George Weah sworn in as president of Liberia
Ex-Premier League star replaces Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as head of state
Former Chelsea and Man City striker George Weah stepped out in front of a packed stadium today, 15 years after retiring from football - not to play a match, but to become the president of Liberia.
His inauguration this morning, following the departure of his predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, marks the first peaceful transfer from one elected president to another in the African state’s modern history.
“I promise to be the agent of positive change,” the 51-year-old told the crowd at the Samuel Doe stadium, less than ten miles from the poor Clara Town district of the capital city where he grew up.
Weah’s rise from humble beginnings resonated with younger voters keen to uproot the privileged elite who have dominated Liberian politics.
In the October elections, Weah “rode on a wave of support from young Liberians in the country where more than half of the population is under 35”, Bloomberg reports.
“This victory would not have been possible without the youth of this country, the women of this country who made their living selling in the market,” Weah said during his inaugural address. “This is your government.”
“Nobody doubts his ability to motivate and inspire,” says the BBC. “The unknown quantity is his capacity to administer effectively.”
Years of civil war followed by the ebola crisis of 2014-2016 have stunted Liberia’s economic growth, leading to knock-on effects for public services such as healthcare. Corruption remains stubbornly endemic.
Weah’s vice-presidential pick, senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, is the ex-wife of warlord Charles Taylor, now serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes at HMP Frankland in County Durham.