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It is false to suggest rice riot took place in 1980

Claim: “When the rice took place in 1980, I was only 13 years old,” said President Weah on Monday, January 30, 2023, during his final state of the nation address for his first term.

It is false to suggest rice riot took place in 1980

Verdict: False. The rice riot did not occur in 1980 but in 1979 (April 14). Independent reports bear records of these facts. 

Full Text

On Monday, January 30, 2023, many Liberians had the opportunity again to listen to their President delivering the nation’s state before members of parliament.

President George Weah’s address on Capitol Hill marks his final ‘State of the nation address’ (SONA) of his first term in office. Weah was constitutionally inaugurated into office on January 22, 2018, to provide leadership for the country for six years.

The President’s SONA, which gives an idea of the actual state of the nation, also focuses on his Legislative programs for the preceding year. It also considers the expenditure and income of the economy, which fulfils the 1986 constitution of the Republic.

During his address to citizens and foreign residents, the President claimed that the famous ‘Rice riot’ occurred in 1980. He said, “I was only 13 years old.”

His statement reminded the youth across the country about the ugly past of Liberia’s history, especially in political times, urging them not to allow themselves to be contaminated by everyday politics.

Given the historical ties this rice riot signals to the nation and its people, DUBAWA considers it vital to explore the subject further and verify the year it happened.

Verification

Endowed with many natural resources like gold, diamond, and iron ore, Liberia is also rich in fertile soil.

Most Liberian households eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Interestingly, however, the vast majority of the rice eaten by citizens is not produced in Liberia.

The rice riot is one of the largest riots Liberia has ever experienced. The riot led to a dozen deaths and many more injuries following the rice price increment by the then President, William R. Tolbert.

It is false to suggest rice riot took place in 1980
Rice riot image in Liberia.

Interestingly, Mr Weah maintained that the famous ‘Rice Riot’ took place in 1980, as contained in his speech posted on the Executive Mansion’s official Facebook page name and styled as ‘SONA’ part 3.

“When the rice took place in 1980, I was only 13 years old,” said President Weah on Monday, January 30, 2023, during his final state of the nation address for his first term.

Contrary to the claim by President Weah that the rice riot took place in 1980 when he was just 13 years, online research indicates the riot took place a year earlier. 

Attempts by DUBAWA to discover the information or the actual date of the incident in Parliament proved futile. However, after further search, DUBAWA accessed a New York Times publication detailing the tall order associated with the event and how costly it was for the nation and its people.

The report was written a month after the rice riot and was dated May 30, 1979.

Other online searches, including the Liberia News Agency, led DUBAWA to multiple publications that credited the rice riot in 1979, as seen here.

However, in 1980, a year after the rice riot, there was the Liberia coup, which led to the overthrow and murder of President William Tolbert.

Conclusion

Presidential proclamations in the context of SONA are considered historical data, which must be accurate. Mr Weah’s claims that Liberia’s rice riot occurred in 1980 are inaccurate, given the evidence above.  

The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2023 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with OK FM to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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