Politics is a Sport

I have been following Liberia's Presidential run-off election for the past few days. Liberia has an interesting history. It was founded by freed black slaves from America in 1847. Despite being enshrined with American constitutional ideals there has been little peace and the country has either been a dictatorship or embroiled in civil wars. It just emerged from a 14-year civil war after a peace agreement that brought 15,000 UN peacekeepers into the country. More than 250,000 people died in this brutal conflict where pregnant women were often disembowelled by child soldiers who placed bets on the sex of the unborn baby.

The run-off election featured two candidates: 'King' George Weah and 'Mamma' Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. No two candidates could be more different:

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is 67, the granddaughter of an illiterate market woman and a German soldier, has spent almost 30 years in politics. She is a Harvard-educated economist and has served in several senior positions, including Finance Minister and Africa director at the UN Development Programme. She has been imprisoned, exiled and endured threats to her children in her quest for the leadership of the West African nation.

George Weah, is a retired Liberian-born football hero. He was born in a Monrovia slum and is one of 13 children who were abandoned by their parents and raised by their grandparents in a hut on reclaimed swampland. He never went to high-school, has never held a normal job, and now lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was his extraordinary skill at football that took him first to Cameroon, then to Europe (playing for AC Milan and Chelsea) and eventually, in 1996, to win the FIFA footballer of the year.
Not hard to understand why he is the idol of poor young men in Liberia, most of whom are addicted to football — and there are a lot of young men in Liberia: almost half its potential voters are under 30, and a quarter are actually under 23.

Who should be ideally suited to run the country? and win the battle between the old and the young, elite appeal vs popular appeal, the experienced campaigner versus the political neophyte, a Harvard degree vs a primary education? The answer is not that simple as Johnson a 66-year-old member of the old Americo-Liberian elite, simply lacks the street credibility that might persuade the tens of thousands of recently demobilised boy soldiers with no immediate prospect of improvement in their circumstances that there is somebody in power who understands their anger and their impatience.

Democracy is perhaps the least worst system. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf won (Reuter story), but Weah is not accepting defeat and it looks like the country might be plunged into another civil war after an uncertain peace. The attitude on the street can be summed in this quote from the Times Online:
“UNMIL must go!” screamed a woman, referring to the United Nations Mission in Liberia. “We will solve our own problems. When we kill each other, who will survive will survive. That is how we make peace.”


Abhishek said...

might be plunged into another civil war

Strongly disagree with that - Weah seems a reasonable person, He will protest - but don't think that there will be anything more. I also think Johnson-Sirleaf seems a 'Indira Gandhi' type character, though she was quoted as saying 'I want a government which will draw from all the section and all the parties' and this included Weah.

But, the question is, is she just talking big or will something really happen??

(PS : why does my word verification have to be egnaygxk, when it could've been 'hello' )

Hirak said...

Weah is surrounded by a bunch of political opportunists who couldn't care less about the man. Johnson-Sirleaf is an astute campaigner and sure does know how to play these games.
From the news reports the country still seems divided among the Americo-African elite and the others. Till the boy soldiers and other factions are calmed the peace is uncertain.
egnaygxk MIGHT be 'hello' in some language!

Abhishek said...

btw what's the party situation in Liberia. Weah's got a party?? Need to check up on that.

"surrounded by a bunch of political opportunists "

That might alter the situation.

(aaaargh : this time bnvxhwk)

Hirak said...