jaesen said.
Women and youth empowerment
Regarding President Weah’s statement that his administration is committed to addressing inequalities regarding women and youth empowerment, Jaesen openly wondered which Liberia President Weah was speaking of.
“Is it the same Liberia under your leadership with rising incidences of rapes and other domestic and violent crimes against women and girls, including babies, often with impunity? Is it the Liberia under your leadership with a justice system that makes it harder for victims and survivors of rape and other crimes to get heard let alone bring perpetrators to answer?
“Are you talking about the same Liberia under your leadership where more and more young people are falling into drugs and crimes, and where those with the duties to safeguard our communities and children are actually peddling or protecting the drug dealers? Are we talking about the same Liberia under your leadership where too many of our young people are overcrowding dilapidated prisons without any possibility for their rehabilitation so that our children go to prison for petty offenses only to return as hardened criminals?
“The bulk of your support in 2017 was from young people who were enthusiastic and hopeful that you understood their disaffections, deprivations, and their demands for opportunities to improve their lives. Today, too many of those same Liberians are jobless, without employable skills and growing increasingly hopeless. The “at-risk” youth you are touting to the world as political fodder have seen the real risks to improving their lives increase under your administration. For five years, Mr. President, you have shown that you do not care and have no real interest in lifting up Liberian youths, especially those that are at-risks. Today, therefore, Liberia has more “at-risk” youths, “at-risks” children, “at-risks” elders and “at-risks” families because for five years, you did nothing to show your administration cares about actually changing Liberian lives for the better. On the advent of another election; how dare you politicize their conditions which have worsened?
“Specific to women empowerment: Mr. President, I defer to the Chairman of your ruling coalition, Mr. Mulbah Morlu, who knows you more closely. He aptly describes your treatment and consideration of women more as abusive than empowering. Liberian women deserve better, Mr. President. Liberian women deserve to be appointed and elected to public offices based on their capacities and qualifications, which they have in abundance. They do not need to be exploited as your party’s chairman described.
“It seemed somewhat providential that barely after you ended your address, two high-ranking officials of your administration, one of whom is a Liberian diplomat, were arrested in Korea on suspicion of rape of teenagers. Your Minister of Foreign Affairs is under ongoing suspicions for abusing his office in the sexual harassment of a female employee when he served as Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. This was before you nominated and commissioned him to represent our country to the world, Mr. self-proclaimed Feminist-in-chief.
“You see, Mr. President, the test of women empowerment is not simply in airing the words. It is in the actions we take to empower women. You failed this test with the growing impunity against rape and violence against women in Liberia, and when in the midterm elections, you and your ruling party fielded not a single woman on the slate of 15 candidates for the Liberian Senate. As if this was not bad enough, you and the ruling coalition spent the power and influence of your incumbency to resist and fight against qualified women candidates. Even when a rural woman won in Gbarpolu County, you and the ruling party demeaned and resisted her from taking her seat in representation of her people.
Liberia, a democratic haven?
During his summation, one of the key points that President Weah struck was that, following a decade-long internecine strife, Liberia is becoming a model for democratic governance under his leadership.
“Democracy in Liberia also continues to grow from strength to strength. After many years of civil upheaval, Liberia is becoming a stronghold of peace and a safe haven for democracy. This is because we have taken actions in the last few years to build and strengthen democratic institutions, such as the press and the Liberian judiciary,” President Weah had stated at the UNGA last week.
But Jaesen thinks otherwise, wondering which Liberia is a haven for democracy as peaceful Liberian protesters will vehemently disagree with the president’s assertion.
“For months now, a student of the University of Liberia has been struggling for his life after thugs and goons loyal to you physically assaulted and abused him for peacefully protesting against your failed leadership of our country. Nothing has been heard of the trial of the perpetrators. This adds to the brutalization of peaceful protesters who were gathering to protest against the weaponizing of the courts against critics of your administration and opposition leaders. Bloody actions and other violent threats against opposition leaders and members have gone without investigation or remedial actions from your administration to reign in this undemocratic practice.
“In five years, Mr. President, you have recreated Liberia. It is not a “haven of democracy”. It is a hell-hole of autocracy. With too many mysterious deaths and unsolved murders, people are right to be scared, and are living in constant fear and trepidation of the wrath of the government which can take the form of police brutality, targeted armed robbery, economic strangulation, or attacks by goon squads.
“Finally, Mr. President, as you addressed the world, I could not help thinking about the backdrop. Credible reports are that you were restricted within 25-miles of the United Nations District. This unfortunate situation suggests that you are unwelcome to the United States. Such is the importance of ties between the United States and Liberia that to entreat you with an unwelcome status is worrisome.
“As always, your administration have tried to engage in denials, deceptions and deflections. Releasing a video purporting to show you can travel outside the restriction of the 25-mile deceives only yourself and insults the intelligence of the Liberian people. Via Interstate 495 West, your home in Queens is 12.2 miles away from the UN Headquarters. 12.2 miles is within the restriction of the 25-mile radius imposed on you, Mr. President.
“In only five years, you have unbelievably destroyed everything good about our governance, and have extended your destruction to our most important bilateral relationship. Barely a month before your address, the United States Government designated three of your closest associates and officials, one of whom ran your presidency, for sanctions for corruption and abuse of their offices. Earlier reports from the United States painted a dismal picture for international investment in our country. Corruption, shady deals and international scandals, including in the illegal sale of Liberian diplomatic passports to international drug dealers, terrorists and other criminals, continue to haunt your administration, and to smear the reputation of our country.
“For international businesses to invest in Liberia, Liberian political leaders must be viewed as trustworthy and possessors of integrity. Sadly, Mr. President, the designation of you as a pariah, and your administration as being overtaken by corruption and unaccountable leadership, is hurtful to our country, unattractive for investments, and can only further worsen the living conditions of ordinary Liberians who need jobs and other opportunities to improve their lives.
“Things are not just bad for too many Liberian families, Mr. President, it is getting worse every day. I join in saying: Liberia deserves better,” Mr. Jaesen stated categorically.