Joseph Boakai has defeated ex-football star George Weah in a fiercely contested November election in Africa’s oldest republic
Liberia has sworn in Joseph Nyumah Boakai as president, marking the West African country’s second peaceful transfer of power in more than 70 years. He has pledged to fight poverty and corruption during his six-year term.
At Monday’s inauguration ceremony in the capital, Monrovia, which was attended by several foreign delegations, Boakai announced that his government’s priority is to restore “the lost hope” of Liberians, adding that “partisanship must give way to nationalism.”
“This historic vote by the people has given me the mandate to serve as the 26th President of the Republic of Liberia. This mandate makes me the president of all Liberians within our territorial confines and the diaspora at large,” he said.
The 79-year-old beat outgoing president George Weah in a tightly contested runoff election in November, winning 50.64% of the vote, with his opponent getting the remaining 49.36%, according to the National Elections Commission.
Weah, an ex-football star and former Ballon d’Or winner who had been in office since 2017 following the country’s first peaceful transition of power, conceded defeat after the electoral body’s results showed that his rival was leading. His action has been hailed as a source of relief for Liberia, which was left scarred by two devastating civil wars between 1989 and 2003 that resulted in the death of 25,000 people. Weah’s presidency has been marred by corruption claims, with critics, including his opponent, accusing him of plunging the economy of Africa’s oldest republic into a downturn.
Boakai, who served for 12 years as vice president under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female elected leader, from 2006 to 2018, was defeated by Weah in the 2017 election. He has previously dismissed concerns about his age, claiming that his extensive political experience and achievements would benefit the country.
However, his inauguration was cut short when he had to be helped off the podium after displaying signs of physical distress while delivering his speech. In a later statement, the presidential staff said the leader had experienced heat exhaustion, adding that doctors had since declared him “perfectly fine.”
Officials say Boakai has resumed his presidential duties, with local media reporting on Wednesday that he has made at least five ministerial appointments.