On Sunday (September 7, 2023), thousands of people came to Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, to watch opposition leader Joseph Boakai begin his campaign ahead of the elections in October 2023, which will gauge how popular President George Weah, a former football star, is following a turbulent first term.
Boakia’s 78-year-old supporters braved the rain at a stadium to dance, wave flags, and call for change. Boakia finished second behind Weah in the 2017 elections and has been called “Sleepy Joe” by critics for reportedly dozing off during public events.
Some erstwhile Weah supporters had lost faith in him because, in their opinion, he had failed to raise standards of living or combat corruption in the poor country that had been impacted by civil war, a terrible Ebola outbreak, and drops in commodity prices were present.
“We thought he (Weah) was going to bring the change he promised, but nothing,” said businesswoman Martha Gould. “I need change for the better.”
Despite having no prior political experience, Weah was elected president amid optimism that the wildly popular former international soccer player of the year could make things better.
However, a slew of scandals have hurt him.
Three employees, including Weah’s chief of staff Nathaniel McGill, were sanctioned by the US last year for wrongdoing, including illegally stealing state property. The officials, whom Weah sacked, claim they did nothing wrong.
More than 30 former central bank personnel were the subject of arrest warrants issued by a Liberian court in 2018 in relation to the disappearance of $104 million.
Liberia ran out of gasoline in 2020 due to a mistake in the accounting of fuel supplies in state-run tanks, which led to chaos at the pump.
Boakai and his Unity Party may be able to change the course of events, but that remains to be seen. The economy expanded by about 5% last year, the World Bank reports, with growth in agriculture and mining being the key drivers. Weah is still incredibly well-liked throughout most of the nation.