Liberia: 37-Man Delegation Listed for Int’l Confab in France Despite Raging Coronavirus  – While Liberia scrambles to suppress rising cases of the novel coronavirus, FrontPageAfrica has seen a 37-man list of government officials likely to travel with President George Mannah Weah to the Republic of France to attend the Generation of Equality Forum on Covid-19 planned for June 30 to July 2. The Generation of Equality Forum is a global movement for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of Mexico and France. The Forum will bring together governments, corporations, NGOs, youth-led groups, and Foundations to secure concrete, ambitions, and transformative commitments for gender equality.  When called to confirm, President Weah’s press secretary Isaac Solo Kelgbeh said he is aware that the president received an invitation for the conference but could not confirm if the president would make the trip.

“I’m aware that the President received an invitation to the conference in France. I cannot tell if he will be making the trip or not. I cannot confirm that,” he said. The trip comes at the time France reported 3, 871 new confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday, the second day in a row that the new cases tally was below 5,000.  Also, the country’s health ministry also reported 69 new deaths in hospitals last Friday, according to Reuters. France’s government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus first found in India – which experts deem more infectious than the other variants – currently represents 9-10 percent of confirmed new cases in the country. The expanding list of the government delegation to France also comes at a time African countries like Ghana and South Africa are putting in place measures to restrict foreign travels of its officials of government as a way of stopping the importation of the virus to their countries.

During the height of the Ebola outbreak in 2014, President Weah’s predecessor Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf limited her foreign travels, and put in place stringent measures to tackle the virus.  One of such measures was the sacking of ministers and senior government officials who defied her order to return to the country to lead the fight against the virus. The former Liberian leader had told overseas ministers to return within a week as part of a state-of-emergency announcement, warning that extraordinary measures were needed “for the very survival of our state”. Sirleaf directed that all officials occupying ministerial level positions or equivalent — senior and junior — managing directors, deputy/assistant directors or equivalent, commissioners et cetera who violated the orders are hereby relieved of their positions. As of June 22, Liberia’s National Public Health Institute of Liberia had reported 119 new confirmed cases of the virus, four new deaths to add to a total of 3, 265 confirmed cases.

Liberia’s health system is on the verge of collapse. There are reports of shortages of hospital beds and vaccines. Liberia’s rising Covid-19 cases, along with resulting public ire, now amounts to the biggest challenge yet for President Weah. The president has urged citizens to take precautions to halt the coronavirus’s spread. “Discipline is needed to win the battle against Covid-19,” President Weah said, asking Liberians to observe health protocols. “With your courage, patience, and discipline, the country will leave no stone unturned. Together we will change the situations.”

Arguments roll on: In the meantime, as Liberia records the highest number of Covid-19 cases in Africa and its death toll mounts, shocks across the country appear to be turning to sorrow, and sorrow appears to be turning to more anger. Opposition politicians have tried to capitalize on that anger. Alexander Cummings, political leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), said in a release that if President Weah’s government had “done its job, it wouldn’t have come this far.” “I just cannot understand why early actions were not taken to impose appropriate restrictions on travelers coming into the country from COVID hotspots around the world. This is a complete leadership failure beyond words,” Cummings said.

The ANC political leader said in the midst of this chaos and existential threat to citizens, President Weah without any conscience and sense of responsibility to the people, left on his usual private jet to Ghana. Cummings urged President Weah to cancel all further travels and remain in the country to lead this effort until this situation is handled.  “There is no time for politics here. I call on President Weah to lead. That is why the people of this country gave him their votes in 2017. They entered a social contract with him to protect them and change their lives. He cannot continue to abandon that responsibility. He cannot continue to lead from the back as has been the case since his ascendancy. At this difficult time, we demand compassionate and prudent leadership, which is clearly lacking,” Cummings added.

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