By Charles Leyman Kachitsa
Former International football player, George Weah is set to be announced the next state president of Liberia having won that country’s general elections ahead of current Vice-president Joseph Boakai.
The voting in Liberia started on the 27th December 2017 and as of the 28th December, Mr Weah was already winning with a health margin of more than 60% of votes counted. As this became apparent and news of the victory emerged, the former footballer’s supporters especially the youth started wild celebrations in the capital Monrovia.
Mr Weah will succeed Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president who defeated him in the 2005 elections. The first round of elections were conducted in October but failed to produce a winner as non amassed votes above 50% necessary to avoid a re-run. Weah came off with 38.4% while Boakai came second with 28.8%. Ms Johnson Sirleaf the incumbent President will transfer power to Weah in th nation’s first democratic transition since 1944. George Weah ran under the Congress for Democratic Change party, a party he founded while the defeated Vice President Joseph Boakai stood under the ticket of the ruling party, Unity Party.
Earlier Mr Weah upon hearing of the results tweeted, “My fellow Liberians, I deeply feel the emotion of all the nation. I measure the importance and the responsibility of the immense task which I embrace today. Change is soon.”
According to the Guardian UK, George Weah 51 is the only African to be crowned as FIFA’s world player of the year and Europe’s best player in 1995. This gave inspiration to the continent with Nelson Mandela calling him, ‘Pride of Africa.’ He was initially identified by Arsene Wenger whilst at Monaco. He scored 47 goals for the club in four year before moving to other popular European clubs. His first move from Monaco was to Paris St-Germain, then AC Milan before coming to England to play for Chelsea and Manchester City. At international level, George despite his solo effort was unable to help Liberia reach any World Cup during his time although they qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations twice in which he scored a formidable goal in 2002. He was named African Footballer of the year three times, 1989, 1994 and 1995. In 1996 George was named African Player of the Century because of his all round skills in goalscoring, dribbling, acceleration and speed. It is yet to be seen whether his football success will be meaningful for George Weah as the president of one of the poorest countries in Africa, both candidates ran on a platform that promised economic growth for the masses.
Born George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah on 1st October 1966 in the capital city Monrovia, he joined politics in 2002 soon after retiring from playing professional football. Weah was largely raised by his paternal grandmother. He attended school up to high school before he worked as a switchboard technician at the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation. He found the opportunity to move abroad whilst working for this company. George has three children, one of which is signed up to Paris St-Germain.
The country Liberia was founded by freed US slaves in the 19th Century. The country had been locked in a brutal civil war ending in 2005 just before Ms Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took power. She took office after the previous President, Charles Taylor was forced out by rebels. Taylor was convicted by the International Criminal Court and is now serving a 50 year prison sentence in the UK for war crimes related to conflicts in neighbouring country of Sierra Leone. The recent victory of Mr Weah therefore has ignoited hope for the country coming from this background. His campaign appealed to the youth while Vice President Boakai was seen as old and out of touch. This is despite the controversy surrounding Mr Weah’s candidature as his running mate was Jewel Taylor, former wife of the jailed former president Charles Taylor.