MONROVIA – President George Manneh Weah’s foreign trips during the course of 2018 cost Liberia, a country with a broken economy, over a million United States Dollars. In July 2018, President Weah’s three-day trip to the 53rd ECOWAS Summit in Togo took away an alarming US$182,000. The summit lasted just three days. He departed the country on July 28 and returned on July 31, 2018.
Document from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) in the possession of FrontPageAfrica shows that the FMDP approved a request from the Ministry of State to allot US$182,000 to facilitate the President and his delegation’s trip to Togo. The amount, according to the document, represents the cost of travel means, US$125,250.00; foreign travel DSA, US$39,406.50 and foreign travel incidental US$18,000.
However, it can be recalled that in April 2018 when President Weah attended the Extraordinary Session of ECOWAS in Togo, many questions were asked about Mr. Emmanuel Shaw’s presence on the delegation.
Shaw, a former Finance Minister in slain President Samuel K. Doe’s government, is always remembered for being the engineer behind President Doe’s purchase of a presidential jet. Most of those knowledgeable of the purchase and details surrounding the plane, have accused Shaw of selling the aircraft for millions before exiling in South Africa in the 1990s. Prior to joining Doe’s government, Shaw was a member of the True Whig Party (TWP), whose over a century rule was ended by death of President William R. Tolbert in a coup d’etat.
The President also came under heavy criticisms again last year for constantly flying on a private jet, which it was rumored that his administration had purchased. Mr. Sam Mannah, who was the Presidential Press Secretary than, told FrontPageAfrica upon inquiry that, “The plane is a private plane being provided to the President to facilitate his travels. It is not owned by the President; neither is it a chartered plane. We have been blessed to have a President who has many friends.”
However, President Weah clarified that claims that the plane has been bought by the government are far from reality. The clarification was made on Friday, May 25, 2018 at the Foreign Ministry when he presented two buses to the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs for use by employees. “The airplane issue is causing problem. We don’t have a bus, how will we buy a $30 million plane? Where do they get this kind of news from? It is not possible for us to buy a plane for $30 million; we are just coming to office,” the President quipped.
“The airplane they are talking about is for my friend, who is the manager of a big company in Burkina Faso. He told me to use it anytime I want to travel because he has seen me use planes owned by Ivory Coast and others. He wants me use a plane that is not labeled to boost my moral too,” the Liberian President added.
When President Weah went to China for the FOCAC in Beijing, there were lots of rumors that the delegation comprised over 60 persons. Said rumor couldn’t be verified; however, making headlines out of the trip was Finance Minister Samuel Tweah’s US$16,000 first-class ticket on United Arab Emirates airbus from Accra to Beijing.
The document in the possession of FPA reveals that the total cost of the Beijing trip was US$333,522.50. Upon the return from the trip, Finance Minister Tweah announced that the Government of Liberia and the Chinese government were entering into a US$2.5 billion resource swap.
“Let me be very clear on it, this is not a loan. It is an investment facility; a framework entered into between the China Road and Bridge Corporation and the Government of Liberia under the FOCAC arrangement to unveil US$2.5 billion for financing the country’s development over the next five years.” The Minister furthered “No restriction, all the natural resources,” he said of the planned assessment. “The feasibility study will determine the viability of the project.” The move was widely criticized by the public. To date, there has been no update on the agreement.
In November 2018, US$206,348.00 was approved by the Finance Ministry to facilitate Pres. Weah’s trip to Paris, France, where he attended the Paris Peace Forum. The November 11 Paris Peace Forum coincided with the centenary of the end of World War One and was intended to explore and discuss strategies toward ending existing conflicts that continue to threaten global peace.
Also, in late November, President Weah made a three-day state visit to Senegal at the cost of US$23,925.40. FrontPageAfrica has not been able to obtain records on the costs of President Weah’s first trip to Togo, his trip to the UN for the General Assembly (UNGA) and the AU Summit, amongst other trips he made during 2018. Report by Lennart Dodoo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Main Photo: Former Soccer Star, and Liberian President Weah