By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK. 3 October 2023 (IDN) — With the approach of national elections in Liberia, the U.S. has imposed visa restrictions, withholding travel to the U.S. for individuals “undermining democracy.”
The restrictions, announced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, target people believed to be manipulating or rigging the electoral process, using violence or any other activity designed to influence the outcome of an election improperly.
Twenty candidates have their eyes on the Executive Mansion in Monrovia as Liberians go to the poll on 10 October. The posh residence is occupied by President George Weah, the former World Soccer Player of the Year, seeking reelection for a second term as his six-year term ends in January next year.
Only one of the presidential candidates is considered a serious challenger to the incumbent. Joseph Boakai is a former vice president of Liberia under Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, whom Mr. Weah defeated in a runoff after the 2017 election failed to produce a winner on the first ballot.
Mr. Boakai graciously conceded defeat six years ago. However, he appears to be poised for a fiercer fight this year.
Mr Weah faces an uphill struggle. He must convince Liberians that he can perform better than he has so far. High food prices and corruption scandals have blighted his administration, and the coalition that prodded him into office has pulled him apart.
Last year, the U.S. indicted three key members (the Chief of Staff, Liberia’s Chief Prosecutor, and the Managing Director of the National Port Authority) of Mr. Weah’s government for involvement in public corruption.
Although Mr. Weah suspended the officials so they could be investigated, an opposition leader, Alexander Cummings, accused the president of culpability for their alleged misdeeds.
Weah will also not enjoy an alliance with his predecessor, Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf. That alliance has broken down.
Secretary Blinken clarified that the visa restriction policy is specifically targeted at certain individuals and not intended to affect the Liberian people or the government as a whole.
Ambassador Joseph Boakai, former vice president and the Unity Party standard-bearer, warned it would be the end of Liberia if the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change steals the election. “…that’s why you need to protect it. If they think they’ll steal this election, you will not allow it because if they do it, that’s the end of this country,” said the 78-year-old former Vice President on his campaign trail.
In the 2022 corruption ranking of Transparency International, Liberia ranked 142 out of 180, six places worse than its 2021 ranking of 136. [IDN-InDepthNews]
Photo: Protests against US visa restrictions. Source: Global Information Service
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