George Weah

George Manneh Weah
Photo Credit: New Dawn Liberia

George Manneh Weah

Term 24th President: 2018 – Present
Born October 1, 1966, Monrovia, Liberia
Ethnicity/Tribe Black, Kru
County of Origin Montserrado
Profession Football (Soccer)
Political Party Congress for Democratic Change (CDC)

Bio

George Weah’s family is of the Kru tribe and from Grand Kru County. He was born and raised in Monrovia, Montserrado County. His father worked as a carpenter and Weah’s early years in the slums of Monrovia, and a poor family reflect his humble beginnings. He dropped out of high school and pursued a professional soccer career. His years as a soccer player spanned teams in Africa, Europe, and Asia with high achievements and worldwide recognition.

Education

Weah attended grade school in Monrovia and dropped out of high school before his professional soccer career. His limited education was an issue for many Liberians when he ran for political office beginning in 2005. After his football career ended, he returned to school and earned his high school diploma. He later received an online Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Devry University in the U.S.

He said he had recently finished high school and was currently studying at a US college in Florida. “For now I’m doing business administration and criminal justice, starting from there and then political science in the future,” he said.

-BBC, 2012

Regardless, many Liberians still have reservations about his education level, leadership acumen, and ability to run the nation. During his first year as President, Cuttington University in Liberia give him an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Humane Letter in June 2018. The nation’s highest institution of learning, the University of Liberia (UL), also conferred on Weah an Honorary Doctorate Degree of Humane Letter in December 2018. UL conferred similar degrees on President W.V.S. Tubman and President William R. Tolbert during their respective tenures.

Career

Invincible Eleven, Liberia
1987 Tonnerre Kalala, Cameroon
1988 – 1992 AS Monaco, Monaco
1992 – 1994 Paris Saint-Germaine, France
1995 – 2000 AC Milan, Italy
1997 – 2003 UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
2000 Chelsea, UK
2000 Manchester City, UK
2000 – 2001 Olympique de Marseille, France
2001 – 2003 Al-Jazeera FC, UAE
2014 – 2018 Senator of Montserrado County
2018 – Present President of Liberia

Oppong, as he was commonly called during his early football years in Liberia, began playing professional football with the Invincible Eleven (IE) team in Liberia. He transferred to Tonnerre Kalala in Cameroon when Arsene Wegner recruited him for AS Monaco. With them, his career blossomed and the team won the French Cup in 1991. He then played for Paris Saint-Germaine for three years and won the French League title in 1994.

Weah with the Ballon d’Orr trophy in 1995
Credit: Trumpet Media Group

More achievements followed with AC Milan beginning in 1995 when he was at the top of his career. He won the Ballon d’Or, being the only African to receive Europe’s best football player award. That same year was named FIFA World Player of the Year.

For a short period he played for British opposing teams Chelsea and Manchester City. He finally played briefly with Al-Jazeera FC in the United Arab Emirates. Ghanaian soccer legend Abete Pelé described him as one of the greatest of our time. Weah’s other accolades include African Player of the year on three occasions, and African Player of the Century in 1998.

Beginning in 1997, he served as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) goodwill ambassador, promoting its immunization and HIV/AIDS prevention measures.

His entry into the political sphere began in 2004 with the launch of a presidential campaign and a new political party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC). Weah lost his presidential bid in 2005 and his vice presidential bid in 2011. He then ran and won a senatorial seat for Montserrado County in 2014, and finally won his chance at the presidency in 2017.

Failures of the Sirleaf administration to develop and restore Liberia, as well as nepotism and massive corruption led Liberian voters to reject her Vice President and elect Weah to the presidency. Sirleaf also supported Weah over Vice President Joseph Boikai.

He was inaugurated as Liberia’s 24th president on January 22, 2018. This transfer of power from one political party to another had not been seen in Liberia for over a century, since the True Whig Party took over from the Republicans with the inauguration of President Anthony W. Gardner in 1878.

Presidency

President Weah addresses the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2018

It is early into Weah’s term but a really tough time on average Liberians. Multiple shocks to the Liberian economy before his presidency, as well as continued mismanagement of public funds has the Liberian economy in rapid decline.

The falling prices and demand of the nation’s exports, the ebola epidemic, rapid inflation, low productivity of goods, services, and food supply has crippled the Liberian economy. Moreover, a huge percentage of the nation’s budget is allocated towards compensation of government employees.

Between January 2018 when he assumed office and July 2019, the value of the Liberian dollar has dipped greatly with the US exchange rate increasing from 125 to 200 Liberian dollars for 1 US dollar.

He has also focused on his personal projects like a housing community, church and theater in the Baptist Seminary community, as compared to national development or upkeep. As usual, civil servants go unpaid for multiple months at a time. Many stories of missing money from Liberia’s treasury and imported currency notes from the Freeport and the airport has Liberians protesting the government they thought would identify with their plight.

The International Monetary Fund recently sent representatives to Liberia to evaluate the economic situation and recommend measures to strengthen the falling economy.

A mission from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) led by Mika Saito, visited Monrovia June 12 – 24, 2019 to discuss possible financial support under the Extended Credit Facility. The mission supports the authorities’ objectives of restoring macroeconomic balance in the near-term, addressing weaknesses in governance and institutions of the public sector, improving the business climate, and putting Liberia on a fiscally sustainable and inclusive growth path.

-IMF, 2019

Among the mission’s proposals were implementing realistic national budgets going forward, ensuring resources are allocated towards government expenditure while reducing the high public sector compensation bill which is about 65% of the national budget. They also called for fixing the nation’s foreign exchange reserves and executing various reforms to improve management of public funds, curb corruption and promote a business friendly economy.


Sources

£750,000-a-goal Weah aims parting shot. The Guardian. 16 Oct. 2000.

99th Commencement of the University of Liberia. Executive Mansion. 12 Dec. 2018.

Documents Show Missing Billions Docked at Freeport and Turned over to Central Bank of Liberia. Front Page Africa. 19 Sep. 2018.

Dodoo, Lennart. Pres. Weah’s Multi-Million Dollar Complex Nearing Completion. Front Page Africa. 31 Dec. 2018.

George Weah: Ex-AC Milan, Chelsea & Man City striker elected Liberia president. BBC News. 28 Dec. 2017

George Weah. UNICEF People. UNICEF. 19 Jun 2003.

George Weah: From footballer to Liberia’s president. BBC News. 22 Jan. 2018

George Weah returns to classroom. BBC News. 11 Jul. 2012. UK.

IMF Staff Concludes Visit to Liberia. IMF Communications Department. 26 Jun. 2019.

Liebenow, J. Liberia : the Quest for Democracy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Print.

President Weah’s Private Projects Loading Faster Than Government’s. Front Page Africa. 30 Dec. 2018.

President Weah Receives Honorary Doctorate Degree. Executive Mansion. 30 Jun. 2018.

Salah, Faisal. Liberia President George Weah trains with former club Al Jazira in Abu Dhabi. The National. 21 Mar. 2019

Weah: Ballon d’Or put me and Liberia on the map. African Football Media. FIFA. 27 Dec. 2015.

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