Weah under pressure to concede Liberian vote

George Weah was on Monday to rally his supporters behind claims he was cheated out of a win in Liberia’s presidential vote, even as pressure mounted for him to concede and clear the way for Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to become Africa’s first elected woman president.

Pick-up trucks mounted with loudspeakers toured the capital, Monrovia, from late on Sunday, blaring music and announcements urging partisans of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) to attend the morning rally on the dusty pitch outside party headquarters at 10am GMT.

“We are not conceding defeat—on the contrary, because the elections were fraudulent,” CDC party secretary general Eugene Nagbe said. “We are going to keep the spirits up of our partisans, but remind them that all action must be peaceful and in line with the legal process we have undertaken to protest the elections.”

Privately, however, senior CDC strategists say the international demands for Weah to step back from his allegations of fraud are taking their toll on the former Fifa player of the year, with the latest blow coming with an endorsement of the polls on Sunday by seven of Africa’s most powerful leaders.

Regional heavyweight Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria joined counterparts from South Africa, Ghana and Senegal in describing the November 8 run-off as “peaceful, transparent, free and fair”.

In a statement issued with prime ministers Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Ahmed Ouyahia of Algeria, and the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, the leaders hailed Liberian voters and electoral officials for “a job well done”.

“Things are winding down. We still maintain that the elections were rigged, but there are too many people against us, including the international community,” Weah’s senior political adviser Sam Twea said on Sunday.

Such fatalism echoed among the CDC supporters who on Monday weighed whether even to attend this rally, mindful that they would be looked on as hooligans even if they were trying to mount peaceful protests.

“People look at us and say we are lying, that we cannot admit that the old lady won, so we are trying to make excuses,” said Lassana Jabateh, who cast ballots twice for his hero, who rose from Monrovia’s slums to the world’s celebrated football pitches.

“But we are really only looking for justice.
If it was clear that she won, we would have no problems and say congratulations. But this election was not transparent; it may have been free, but it certainly was not fair.”

Abu Kamara was among the thousands who marched on Friday from CDC headquarters to the United States embassy in the fortified district of Mamba Point, watching as what had been a peaceful rally turned ugly in a brief clash with Jordanian members of the United Nations police force.

“We were marching and singing and then we got gassed, and they said we were the ones who were violent,” he said. “But I am not violent, I am for peace and so is George Weah.”

Johnson-Sirleaf has kept her supporters off the streets under strict instructions until the last of the preliminary results are released, expected on Tuesday.

Ballots from just 20 of 3 070 polling stations are left to be counted, likely to only cement the lead of 59,4% that the Harvard-educated banker earned in the November 8 run-off election from more than 800 000 votes cast.

“I am waiting to celebrate even n ow,” said Sadai Logan, sitting in front of his plumbing-goods shop. “I want to dance in the streets with the old lady.”—Sapa-AFP

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