Freedom in Liberia: Chicken or Beef, Weah or Boakai?
Liberia faces one of its toughest battles yet. After two civil wars of (1989 -1997 and 1999 - 2003), an Ebola pandemic (2014 - 2015) and now, a political battle to the end for a victor of the highly contested and debated 2017 Presidential Presidential and Legislative elections. In the quest for democratisation to prevail and for the recognition of fairness in the electoral process, Liberia has been stuck in throes of a disputed election process post the October 2017 elections. The Supreme Court is set to make a ruling on 7 December 2017 on the claims made by the oppositions parties to declare the 2017 election null and void, due to accusations of mismanagement of ballots and voting procedures, one wonders what lies beyond the run-off or fresh election. Joseph Nyumah Boakai Sr. of the United Party and Mr George Weah of the Congress for Democratic Change, are the front runners in this elections race. Boakai is a seasoned politician having served as Vice President of Liberia under Her Excellency, Ms Ellen Sirleaf Johnson while Weah is a world renowned soccer star turned politician. It is to be seen whether the people of Liberia are more concerned with an educated technocrat or whether Weah’s panache from his soccer hey days will evoke a change in direction for a leader of choice to turn the country around. As reported in research by the United Nation Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Reports 2016 (HDR2016), Liberia’s Human Development Index since the end of the second civil war stands at less than 1%. Liberia's GDP & annual growth rate has dropped from 8.7 % to 0.0% in 2016. The resultant rise in the cost of living, especially the cost of food that is mostly imported increased fiscal pressures. High unemployment continues to undermine the welfare of Liberians in both urban and rural areas. What do these two key figures represent and what can they offer to a nation in desperate need of social and economic reform?
Boakai has credible policy proposals for economic development with his focus on road infrastructure and agricultural production. Weah’s focus is on creating jobs and reduce corruption and price of rice. Boakai is also a very strong institutional person and he is known as a person who respects the rule of law and good governance. Reports on Front Page Africa Online, a Liberian news website claim that as Senator, Weah missed countless sessions in parliament and committees that he has even been named among the poorly performing Senators in the Senate Report. When it comes to alluring, dynamic personalities and demonstration of strong statesmanship, both Boakai and Weah have established this in the respective careers. Boakai has a history of service in government and no record of corruption or bad governance. In his soccer career, Weah represented Liberia well, and when there was no stable government during the civil war he stood up and mobilised the national team, using his personal finances to participate in international competitions. With the low literacy rate in Liberia amongst the majority, one wonders whether the Liberian people are concerned about their economy and stability enough to see the difference between technocrat and inexperience easily. According to African Arguments, a pan-African platform for news analysis, Boakai supporters see him as a loyal person of institutions, a committed grassroots leader and believe that his experience over the last 40 years as a public servant would be useful in moving the country forward. Those who support Weah believe that he is untainted and can bring change. Most of them support Weah in anger against an establishment of educated technocrats who have not improved the lives of the majority. It should also be well noted that Weah received the highest number of votes out of the twenty presidential candidates.
With all of this hanging in the balance, Liberia’s multiparty system and democratic reforms must however be commended in truly ensuring political participation and adherence to the institutions that uphold the rule of law, freedom of expression ,through their open media platforms, and respect for human rights. “The Love for Liberty brought us here” is the inscription noted on Liberia’s Coat of Arms. A nation whose journey has been riddled with overcoming many challenges, cannot pay the price of another conflict spurred on by political tensions. In a country where even basic services are not provided, Liberia’s passage to ensuring true Freedom for its people, is a tale left untold. Whoever will be at the helm holds the key to unlocking Liberia’s potential beyond the politics to a truly free society. We wait, while the eyes of the world focus on Liberia.