Liberia: A New Wine in an Old Bottle or a New Bottle With an Old Wine?

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President George Weah’s dramatic victory in the Presidential election in Liberia did set a strong political earthquake in Liberia and Africa in general. The historic defeat of the ruling party by a man who struggled in the ghetto as a child, trying to find food to survive and later spent much of his life as a footballer, gave hope to many young Africans that nothing can be impossible with much persistence and determination. Perhaps, Weah knows more than many people what it means to be poor in a country, where many are struggling to survive economically and politically, after many years of brutal and devastating wars and human rights abuse. Moreover, George Weah’s election victory equally, came with challenges and expectations from Liberians, amongst them, to positively change the lives of his fellow Liberians, promote freedom and democracy. To many, his victory ushered in a new era of political freedom, economic prosperity and positive changes. Sadly, those are some of the problems facing Liberia, which President Weah had severally criticised as an opposition MP.

In view of this obvious reality, the latest raid on Monday by Court officials in Liberia, of the offices of a newspaper critical of President George Weah’s government and the arrest of all its employees, has made many wonder whether the new President has quickly become a member of the same club he had vehemently denounced as an opposition. Has the new President suddenly become allergic to criticism? Many are worried.

According to the report, editors and other journalists of Frontpage Africa were allegedly detained for several hours at the civil court in Monrovia for reportedly publishing “misleading” information.  Worse still, non-journalists like the caretaker of the publishing house were equally arrested. Responding to the accusation of attack on press freedom, levelled against the government by Frontpage Africa and other concerned organisations and individuals, the arresting officers argued that the raids were part of a $1m ( £700,000) civil lawsuit filed against the publishing company over alleged “misleading” publication.

Contrarily, some, including the Frontpage Africa have denounced the raid and arrest as a systematic way of silencing opposition and discouraging investigative journalism, which they argued, might expose the ills of the new government.

Having won the Presidential election in January against the former Vice-President Joseph Boakai with more than 60% of the vote, on the promise to set Liberia on a different and prosperous road, some are now asking whether President Weah is just another same African politician, who has promised much only to change after gaining power. To give the charismatic President the benefit of the doubts, Liberians and the world in general, want a clear action from him to disassociate himself from the alleged undemocratic actions. This will definitely help him regain the trust and confidence many have in him.

The world is indeed watching. Time is ticking for the new President to initiate economic, social and political programmes, which will change the lives of average Liberians. The ball is in President George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah’s court.