Liberian president and former football star George Weah has expressed his reluctance to establish a war crimes court, despite widespread calls for it to be formed to try those involved in a civil war that killed up to 250,000 people.
Speaking after his arrival from the UN General Assembly on Tuesday evening, Mr Weah said “I don’t understand what you all want. Since we came to power, I have not one day called for a war crimes court.”
To the wild applause of a group of supporters surrounding him, the ex-footballer asked “Why now? When we have economic issues, we’re trying to develop our country, why focus on a war crimes court now?”
The president’s stance is a huge disappointment for human rights groups, and others who had hoped that Mr Weah as someone who was not involved in the civil war would champion the formation of a war crimes court to achieve justice for victims.
Thousands were mutilated and raped during the conflict between rebel groups and government forces.
Mr Weah is Liberia’s second elected president since the end of the conflict. He took office in January 2018 after defeating opposition candidate Joseph Boakai in elections.
Mr Weah had previously been a a footballer who starred at top-flight European football clubs Paris St-Germain PSG and AC Milan, before ending his career in England with brief stays at Chelsea and Manchester City.
He is the only African footballer to have won both Fifa World Player of the Year and the prestigious Ballon D’Or.