Presidential hopeful and standard bearer of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) Senator George Weah has for the second time conspicuously evaded crucial national debate here with rival candidates on issues affecting Liberians as the country goes to elections on October 10th .
Organized by the Deepening Democracy Coalition or DDC, a conglomeration of five Liberian media organizations, including the Press Union of Liberia, the debate is sponsored by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa, OSIWA.
The issues centered around six thematic areas: economy, youth empowerment, peace and reconciliation, rule of law and security, corruption, education and health.
The first debate was held on Thursday, 17 August among the first six top candidates in the race at the Paynesville Town Hall outside Monrovia. All but two of the six candidates were present.
Candidates in attendance were the standard bearer of the governing Unity Party(UP), Vice President Joseph Nyumah Boakai, Cllr. Charles Walker Brumskine of the Liberty Party (LP), businessman Benoni Urey of the All Liberian Party (ALP) and corporate executive Alexander B. Cummings of the Alternative National Congress (ANC).
Candidates George Weah of the CDC and Dr. Joseph Mills Jones of the Movement for Economic Empowerment were conspicuously absent at the debate. Senator Weah is reportedly visiting the Ivory Coast, while Dr. Jones is said to have gone on a campaign spree in Western Liberia.
But the organizer says all candidates were formally written and informed about the debate. “All of them were invited and they all committed to come”, says Malcom Jospeh, a member of the DDC.
The DDC stresses that the exercise provides an opportunity for Liberians to question and evaluate those vying to become their next leaders what they say they would do and how they intend to achieve those.
In 2005, the CDC presidential candidate Weah similarly dodged a debate among candidates for the presidency both at the Centennial Pavilion and the Monrovia City Hall. Weah has always avoided sitting with rival candidates to publicly debate the issues that confront Liberia’s governing process. Even at the Liberian Senate, where he was elected in 2014, he has been publicly rated for poor performance when it comes to debating issues brought on the floor.
Analysts say, Weah would have to live with this weakness for long in his public service career unless he musters enough courage to be able to articulate clearly his dreams and aspiration for the people and country that he wants to lead now or in the future.
-Story by Jonathan Browne