More than a thousand people participated in a protest last night in Monrovia against economic challenges and President George Weah's prolonged absence from the country. The president has come under fire for leaving the country for nearly seven weeks without providing a legitimate reason.
Weah has participated in a number of political and economic events across Africa and Europe since departing the West African country on November 1st. But he has spent the majority of his time at the World Cup in Qatar, where he was spotted in the stands supporting his son Timothy, who represented the USA.
A former Liberian international football player, Weah played for different European clubs and is the only player from an African nation to have ever won the Ballon d'Or, a yearly trophy given to the world's best player.
Initially, the president was supposed to return to Liberia on November 23 in order to sign a suspension of those who perform female genital mutilation. But just days before he was supposed to return, he wrote in a letter to the national legislature that he had to extend his trip so that he could go to Monaco for a Peace and Sports International forum, attend the World Cup as a FIFA special guest, and fly to the US in early December for a series of meetings with business and political leaders before the USA-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.
As of now, he is still in the US and has been criticized by his detractors at home for not stating how his absence will benefit the nation. Weah's opponent in the upcoming presidential election, Alexander B. Cummings Jr. of the Alternative National Congress opposition party, stated that "we can't locate any political leader anywhere in the world who has stayed away for this period of time for non-health reasons." "Watching his son play in one game is admirable; there's nothing wrong with it, but to spend that much time in Qatar and travel to Monaco is unbelievable."
Large-scale protests have occasionally occurred during Weah's five years in office, but frustration with his administration's handling of the economy has increased as Liberians deal with rising food and fuel prices connected to the Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic's aftermath.
A coalition of Liberia's four biggest opposition parties marched in Monrovia. Many of the demonstrators were wearing shirts bearing prints by Alexander Cummings. Some people carried signs that said, "We are tired of suffering."
Prince Barclay, an electrical engineer who expressed fear for his children's future prospects, claimed that even if the government was unable to provide jobs, the president still left his people. "We had high expectations for this government, but they fell short," said Barclay.
The event's primary organizer was Lewis Brown, a well-known Liberian politician who worked in the administrations of former presidents Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Charles Taylor. Speaking to the audience, Brown remarked, "Too many people in this country are suffering; they cannot pay rent; they cannot pay school fees; people are tired."
As Liberians gear up for the 2023 elections, many political analysts have argued that President Weah has not done enough to be reelected. He has failed to turn around the fortunes of many Liberians. Many had high expectations for him because of his background, thinking that he was a breath of fresh air since he was not a career politician.