Liberia's Weah denies he will seek third term in office

·2 min read
Speculation had been growing that President George Weah would exploit a December 8 constitutional referendum to extend his stay in office
Speculation had been growing that President George Weah would exploit a December 8 constitutional referendum to extend his stay in office

Liberian President George Weah will not stay in office beyond a second term, his chief of staff said Tuesday, quashing rumours that he would mimic regional leaders and bid for a third.

Addressing a news conference in the capital Monrovia, the president's chief of staff Nathaniel McGill pointed out that Weah, a footballing icon who took office in 2018, had not even finished his first presidential term.

"It is not good for one man to be president for a long time," he said. "The president is not thinking about a third term."

Speculation had been growing in the West African nation that 54-year-old Weah would exploit a December 8 constitutional referendum to extend his stay in office.

The rumours surfaced amid concerns over democratic backsliding in the region, with ageing presidents changing constitutions in order to bypass term limits. 

In Guinea, 82-year-old President Alpha Conde won a controversial third term on Saturday after pushing through a new constitution, which allowed him to bypass a two-term limit. 

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, 78, is also bidding for a controversial third term on October 31, after having revised the country's constitution. 

Liberia's December referendum will ask voters whether to reduce presidential terms from six years to five. 

A limit on two presidential terms will be kept in place.

Voters will also decide whether to allow dual nationality -- a divisive issue in the poor nation of some 4.8 million people. 

Current legislation stipulates that only indigenous Africans can become naturalised as citizens. 

The restrictions chiefly impact Liberia's ethnic Lebanese residents, who play an important economic role in the country. 

Liberia was founded in the 19th century with US support as a home for freed American slaves. Its constitution is modelled on that of the US.

The country suffers from economic woes, however, and is still recovering after back-to-back civil wars from 1989 to 2003 and West Africa's 2014-16 Ebola crisis. 

zd/eml/erc