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George Weah signs up more Washington spin doctors

As the president’s popularity dips in Monrovia with elections due next year he is seeking help from consultants across the Atlantic

Few African politicians have been keener to work with United States political consultancies than President George Weah in his four years in office.

Ahead of his bid for re-election in the presidential and legislative elections next year, Weah has inked a US$900,000 a year contract with Ballard Partners. It is the latest in a string of contracts that Weah has signed with Washington DC-based lobby shops.

The deal with Ballard, whose founder Brian Ballard chaired former President Donald Trump’s campaign in Florida in 2016, is focused on ‘enhancing US-Government of Liberia bilateral relations, developing trade, investment and business opportunities’, according to documents filed under the United States’ Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Ballard, which has a contract of identical value with the government of Congo-Kinshasa focused on marketing Congo-K as ‘an international leader on climate change’, was also hired for $1.1 million by Nigeria’s former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar in his unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2019 (AC Vol 58 No 22, Kinshasa-on-the-Potomac).

This latest deal raises questions about what benefits Weah has gleaned from the trio of US consulting contracts worth a combined $660,000 per year for three years, agreed last August. They were meant to promote Liberia as part of the country’s bicentennial celebrations across 2022 and develop bilateral ties with the US political and business community.

Those contracts included a $300,000 per year contract with Ice Miller strategies, $120,000 contract with Strom public affairs, the firm of CNN analyst Bakari Sellers, aimed at bolstering the Weah government’s media image in the United States, and a $240,000 consultancy deal with the Carbon Thread Agency (AC Vol 62 No 18, Refining brand Weah).

In the meantime, KRL, the lobbying firm favoured by his predecessor Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is no longer Liberia’s main political consultant but remains on the payroll. It has secured a six-month gig with the Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA)aimed at helping it achieve full certification with the International Maritime Organization and to ‘to improve the depiction of Liberia on the global stage for seafarers and foreign investors in general.’

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