Weah for president
This essay is part of a weekly feature on my blog that presents interesting stories from elsewhere in the world, particularly Africa, that are little reported in the American media. It's part of my campaign to get people to realize there is a lot going on in the world outside the US, Israel and Iraq.
I was intrigued to read that George Weah announced his candidacy for president of Liberia. Weah is not only the sole African to be named world soccer's player of the year, but the only one (man or woman) to finish in the top three.
Weah is well-known and adored in Liberia (and abroad), not simply for being arguably the greatest African soccer player ever. He has made tremendous contributions to his country, not only with money but with time. He's served as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, the UN's children's fund. He personally used his own money to fund the Liberian national soccer team for many years, when the then-dictatorship said it couldn't afford to. He lent his name to a campaign to demobilize and disarm Liberia's many child soldiers.
Naturally, some have derided the soccer player's presidential aspirations, even his cousin. Critics charge that he is uneducated. They add that he has no governmental experience, that he has no experience with the intricacies of politics.
All Weah has is integrity and character. Perhaps people in a country with as checkered a past as Liberia isn't used to leaders with those qualities, but they could sure use one with them now.
Weah is inexperienced in some ways. He has no experience burning villages. He has no experience killing and maiming people. He has no experience committing war crimes. He has no experience taking bribes, stealing from the national treasury or having people arbitrarily arrested.
What's most compelling about Weah is that unlike so many other candidates, he doesn't NEED to be head of state. He doesn't need the presidency for fame. He doesn't need it for popularity. He doesn't need it for self-aggrandizement. He doesn't need it to become rich. What possible reason, except committment to bettering his homeland, could he have for wanting the poisoned chalice that is the Liberian presidency?
What Liberia most needs now is needs someone who can unite the disparate groups to build some semblance of a state. I can't see how any narrow factional leader could do this more successfully than someone like Weah.