By Abdul Rahman Suagibu –
NEW AFRICA BUSINESS NEWS, Freetown, Sierra Leone- Liberian President George Manneh Weah faces a key test on Friday when demonstrators take to the streets of Monrovia to protest at inflation and corruption.
The nation’s football icon, is being challenged over the same issues on which he campaigned in his historic ascent to the presidency, just 18 months ago.
Thousands of demonstrators are expected in the capital of Liberia West. Many Liberians are bracing for a possibly violent showdown with police by extension prolonged disruption.
The protest coalition calling itself the Council of Patriots, comprises politicians, students and ordinary members of the public.
“We will remain in the streets until our demands are address…We will not leave the streets until we get results,” said one of its leaders.
The UN’s special envoy to West Africa and the Sahel-Mohammed Ibn Chambas, said last month he feared the authorities did not have the means to successfully manage large scale protests.
“The capacity of the Liberian state is still quite limited…There are serious logistics and financial challenges,” he told a local newspaper.
Weah 52, is respected in Liberia and beyond for setting good precedent for African footballers in Europe but in some ways struggling to restore a country that is one of the poorest in the world and still traumatized by civil wars between 1989 and 2003 that claimed a quarter of a million lives.
Rising prices are a major source of discontent. “Before, 500 Liberian dollars = $ 2.5, 2.3 euros was enough to adequately feed my family each day,” said Angeline Flomo, a 35 year old housewife and a mother of four.
“Now, 1,000 LD can’t feed us. This is how bad things have become. A bag of 25 kilo (55 pounds) of rice used to sell for 1,500LD, now it is 2,800 to 3,000LD. We are finding it difficult to make ends meet.”
Fingers are being pointed at the past and present managers of the central bank of Liberia (CBL) for its handling of the currency. In 2018 October, rumors revolved that, newly printed Liberian Dollars worth $ 102million intended for the CBL’s reserves, had disappeared shortly after arrival al from abroad.
Charles Sirleaf – the son of former president and Noble Laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-was detained in March along with two other CBL figures. An independent probe find no money was missing, but raised ”concerns regarding the overall accuracy and completeness of the CBL’s internal records.”
Weah maintains, the country will benefit from a programme by the International Monetary Fund-but experts say IMF support typically comes with demands for reform and belt tightening.
For New Africa Business News Abdul Rahman Suagibu Reports, Africa Correspondent