It is anybody’s guess what a presidential candidate who threatens journalists at election time would do, if elected. But George Weah, the presidential aspirant of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), is not guessing. He knows what he would do to journalists “who are writing negatively” against him.
According to a Liberian Daily Observer’s article posted to the web (all.Africa.com) on November 4, 2005, Weah told a political rally in Sacclepea, Nimba County, on Tuesday that “what you (journalists) write about others today will cost your lives”.
The paper said Mr. Weah warned the press to be mindful of its important role in society, promising to even up with journalists who are writing against him. “What bad you write about me I will have reciprocation if I win the election,” the Observer quoted Mr. Weah as saying.
Among those who gave Weah a standing ovation during his address was Cllr. Varney Sherman, the boastful Harvard Law School graduate and “rich people’s lawyer” who has vowed to make Weah president because “educated people have failed the country”.
Frankly, the statement attributed to the CDC candidate is as weird as the pushing of an anti-education agenda by the educated people in Weah’s party. Journalists are the last group of professionals any politician would want to pick fuss with during election time. That Weah could muster the courage to threaten Liberian media practitioners to the point of death at this time, it signals that the semi-illiterate former soccer player who would become president has something under his sleeve more sinister than killing journalists.
But what do the Liberian people expect, after all? A little educated and zero experienced presidential candidate surrounded by people in denial who live under the burden of a combination of negative factors can only be expected to go from worse to worst. First, it was a promise of top defense posts to Charles Julu and George Dweh, men alleged to have committed atrocities under the Samuel Doe regime. Now, it’s a threat on the lives of journalists who dare write or broadcast anything about King Weah’s illiteracy and lack of requisite skills to lead a government with a Herculean task of reconstruction, economic recovery, and national healing in partnership with the international community.
It is not clear what the Press Union of Liberia plans to do regarding the CDC candidate’s threat on the lives of its members, but given the serious nature of the threat, the union is expected to take some actions in the interest its membership.
Come Tuesday, November 8, 2005, the CDC presidential candidate and the Unity Party standard bearer will go head-on in second round of voting to decide who goes to the Executive Mansion. So far, attempt by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) to bring the two candidates together in a live debate before the election had failed. While the UP standard bearer readily accepted the invitation, the CDC candidate said his “tight campaign schedule” left no time for a debate.
But George Weah’s refusal to meet Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in a live debate came as no surprise to many. Ellen is a Harvard graduate, a veteran politician and a former Liberian finance minister who has also held top posts at the World Bank and the United Nations Weah is a high school dropout who does not even understand how an internal office memo is circulated. He, however, excelled in the sporting arena, leaving him with the illusion that an athlete whose artistic skills sway fans at will can have a smooth ride to the presidency, with everyone lavishing praises as in the case of a successful soccer game. So when Weah realized he’s no longer the soccer hero who paraded the streets of Monrovia with trophies won for European clubs, he simply shunned the intellectual engagement that would expose his limitations. One observer said: “What is unfortunate is that Weah could get away with this.”
Many Liberians and friends of Liberia consider the run-off election between CDC George Weah and Unity Party Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as unfortunate. One foreign diplomat who has served in Liberia, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “If Liberian politicians did their homework, the country (Liberia) would have been saved the shame it’s faced with today. Is there any reason other than selfishness when a man who became successful due to sound education pounds his chest and says ‘I’ll support this or that illiterate man or woman because he or she would make a better president’?” the diplomat wondered.
Asked what he made of George Weah’s threat against journalists, the diplomat said, “Direct that question to the Liberian people, especially the voters. If a baby starts biting from the mother’s womb what you think would happen when that baby is born?” Weah is that baby and the voters the mother. If the mother believes giving birth to a child would endanger her own life, the choice is hers to give birth to that child or abort it,” he said.