Monday, August 16, 2010

SPOILER OR CONTENDER? 4-Party Merger Raises Stakes On Weah’s Political Future

By Rodney D. Sieh

Source: FrontPage Africa

Monrovia -

Shortly after his first round victory in the 2005 Presidential elections, football legend George Manneh Weah’s fate was sealed. In the eyes of those loyal to the football legend, his place in history was all but secured. Major endorsements from veteran politicians Varney Sherman and Ambassador Winston Tubman were supposed to seal the deal on Weah as the next President of Liberia. But that was before the realities of Liberia’s post-war political play sunk in.

In the end, it all came down to experience and the perception that Weah’s perceived lack of education was not worth the risk, leaving voters with no choice but to give Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf the edge over Weah. Sirleaf won 59%-41%, according to the National Electoral Commission. It didn’t help Weah’s case that his political clout posed an even more potent dilemma. The fear among the astute intellectuals was that Weah had not surrounded himself with a core of experience political stalwarts and even though he enjoyed massive popularity amongst the youths, still in awe about his football legacy, the clock soon ticked on Weah’s dream and perhaps his best chance at becoming President of Liberia.

In the aftermath of the run-off, Weah claimed the elections were fraudulent, stating elections officials were stuffing ballot boxes in Sirleaf's favor. However, many election observers, including those from the United Nations, the European Union and the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS), reported that the election was clean and transparent. The Carter Center observed "minor irregularities" but no major problems. The second round loss to Sirleaf showed not only showed Weah’s inability to tap into the intellects base but also showed that despite his popularity, he was still unable to protect his strongholds in the vote-rich Monrovia, including New Kru Town, Claratown and West Point.

Five years later and on the eve of another campaign season, Weah and a part of his Congress for Democratic Change have joined ranks with three opposition parties in a bid to unseat President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's ruling Unity Party in the 2011 presidential election. Last weekend, Weah's CDC, the former ruling National Patriotic Party of ex-president Charles Taylor and the Progressive Democratic Party of former warlord Sekou Damate Conneh announced their alliance in a joint statement. "The five-year rule of the Unity Party-led government has been characterized by misrule with untold hardships and abject poverty..." read the statement.

With much riding on the 2011 elections, Weah who believed he was robbed victory in 2005 embarked on his quest to polish his credentials and has claimed that he has been studying for his University degree, Business Administration at DeVry University in Miami. The football legend recently told the Associated Press that his desire for more education was not based on his hope of becoming president, but simply “to improve my potential and because I think it is the right thing to do.”

Many have attributed Weah’s 2005 demise to his educational shortcomings. It remains to be seen whether he has done enough to repair that damage in his quest for the Presidency. For now though, Weah’s more pressing dilemma appears to be how he reestablishes himself as the formidable candidate he was in 2005.

Since 2005, the football legend has faced numerous criticisms about his electability. The fact that he has spent most of his time away from home has also given Weah’s critics ammunition to conclude that he is not in tune with the plight of most of Liberians, especially his base in key districts like New Kru Town, Clara Town and West Point. Even Weah’s acceptance of his 2011 endorsement was held at an indoor New Kru Town rally and not outdoors where he once drew huge crowds.

It has not helped Weah, observers say that he is currently embroiled in the legal troubles of his childhood friend, James Bestman, who was arrested recently in the United States on drugs and money laundering charges. Sadly for Weah, he was on the property at the time of the arrest and despite his explanations that he was only passing by and questioned for ’45 seconds’, close associates of Bestman have confided to FPA that Weah was a frequented visitor to Bestman’s home. There are also concerns that the football legend may have benefited from Bestman financially, a key piece of fact which could hurt any potential political run by Weah.

The Bestman probe, FrontPageAfrica has learned contributed to Weah’s late arrival at this year’s World Cup finals in South Africa. Weah, who had a scheduled appearance at the veterans gala arrived at the World Cup one week after kickoff.

Today, the stains of arrest still haunts Weah as his friend, Bestman lingers in the custody of the FBI and as U.S. prosecutors prepare its case against Bestman. One of the key reasons for the delay of the case going to trial, sources say, is the fact that Bestman has cases pending in a number of different states including the states of Virginia, North Carolina, New York and Maryland. Thus, prosecutors are looking to throw additional charges on in a bid to supersede the indictment to add more counts. As a result Bestman remains in FBI custody in the Howard County jail. No bond hearing has been set and Bestman has not yet been arraigned until prosecutors have consolidated the case for multiple jurisdictions.

While Weah insists that he did not sleep on the property the night leading to the morning arrest of Bestman as has been reported and speculated in many circles, many remain unsure especially after Weah, in admitting that he was on the property at the time of the arrest said he was only questioned for 45 seconds. “When I pulled into the driveway, Mr. James came down the stairs and I saw two officers that served him a warrant that he needed to come with them,” Weah said.

Weah, who has not publicly declared his plans for 2011, has pledged to stand before any force in his quest to defeat Sirleaf in a rematch of 2005 race. Weah, accepting petition from CDC supporters in Logan town recently said: “I will stand before any force, I will stand in the interest of my people and ensure Ellen Administration’s defeat in 2011.” The CDC 2005 standard bearer went on to say that he has always accepted the call of his people and that the issues in 2011 will not be about academics but about corruption and the failed promises of the Sirleaf government.

Despite Weah’s declaration and pledge to take on Sirleaf, there have been numerous speculations that the CDC 2005 standard bearer and the party’s secretary general Lenn Eugene Nagbe recently struck a deal with the ruling party to play the role of the spoiler come 2011: Keep the opposition in disarray and ensure that Weah emerges into a second round run-off with Sirleaf in 2011. It is a matchup, Unity Party officials believe suits them perfectly. Having trounced Weah once, the ruling party is convince that its best chance to win in 2011 is a second round matchup with Weah.

Nevertheless, the timing of the start of the Bestman trial could also be a factor in how well a second presidential quest by Weah materializes and how much of the details of Bestman’s activities traces to Weah.

For the foreseeable future, last weekend’s four-party merger have no doubt raised the stakes on the political future of Weah and his political survival. Keen political observers will no doubt be looking to see whether the football legend survives a potential primary in the newly-formed coalition in the aftermath of his previous declaration that he will not play second fiddle to any other politician. Has Weah gambled the political cards away? Or has the football legend sold the political cards of his congress for democratic change away?

The truth, critics will come as Liberia inches closer to the 2011 elections which is almost a year away when every action or inaction by Weah will be scrutinized by astute political observers and players within his own party, CDC. Lurking in the shadows is the ruling Unity Party, eagerly looking to see how it all plays out or whether it will once again have the luxury of having Weah in another second round duel. But Weah must first survive the political infighting of what will no doubt be a brutal primary as more forces look to mend ties in a bid to take on the ruling party. How Weah measures up remains to be seen. The long and rugged road to 2011 is about to get very interesting.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

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Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

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The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

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Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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