MONROVIA, Liberia – The Liberian people have spoken. In just the third democratically held election in the west African nation since the end of its fourteen year civil war, candidate George MannehWeah has been elected as the next leader of Liberia. If the name sounds familiar, it should – George Weah was once an international football superstar, appearing for clubs such as Paris Saint Germain, Chelsea and AC Milan. In 1995 Weah won the prestigious FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or award, and remains the only African football player to ever garner such honors.
From Pitch to Politics
After retiring from the pitch in 2003, Weah returned to Liberia toward the end of the country’s brutal fourteen year civil war. When Liberia held its first election in 2005 following the ousting of warlord and dictator Charles G. Taylor, Weah formed the Congress for Democratic Change Party (CDC) and ran unsuccessfully for office. He ran for the presidency again in 2011, and while he generated significantly more support, he fell short once again to incumbent president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
The months leading up to the 2017 election, however, had just the right elements to propel Weah to his first presidential victory. Angered by President Johnson-Sirleaf’s failure to deliver on election promises such as more jobs, better healthcare and schools, and eradicating corruption, Liberian voters were weary to support Jospeh Boakai, the current Vice President of Jonshon-Sirleaf’s administration and candidate who ran against Weah. Many Liberians felt that in voting for Boakai, they’d be getting Johnson-Sirleaf, Pt. 2 while George Weah would bring genuine change and fresh ideas to the impoverished nation of over 4 million.
President-Elect George Weah has promised to bring jobs, improved infrastructure and education to Liberia. Weah has several major challenges ahead of him as Liberia is consistently ranked as one of the poorest nations in the world. He will also have to answer to the international community for his decision to make Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of former dictator and warlord Charles Taylor, his Vice President. Howard-Taylor, who shares two children with the imprisoned warlord, has openly admitted to speaking to Taylor on several occasions throughout his sentence. Critics have conspired if this is another attempt by former president Taylor to once again be involved in Liberian politics.
With over 61% of the votes in his favor, it is clear that the Liberian people trust in Weah’s vision for a better, stronger and more prosperous Liberia. Hopefully Weah can carryover his success from the pitch to the presidency.