Former international soccer star George Weah was on Monday sworn in as Liberia’s new president, taking over the west African nation from Africa’s first female leader.
The 51-year-old, who was FIFA’s 1995 player of the year, took the oath of office dressed in all white at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex to cheers from tens of thousands Liberians.
“I fully believe that the overwhelming mandate that I received from the Liberian people is a mandate to end corruption in public service; I promise to deliver on this mandate,” he said. “As officials of government it is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people.”
Weah, who has been a senator and run for Liberia’s presidency before, but is relatively new to national politics, inherits a weak economy along with poor health and educational sectors.
“I do not promise you quick fixes or miracles. Instead my pledge to you today is that my administration, with your help, will make steady and deliver progress toward achieving the hopes and aspirations that you cherish in your heart for Mama Liberia,” he said.
Weah then switched seats with his predecessor, Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was president for 12 years, lifting Liberia from the destruction of back-to-back civil wars and facing the challenge of the Ebola crisis that killed thousands here.
This is Liberia’s first peaceful transfer of power from one government to another in more than 70 years.
Many of Weah’s critics are still skeptical about his ability to deliver in a country that is faced with youth unemployment and other challenges.
His running mate, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, has political experience that surpasses his. She was married to the nation’s former leader, Charles Taylor, during his time in power. After they divorced, she was elected senator in 2005, building a political career in her own right.
Thousands of people stormed the sports stadium early on Monday to see the new president sworn in.
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