Liberia is set to hold elections for its presidency, House of Representatives and half of its Senate, on Tuesday, October 10, 2023. The current president, George Weah, is running for a second term of six years. Here are five interesting things to know about Weah and his first term.
International football star
After dominating Liberia’s local leagues, Weah moved to Cameroon to play for Tonnerre of Yaoundé. The Cameroon national coach, Claude De Roy, noticed and recommended him to Arsene Wenger, who signed him to Monaco, bringing the star to Europe.
Weah went on to win the French Cup in 1991 with Monaco. He will later move to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), winning the French Cup, the league title and reaching the semifinals of the 1995 European Champions League, where he was the top scorer. In 1995, he transferred to AC Milan, winning the 1996 and 1999 Serie A league titles. Weah won the African Player of the Year in 1989, 1994 and 1995. He also won the Best FIFA Men’s Player and the Ballon d’Or in 1995. He remains the only African player to have won the award.
His son, Timothy Weah, currently plays for Juventus. In 2022, Weah drew criticism when he was out of the country, watching his son play for the United States national team in Qatar, during the 2022 World Cup.
Musician on the side
Weah has always loved music. In 1998, he joined other football stars: Ibrahim Ba, Omam Biyik, Manuel T. Dimas, Oumar Dieng, Joachim Fernandez, Mohamed Kallon, Raul Phil Masinga and Taribo West, to team up with singer, Frisbie Omo Isibor, on Lively Up Africa, a song to raise funds for children.
Weah recorded and released music to raise awareness of Ebola as a senator, and COVID as president.
He collaborated with Liberian artists to sing the theme song of the Miss Earth beauty pageant, recorded a reggae version of the “Happy Birthday” song and several other songs to throw subs at political opponents, most of which he’s performed on past campaign trails. He also went viral for participating in Kizz Daniel’s Buga Challenge.
Accusations of infidelity
After he was fired in 2021, the Deputy Director General for Rural Broadcasting at the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS), accused President Weah of extra-marital affairs, attributing his dismissal to the president’s relationship with his wife. He claimed the president even purchased a Ford Escape car for her. The official will later apologise and retract his claims. In response, Weah released a reggae song called Mr Liar Man with these lyrics: “You know I didn’t do the things you said I do, Mr Liarman”.
In 2019, another businesswoman accused the Deputy Head of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) of “badmouthing” her to the president amidst claims that they are both his mistresses.
In October 2018, President Weah declared a tuition-free policy for all undergraduates in public universities. His administration also pays WASSCE fees for all 9th and 12th graders in public schools. Despite the policy, students and instructors have protested multiple times over poor educational infrastructure and non-payment of salaries. During the COVID pandemic in 2021, students of the University of Liberia protested against the e-learning platforms, questioning their functionality.
Liberian citizenship has been largely restrictive. However, in Weah’s first national address as president, he announced his support for a change in the law, and in 2022, Weah signed a bill that amended the country’s law.
While the amendment does not allow non-Negros to acquire citizenship, it permits dual citizenship by allowing Liberians to acquire a second nationality without losing their Liberian citizenship as was previously the case. The law also allows individuals to claim Liberian citizenship through their mothers.