Posted by Vanguard on
He is growing used to people coming to hear him speak, not to watch him play, to being asked to comment on the poverty and misery facing his fellow Liberians. Slowly but surely, despite a surfeit of good counsel and decent strategy, George Weah is becoming a politician.
MONROVIA—He is growing used to people coming to hear him speak, not to watch him play, to being asked to comment on the poverty and misery facing his fellow Liberians. Slowly but surely, despite a surfeit of good counsel and decent strategy, George Weah is becoming a politician.
And not a moment too soon as the one-time FIFA footballer of the year is on the verge of making history, standing in a run-off election November 8 to become the west African country’s first post-war president.
“When you mark your ballots on Tuesday, you must mark them for George Manneh Weah, because he is your future, he is your destiny, he is the best hope for Liberia,” the 39-year-old father of three told the crowd as dusk fell over the capital on Saturday at a final campaign rally.
“Do not listen to those who would go against George Manneh Weah, who would castigate him, for they do not have your interest at heart. They are liars, they are afraid of George Manneh Weah and of the Liberian people.” Of the more than one million votes cast on October 11, Weah earned some 28.3 percent in what many observers, as well as detractors, of the multimillionaire high school drop-out saw as a protest vote against the entrenched political elite in the west African country.
He won outright majorities in six of Liberia’s 15 counties and took second in seven others, and his phenomenal popularity also boosted the fortunes of those politicians allied with his Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) — founded initially as a vehicle for his candidacy.
In his favour is his status as Liberia’s favourite son, a hero on the football field who played for some of Europe’s biggest teams, a goodwill ambassador for the UN Children’s Fund and known as unstintingly generous.
He was a crucial supporter of the disarmament process that demobilized more than 100,000 young combatants, and legend has it that he once stood on his front porch with a bag of money, handing out some 20,000 dollars to people who came to his door.
“His candidacy crossed ethnic lines and proved that people want peace,” said Prince Johnson, a former warlord elected to represent Nimba county in the Senate who is one of more than a dozen key figures in the country of three million to endorse Weah in his political battle against Harvard-educated banker Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
“While we were killing each other, he was playing football and sent us money to encourage us to go to peace,” said Johnson, notorious for ordering the torture and murder of president Samuel Doe Weah’s political hero and watching the execution while sipping coolly from a can of beer.
“If all of us now can choose him, it proves that he will be a stabilizing factor, that war is over.”
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