Washington – A spokesman for Senator George Manneh Weah has confirmed to FrontPageAfrica that the football legend-turned politician will not be participating in the second and final Liberia Presidential debate set for Tuesday, September 26, 2017.
Mr. Sam Mannah told FrontPageAfrica Monday that due to an invitation from the European Union, Mr. Weah will not be attending although organizers have listed him along with six others to participate in the debate.
“I don’t think he will be at the debate due to his meetings with the European Union in Brussels and also with the head of the African Union in Paris both meetings to take place September 25th and 26th. He also met the President of Niger on the 24th of September.
He traveled to honor an invitation from the European Union. The visit with the Nigerien President was just a stop over on his Way to his meeting with the European Union.”
Purpose of EU Trip Unclear
It is unclear why EU officials have invited Weah but diplomatic observers point to a statement last week in which the EU express concerns about the influence of former President Charles Ghankay Taylor in the ongoing elections. Weah has picked fellow Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, the former first lady as his running mate.
The EU embassy in Monrovia informed FrontPage Africa last week that as part of terms, on which Taylor was jailed, he is not supposed to meddle in Liberia’s politics and he is therefore being monitored to ensure adherence the terms and conditions of his sentence. Charles Taylor was convicted by the Special Tribunal for Sierra Leone and is serving a 50 year sentence.
This sentence cannot be overruled because of a change of President in Liberia. It is a condition of his sentence that he does not attempt to interfere in Liberian politics and this is monitored closely by prison authorities in the United Kingdom (where he is serving his sentence),” The EU Embassy in Monrovia wrote in a response to a FrontPage Africa’s inquiry.
Several figures from Taylor’s National Patriotic Party, including Senator Howard-Taylor, now in merger with Weah’s CDC, have in recent days expressed that the CDC’s election could lead to the return of the Taylor agenda.
Addressing reporters in Saclepea, Nimba County this week, Senator Howard-Taylor said although former President Taylor is not involved in Liberian politics, she believes that the NPP he created is a grassroot party that made promises to its citizens since 1997.
“Because of what happened in our government and the abrupt closure and arrest of former President Taylor we were not able to fulfill those promises.
The NPP is now strong, and so we want to call all of the NPP stalwarts across the length and breadth of Liberia to come on board and help us win these elections, we will put that agenda back on the table,” the CDC Vice Standard Bearer said.
The Senator went on to say that the NPP still has a stronghold in Nimba as she drummed up support for votes. “We’ve done a lot of work under the NPP, under the CDC – even the LPDP that is a fairly new party has done some work here, The NPP is back in full force and because of our unity you will see them moving across from place to place.”
A week earlier, Josiah Marvin Cole, an aspirant for the Bong County District No. 3 seat on the CDC ticket, declared during the party’s launch in Gbarnga that the former first lady is an embodiment of former President Taylor on the CDC ticket. Said Cole: “Let me borrow from our former President that God’s willing, I will be back and Senator Taylor represents former Liberian President Charles Taylor on the ticket.”
Weah in Niger, Talk Regional Stability
Mannah, in a statement Monday said, Weah, en route to Europe, made a stop in Niger, where he paid a courtesy visit on the President of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou at the Presidential palace in Niamey.
The meeting, according to Mannah, was attended by several high-level officials of the Nigerien government and centered around issues of bilateral interest.
“High on the table were issues concerning regional stability, the promotion of true tenets of democracy, and the conduct of peaceful elections in Liberia.”
During the meeting, the statement said, Senator Weah who was accompanied by a high level delegation expressed how ecstatic he was to have met His Excellency, Hon. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger for the first time, and praised him for his leadership in steering the affairs of the great country of Niger; and for his contributions towards regional stability and a United Africa.
For his part, Hon. Issoufou of Niger commended Senator Weah for his visit and furthered lauded him for his immense contributions towards sustaining the peace and for promoting unity in his homeland. He expressed how proud he was of the CDC political leader for his steadfastness in pursuit of change and a better Liberia.
