Liberians slam President Weah over long stay abroad

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Liberian President George Weah’s long absence from the country has sparked criticisms and also prompting an opposition figure to query if the West African nation is running on “autopilot.”

Weah had traveled at the end of October for series of political gatherings in numerous countries and to watch his son who is a footballer represent the United States at the World Cup in Qatar.

However, since then, the President has not been seen in his homeland where people are struggling with price hikes and shortages of basic goods.

Also, some people who are knowledgeable about the demands of top-flight diplomacy, or the enduring love of the beautiful game, are beginning to also question the president’s absence.

Meanwhile, Weah has shared pictures and video of himself with his son in Qatar on Twitter, saying he was s “proud daddy” as the US national team qualified for the knockout stages.

However, images of Weah having fun in the stands in Qatar, where he is a “guest of honour”, while Liberians struggle has raised eyebrows with many compatriots venting their anger on social media.

23-year-old Abraham Kaneh tweeted in Monrovia, saying “This one here has passed the limit now… who has he left us with?”

Another Monrovian, Momo Fully, tweeted “He’s not going to do the work of the Liberian people. He went to do the work of his own son. He did not go on our plea but he has gone to see other friends”.

In the same vein, a popular media personality, Henry Costa, posted a joke online, saying “The president would extend his absence to January if his son Timothy scored against England last month.”

New York-born Timothy Weah is among those that hold US and Liberian nationality, with the countries maintaining close ties dating back to Americans’ role in the creation of the West African state in the 19th century.

Several football-loving Liberians follow the younger Weah’s performances for his French club, Lille, but for opposition politician, Lewis Browne, “that does not justify the president’s globe-trotting activities”.

Browne said “Weah continues to insult the intelligence of Liberians and exhibit a high degree of don’t-care attitude by abandoning the entire country and citizens to witness soccer matches”.

While also accusing Weah of misusing public money to lead a celebrity lifestyle, the opposition further condemned what it sees as the president’s gallivanting between Qatar and international summits in Morocco, Egypt, France, Monaco and the United States, with former vice president Joseph Boakai saying Liberia is “on autopilot”.

The Unity Party heavyweight added “We continue to witness other acts of poor leadership, irresponsible behaviour, lack of concern, impunity, and wanton misuse of our finances,” suggesting that others could have represented the country instead of Weah.

Other Liberians, however, defended Weah, who acquired iconic status after becoming the first and only African to win football’s most prestigious individual award, the Ballon d’Or in 1995.

31-year-old Alex Bono said “I support the president. The man wants to see his son playing, what’s wrong with that?”

Also, Entrepreneur Antoinette Anderson commended Weah for “trying to render services to the Liberian people” and “gather funds out there to make Liberia a better place to live”.

Similarly, Tarlue Zeyon said “I don’t have problems with the events he went on. The fact he went there on behalf of the country, I think it’s necessary”.

Last month, Weah las extended his stay abroad, being the longest since he became president, by 25 additional days and he is expected to be in Liberia on December 18.

Weah’s government is also facing criticism over the handling of a census that must take place before elections in 2023.

Weah, who became president in 2017 while assuring to fight poverty and corruption, has been chosen by his party to seek re-election, but critics say he has failed to honour his commitments.