Powerful women around George Weah, Liberia’s President-elect Powerful women around George Weah, Liberia’s President-elect
Liberia, a country yet to fully recover from many years of civil war and senseless blood-letting, might not be popular with many around the... Powerful women around George Weah, Liberia’s President-elect

Liberia, a country yet to fully recover from many years of civil war and senseless blood-letting, might not be popular with many around the world but that has not stopped the name – George Weah – from being prominent on the lips of millions across continents. One of the tiny West African country’s most illustrious sons, Weah shot to global prominence plying his trade with some of Europe’s biggest football clubs. An energetic and skillful striker during his playing days, the 51-year-old featured for the likes of Paris Saint Germain, Monaco, Chelsea, Manchester City and AC Milan where he won the coveted FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or in 1995 – the first and only African to achieve such feat till date. That achievement, not only engraved Weah’s name in the sports hall of fame, but made him more prominent across the world.

Joining politics in his home country shortly after retiring from professional football in 2003, Weah has occupied various top positions, winning a keenly-contested presidential run-off election in December 2017 after the main ballot earlier in October. While news of his victory and remarkable transition from football star to President-elect has continued to make headlines around the world, there are two women, who have played prominent roles in seeing to his emergence. While one of the two is his wife of over two decades with whom he has three children, the other is his running mate in the just concluded presidential election. Both are powerful figures, who analysts already tip are going to be wielding a lot of influence when Weah takes over power on January 18, 2018.

Clar Weah

A naturalised United States of America citizen with parental roots from Jamaica, not much is known about Clar, the incoming First Lady of Liberia. Even though she has frequented Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, more often in recent weeks than at any previous time, the mother-of-three mostly spends time with her children and extended family members in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, US, where she is based and runs a number of businesses including a thriving Caribbean restaurant and grocery store.

According to reports, the pair met in the US at a Chase Bank branch where Clar worked as a customer service officer. The former AC Milan striker had reportedly gone to the bank to open an account when his eyes caught the beautiful Jamaican. Their love story set off in earnest and has continued to grow stronger despite several rumours of infidelity trailing Weah.

Clar, who unlike most women of Caribbean descent, dresses simply, is regarded not only as abrilliant strategist but great canvasser as well, whose bright smile even in difficult moments is able to break barriers. Close allies describe her as intelligent and possessing a special type of aura. The Jamaican wields a lot of power around her husband and could further expand her powerbase once he assumes office as the President of Liberia in January 2018.

Jewel Taylor

Another powerful female figure, who would likely command a lot of influence during Weah’s presidency, is Jewel Howard-Taylor – wife of former warlord – Charles Taylor. Apart from being the former football star’s running mate, her strong network in the country’s political landscape makes her indeed a force to be reckoned with. Though she divorced her husband in 2006, Howard-Taylor has carved a niche for herself in Liberian politics, emerging as a senator in Bong County – the nation’s third most populous county, in 2005.

Since 1997 when former rebels loyal to Taylor established the National Patriotic Party, the former First Lady has maintained a strong grip among faithfuls, using her influence to pave way for herself on many cases. Weah, who had contested and lost the presidential election once, had to strike a deal with Howard-Taylor and her large supporters to realise the goal this time. She agreed to support him only if she was picked as his running mate. He had no choice. He had to succumb.

“The first thing I’ve done is to believe that I am able to make the changes I talk about,” the 54-year-old woman said in a recent interview with AFP.“I have made promises I have fulfilled in education, health care and infrastructure development, and so I hope over the past 12 years Jewel Howard has become her own person working for peace, working for prosperity and working for development,” she added.

Even though on a number of occasions critics have been quick to link her to her former husband’s atrocities while in power, Howard-Taylor has continued to command respect in Liberia’s political circle and among those calling the shots. Observers believe she will not only be a key female-figure under Weah’s presidency but also a major power-broker during the period.

Nurudeen Adegbenro