Liberia swears in new president, former soccer star George Weah

Liberian women embraced swearing-in event in Monrovia

MONROVIA, Liberia — Liberia’s former international soccer star George Manneh Oppong Weah will be sworn into office today, Monday, as President of Liberia, replacing outgoing president, Madam Ellen Johnson, who has ruled the West African mineral-rich nation for 12 years (2006 – 2018).

Liberia’s new president, Weah, is taking over the leadership of the post-war nation, marking the country’s real presidential political transition process.

Liberia, rich in natural resources including gold, diamond, iron ore and fertile land conducive for various forms of agricultural activities and food production, has been entangled in the worse form of institutional cronyism, nepotism and organized corruption for the past decade under Africa’s first female president.

Officials in the outgoing who went in with less than $5,000 in total assets became millionaires overnight under the Unity Party’s rule and the leadership of the outgoing president.

The 51-year-old incoming president, who was elected FIFA’s 1995 player of the year, won the presidential runoff vote in December 2017 26 against the outgoing vice president, Joseph Nyumah Boakai.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf served as head of state for 12 peaceful years.

Accused of fomenting and financing the Liberian civil war, Madam Sirleaf also won Nobel Peace Prize for maintaining peace in the country during her reign as president but poverty, high unemployment and corruption remained the weak links in her legacy.

President-elect Weah speaks to his CDC party executives

Weah, who has run for the presidency before but is relatively new to national politics, inherits a weak economy with poor health and education sectors as well as infrastructure.  Of late, the outgoing went around opening new edifices, some completed and others not.

She also fought to sign more concession agreements but the national legislature rebuffed that. Among contracts to be awarded included vehicle registration and inspection contract the outgoing administration had wanted to offer to a Lebanon national accused by the United States forces in Iraq as a terrorist’s supporter and mastermind.

The key national security issues facing Weah and Liberia are enormous. Paramount amongst them is high unemployment.  Liberia’s unemployment rate is estimated at 85 percent.  More than 80 percent of youth are unemployed in the nation of 4.5 million people.

International experts say official corruption has led to millions of dollars in capital flight into the personal savings accounts of ex-government officials.  Most of the funds are said to be deposited in banks in Lebanon and other Middle Eastern and Asian countries.  Some officials have teamed up with some members of the Lebanese business community to conceal their loot.

Other officials are said to have deposited huge sums of money into banks in Ghana while at the same time owning real estate in Ghana, Morocco, South Africa, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.

The head of the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Counselor Jerome J. Verdier, Sr. and some leaders in the international human rights community are calling for the full implementation of the country’s TRC’s report which the Sirleaf’s administration failed to implement.

The report calls for the prosecution of individuals who bear the highest responsibility for economic and war crimes before, during and after the Liberian civil war.

Other Liberians and some in the international community is urging the incoming Weah’s administration to order a forensic audit of every government agency to determine where and how the administration begins its work.  Some donor institutions are said to be thinking in the same direction.

Prior to the Monday’s swearing event, Liberians held prayer services for 48 hours leading up to Weah’s inauguration.

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Ben Mabande

Ben Mabande is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.

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