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Soccer Legend Becomes President In Liberia’s First Independently Run Election In 70 Years

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As a footballer, George Weah won accolades few could hope for, becoming the first non-European player to pick up the Ballon d’Or and seizing African Footballer of the Year on multiple occasions, alongside a raft of team honors.

The 51 year old entered politics after his retirement and had been serving as a senator in Liberia’s parliament. He led the first-round vote in October but didn’t receive enough ballots to win outright over the 73-year-old Joseph Boakai, who has been vice president for 12 years to current President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Sirleaf didn’t publicly support either candidate.

George Weah at the ballot

Weah led the ticket for a coalition party, the Congress for Democratic Change, with Jewel Howard-Taylor as his vice presidential running mate. She is a senator and the ex-wife of imprisoned former warlord and President Charles Taylor, which raised concerns among some Liberians.

Weah had run in the country’s last two elections, winning the first round of the 2005 vote that eventually went to Sirleaf. He ran as the vice presidential candidate with diplomat Winston Tubman in the 2011 poll; they boycotted the runoff that granted Sirleaf her second term.

He was born in a slum of the capital, Monrovia, and showed early promise in soccer. He played for top local clubs before starting his international career in Cameroon, then moved on to AS Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain, where he became famous.

Weah’s rags-to-riches story has been an inspiration to many supporters who call him “King George.”

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Highlights from The Vice President’s Concession Speech

Joseph Boakai, Liberia’s Vice President and presidential candidate of the Unity Party (UP), speaks during a news conference in Monrovia, Liberia December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

In his remarks conceding the election, Joseph Boakai offered a “hand of goodwill” to Weah and dismissed the idea of challenging the runoff results in court, alluding to past conflicts.

“We all are passengers on this big Ship called Liberia; even though I will not be the Captain of this Ship, it is my fervent desire that this Ship of State always sails smoothly.

“At this historic crossroad, let us remain cognizant of the extent to which elections are conflict-prone and have the potential to destroy nations, disintegrate families and undermine the sanctity of a nation. We are also quite aware of our nation’s current economic challenges.

 “The history of our nation is characterized by some disturbing episodes of fraudulent electoral processes and the attendant consequences. Notable among them are the presidential elections of 1927 and 1985, the outcomes of which were rejected, thereby engendering conflict which occasioned the loss of lives and a protracted fratricidal national conflict.

“I refuse to subject our nation to such an experience. I reject any temptation of imposing pain, hardship, agony, and uncertainty upon our people. My name will not be used as an excuse for one drop of human blood to be spilled in this country.

“As such, a while ago, I called Ambassador George Manneh Weah of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), to congratulate him on emerging as the winner in the presidential contest. I also availed myself to help him in any way he may find me useful to advance the good of our country.

“We need to join hands and work together to move our country forward. As I said throughout this campaign, it has never been about me. It has always been and should always be about Liberia.

“This is about our country’s cause defending. We must work to unite our people because Liberia is greater than any one of us.

Read the full speech here >>

 

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