January 23 – Liberia’s George Weah, the former world footballer of the year who made the remarkable step of switching to politics and going all the way to becoming president of his country, was officially sworn into power on Monday and promised a crackdown on systematic corruption.
To the cheers of thousands of supporters, Weah, 51, took over from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who over 12 years steered the country away from civil war but failed to ease dire poverty.
“I have spent many years of my life in stadiums, but today is a feeling like no other,” Weah said as he thanked Sirleaf for “laying the foundations on which we can now stand in peace.”
Weah, who lost his first attempt at the presidency in 2005, played for a string of top-flight European teams in the 1990s including AC Milan and Paris St. Germain and was crowned the world’s best player in 1995.
. Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana attended, but South Africa’s Jacob Zuma didn’t, cancelling his presence at the last minute. The swearing-in ceremony was Liberia’s first peaceful transition between democratically-elected leaders since 1944. Fellow African football stars including Cameroonian legend Samuel Eto’o, were invited to the ceremony.
Known as “King George,” in his playing days, Weah’s election is viewed as a watershed moment for many, having risen himself from the slums of Monrovia.
“It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit among our people, we must end it,” said Weah, declaring he had an “overwhelming mandate” to do so.
Thousands of Liberians lined the streets and crammed into the venue to see the inauguration of their new president
Expectations for the footballer-turned-politician are high. In December, Weah won 61.5% of the votes in the election run-off to beat vice-president Joseph Boakai, who gained 38.5 percent of the ballot.
Weah ruled out “quick fixes”, said he wanted to pay civil servants “a living wage” and highlighted that Liberia was “open for business”.
He also stressed that “the way to directly affect the poor is to ensure our resources do not enter in the pockets of government officials. I promise to deliver on this mandate.”
Still, during his campaign trail, he remained vague at best about his ideas, offering little details on how he wants to implement his policies and realise his slogan ‘Change for Hope’.
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