George Weah was yesterday sworn in as president of Liberia in the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in the West African country in more than seven decades.
Weah won 61.5 percent of the votes in December 2017 election run-off, beating outgoing Vice President Joseph Boakai, who garnered 38.5 percent of the ballot.
In his first speech as president, Weah harped on corruption. “The way to directly affect the poor is to ensure our resources do not enter in the pockets of government officials. I promise to deliver on this mandate,” he said.
“I have spent many years of my life in stadiums but today is a feeling like no other. I have taken an oath before you and before almighty God. Rest assured I will not let you down.
“This victory would not have been possible without the youth of this country, the women of this country who made their living selling in the market.This is your government,” he said.
The former world footballer of the year succeeded Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president.
Weah entered politics after retiring from football in 2002 and contested for presidency in 2005 losing to Sirleaf.
The last peaceful transfer of power between two democratically elected presidents took place in Liberia in 1944, when President Edwin Barclay was replaced by William Tubman.
The swearing-in ceremony at a stadium near the Liberian capital, Monrovia was attended by more than a dozen African and foreign dignitaries, including heads of state from Ghana, Nigeria , South Africa, Mali, Ivory Coast and Guinea.
Many Liberians regard the 51-year-old as a hero for his incredible rags-to-riches tale.
He was born in a slum in Monrovia, but found fame in international football.
Monrovia is highly dependent on exports of iron ore and rubber, which have recently plunged in prices. The country is also trying to overcome the effects of the Ebola outbreak , which left more than 4,000 people dead.
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world with 80 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day.
Speaking to reporters shortly after arrival in Monrovia, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo said he was proud to witness a peaceful democratic transfer of power in Liberia, considering the huge sacrifices made by Nigeria for peace and stability in the country.
“I am very happy over what is happening in Liberia today and I congratulate my brothers and sisters in this great country,” he said.
In a similar vein, former military head of state, Abdulsalami Abubakar, hailed the ongoing peaceful transition of democratic government to another in Liberia.
Abubakar said the development was yet another testimony of the rapid growth and development of democracy in the African continent.
“It is a pleasure to see that in our region democracy is growing from strength to strength.
“Liberia is a sister country to Nigeria, and during the Liberian crisis, the world knows the sacrifice Nigeria made in this country in terms of human and material resources.
“I commend the Nigerian government, the troops and Nigerians who supported Liberia during the crisis to arrive at this day.’’
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