It is a rarity in Africa for sitting Presidents to bring opposition parties around one table in six months of leadership in the cause of unity, reconciliation and political open-mindedness and welcome their inputs in the governance process for sustained national development and cohesion.
But Liberian President George Manneh Weah’s one-day forum with the country’s opposition leaders is a long step towards ‘busting the myth’ and leading by example.
The one-day red-lettered meeting with political leaders only sheds light on his desire for a united, peaceful, reconciled and developed Liberia.
Leaders of the country’s over 26 political parties Thursday, August 16, 2018 congregated in one hall, in response to the President’s call, to talk together and brainstorm on how they can collaborate in the interest of the country.
In his welcome remarks, the President stated: “We had a peaceful election in 2017 and it’s that elections result that has brought us here today; it is overdue because we were engaged. We are happy to have this opportunity in which we all can better share ideas, as we want to receive suggestions from opposition political leaders on how we move our country forward”.
“This meeting is a frank discussion; I want everyone to freely express themselves on issues and to provide suggestions that would help us in working together in the interest of our country, Liberia”.
Apparently, another president would have sought different means or chosen not to even consider talking with opposition leaders with less than a year in office, but some of the opposition political leaders cherished the President’s decision to reach out as early as it is.
They availed themselves to hearing from the President and offering their thoughts as well in the interest of the country.
The one-day forum might not be enough a time to put all of the issues at stake into context and reach a workable consensus, but it elucidates the President’s call for “all hands on deck” approach to solving the country’s decadent social, political and economic imbroglios.
It also elucidates his plea that “Liberians should all strive to put aside our differences and join hands in the task of nation building,” and that “we must learn how to celebrate our diversity without drawing lines of divisions in our new Liberia. We belong to Liberia first before we belong to our inherited tribes, or chosen counties.”
In his innovatory inaugural address on January 22, 2018, he appealed that “Liberians should all strive to put aside our differences and join hands in the task of nation building,” and that “we must learn how to celebrate our diversity without drawing lines of divisions in our new Liberia. We belong to Liberia first before we belong to our inherited tribes, or chosen counties.”
“We must not allow political loyalties prevent us from collaborating in the national interest. We must respect each other and act as neighbors, regardless of religious, social and economic differences.”
It is only leaders with humble and open hearts that seek unfettered collaboration with opposition leaders, one of which President Weah has shown to be.
Ultimately, the President has set the stage for good leadership which the forum is a “better late than never” scenario which serves as a precursor to other genial openings between the government and the opposition, an integral part of the country’s political chemistry.