Additionally, the Nigerien head of state promised to do all in his power as a member of the ECOWAS governing council to ensure that peaceful elections are conducted in Liberia; thereby paving the way for a smooth transition of leadership.
He further encouraged Senator Weah to continue to promote peace and unity as he strives for a better Liberia. Signed: Sam Mannah Public Relations Officer Office of the standard bearer-CDC
Debate organizers issued a statement last week confirming that seven Presidential candidates will be in attendance.
The Deepening Democracy Coalition said the debate set for September 26 at the Paynesville City Hall beginning at 1:PM will address the economy (with emphasis on poverty alleviation); Youth empowerment (with emphasis on education and job creation); Land rights (in the context of natural resource management); Gender empowerment.
DDC Lists Seven for Debate
The DDC said: “Seven Presidential Candidates have consented to attend. They Include: Alexander Cummings... ANC Charles Brumskine......Liberty Party George Weah...............CDC Joseph Boakia.............Unity Party Benoni Urey................ALP Mills Jones................ MOVEE and Mcdella Cooper.”
The DDC said the first six were selected based on their ranking from a recently conducted opinion poll commissioned by the Organizers of the debate, while Ms. Cooper was included because she is the only woman candidate in the Presidential race.
The Deepening Democraccy Coalition (DDC) is made up of the Liberia Media Center, The Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding, The Press Union of Liberia, The Center for Transparency and Accountability, The Angie Brooks Center and the Liberia Women Media Action Committee.
These are six reputable Civil society organizations. The debate is been supported by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa OSIWA. invitation letters were dispatched to the candidates as a follow up to the initial invitation sent them on August 25. On August 18 the DDC organized what has been described as the first professionally organized Presidential debate in Liberia with Urey, Cummings, Brumskine and Boakia appearing.
Weah, it can be recalled took aim at Mr. Alexander Cummings, standard bearer of the opposition Alternative National Congress following the first debate as he vowed to attend the next one.
Said Weah: “I came in last night [Friday morning] by 12 AM and I heard my opponents deliberated issues at the debate. But I want to say this, no one at that debate said the truth, and I can defend it. I know you’re concerned but, but let me tell you, don’t be misled when people come to you and tell you that you should vote for them because they managed US$80 million budget for or a billion-dollar company."
Cummings, in response, challenged Senator to show up at the next debate to defend his policies he outlined in his campaign manifesto.
Cummings retorted while appearing on the 50/50 talk show on Sky FM:
“Let him show up in the next debate and let’s have the discussion in public. Let’s see who’s articulate, let’s see who is clear on policies. If you read some of what they said, it’s a carbon copy of what we’ve been saying around taking out wastes, around redirecting funds. So it’s the best form of flattery when somebody copies you; he copies me on one hand and criticizes me on the other hand, but I think the Liberian people can see through that.”
But Mannah told FPA Monday that the football legend’s current travel means he will not be in attendance. “He's definitely not going to be here before the debate then,” Mannah declared, when pressed as to whether the CDC’s standard bearer will not be in attendance.
The French newspaper, Jeune Afrique reported recently that Weah will be out of Liberia during the period of the debate.
“The candidate planned a trip to Europe on 25 and 26 September: in Paris, he should be received at the Elysee by Franck Paris, the head of the Africa Unit, and in Brussels by members of the European Commission,” the newspaper reported.
Ahead of the October 10 Presidential election, Senator Weah has been meeting a number of regional leaders including Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo in February and Togo's Faure Gnassingbé in mid-August.
The former international football star visited Alpha Condé. On 23 August, at a lunch in Conakry, the 1995 Ballon d'Or spoke of the political transition in Liberia in the event that he won the election and assured the Guinean head of state, that it would guarantee judicial immunity to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the outgoing President. Senator Weah also met Congolese leader Denis Sassou Nguesso on September 1, 2017 in his native village of Oyo and then Burkina Faso Roch Marc Christian Kaboré in Ouagadougou on 11th.