Montserrado County senator and 2017 presidential candidate George Weah has dismissed criticism of his political track record in an interview with RFI in Paris on Tuesday May 16, 2017, saying that his opponents are trying to “defame” him. Weah, representing his Congress for Democratic Change party (CDC) is gearing up for elections in October, working in a coalition with his running mate, Jewel Howard Taylor, veteran senator of the National Patriotic Party (NPP).
“Everything I do, everything I touch is successful,” says Weah, defending his term as senator of Montserrado County. “I co-sponsor bills and I represent my people well,” he says, adding that he helped promote legislation focused on the youth. The Liberian press has criticized what the non-governmental organization Institute for Research and Democratic Empowerment has called his chronic absenteeism in the legislature. He addressed previous reports in Liberia’s Monrovia-based Front Page Africa newspaper that said he made a brief appearance at a meeting of the ECOWAS regional bloc, but left early, prompting the Speaker of the ECOWAS parliament to make a statement. “It’s fallacy—we’re in a political time. People against my ideology will say what they want to say. If you say I don’t go to ECOWAS – there are no facts,” says Weah. Weah admitted earlier this year to Liberian media that he had spoken to Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia and warlord who was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Weah says that someone nearby was on the phone with Charles Taylor, who had heard Weah’s voice in the background and asked to speak with him. “I think there’s nothing wrong with that—to speak to a former president. Even though I know the president we’re talking about,” says Weah. “But again, it’s not a friendly call. Just I want to say hi to him, so I said hi to him. That was it.” Reconciliation is one of his campaign strategies as the CDC candidate. So would voters believe in his commitment to reconciliation after this phone call? Weah points to his time as a former UN peace ambassador working on disarming child soldiers. “I believe Liberians should be safe and united,” he says. “We came from an era of misunderstanding—not understanding cultural diversity … without solidarity and reconciliation and peace we cannot grow, we cannot advance,” he adds. He says that he is also looking out for the needs of rural voters. “When I become president I will make sure we do everything to invest in agriculture to create employment for our people and for our people to be able to sustain themselves. Through agriculture we can create jobs for the young people,” he says. The former footballer has no qualms about winning the upcoming election in October, and says he has the support base to do so. “If you go around Liberia and ask about Senator Weah, the people, the locals will tell you that ‘he’s a good man, he is doing what we are expecting him to do’”. “I am a winnable candidate—I am the choice of the people,” he says.