When one of Africa's greatest footballers, George Weah won the Presidential election a year and a half ago, Liberians were ecstatic, believing they had found their saviour. Things are very different today, as Julian Lahai Samboma reports.
Halfway into his second year as Liberia's national leader, footballer-turned-President George Weah is facing his most serious crisis to date, as disaffection with his government has galvanised sundry critics to organise massive protests, scheduled to take place in Monrovia on 7 June, which some pundits predict could turn violent.
If the man whom adoring football fans dubbed 'King George' believed his prowess on the soccer pitch could be readily replicated on the political stage, then he has received a rude awakening. His government has been accused of corruption, political ineptitude, and being clueless as to how to rescue an economy that is in freefall.
Under Weah's stewardship, opposition politician Wilmot Paye says, poverty and unemployment are rising, while high-level corruption has become even more entrenched. Paye, chairman of the opposition Unity Party, says Liberians have become "spectators in their own economy" and "bystanders in the affairs of their country".
It would be an understatement to say that ordinary Liberians are disappointed with Weah's performance. The footballing legend--who is the only African to ever win FIFA's coveted World Player of the Year award, as well as the first-ever footballer to become a head of state--became President in January 2018 after campaigning to revive the economy, create jobs for the hundreds of thousands of young adults that make up his electoral base and, as he put it, to ensure that "public resources do not end up in e pockets of government officials".
But rather than tackling the issues on which he and his Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) were elected, critics charge, the government is going out of its way to maintain the status quo that prevailed under the previous government of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who also made history as Liberia and Africa's first-ever female President. Incidentally, Sirleaf is a former World Bank functionary whose disastrous economic legacy after two Presidential terms belied her so-called technocratic pedigree.
As well as presiding over a corrupt machinery of state, Weah stands accused of personally engaging in corruption. Critics point to the many properties Weah owns, or is developing in the capital Monrovia, as proof.