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Man of The Year’: George Weah and the Democratic Paradox in West Africa



The choice of George Weah, a leader who lost a second-term election, as The Guardian’s 2023 ‘Man of The Year’ in a region with giants like Nigeria is raising questions about the state of democracy in Africa. Analysts argue that this signals a decline in democratic values on the continent, labeled by some as a “crude continent.”

Africa has faced a democratic recession, witnessing military coups in Mali, Chad, Mali, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso, and an attempted one in Guinea Bissau. Despite these challenges, there is a groundswell of support for democracy among African youth.

Development experts assert the intrinsic link between democracy and development, emphasizing that democratic governance represents the interests of the general population, not just an elite. They argue against pessimistic views, pointing to the long-term economic performance and stability of democratic governments globally.

In parts of Africa, challenges arise as coup leaders question the legitimacy of electoral processes, claiming fraud and asserting that mandates from such processes cannot achieve sustainable development goals. Even in Nigeria, a West African economic giant, the 2023 general elections faced allegations of electoral impurities.

The paradox emerges in Liberia, where George Weah, an iconic footballer who couldn’t fulfill electoral promises, is celebrated for upholding democratic principles. Weah’s acceptance of defeat and commitment to democracy amid electoral challenges set him apart. The Guardian cites Weah as an exemplar of leadership character, placing the country above personal interests.

While democratic ideals face challenges in West Africa, Weah’s stance on democracy, as recognized by The Guardian, aligns with efforts to promote good governance, democratic elections, and respect for term limits. The significance lies not just in the leadership prize but in the actions of a leader who demonstrated the strength of character in the face of defeat, making George Weah The Guardian’s 2023 ‘Man of The Year.’

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