Newly sworn-in Liberian President George Manneh Weah and his Predecessor Ellen Johnson Sirleaf pledged to present a united front for the development of the country.
51-year-old, George Manneh Weah promised to be the agent of positive change as he took the oath of office of at the Samuel Doe stadium near Monrovia where huge crowds gathered for the swearing in ceremony.
The former FIFA World Best Player who retired from football some 15 years, takes over the helm of the country that is still recovering from years of civil war. The country was also on the spotlight following an outbreak from 2014 – 2016 of Ebola that ravaged the country’s dwindling economic growth.
In a country where corruption has been described as endemic, President Weah said he would root out corruption, pay civil servants and encourage the private sector.
The peaceful and democratic transfer of power from Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first female leader and Noble Prize Laureate to George Weah is the first transition between democratically-elected leaders in Liberia since 1944.
The ceremony that was attended by the Presidents of Gabon, Ghana and Sierra Leone, and fellow African football stars, including Cameroonian legend Samuel Eto’o and Ivorian Didier Drogba amongst others marks the start of a new era in Liberia.
The essentially youthful population of about 4.6 million people have been urged to show solidarity for the tasks that lie ahead. They will be building on the foundation laid by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who worked for many years maintaining peace and stability despite challenges following the ravaging 14 year civil war from 1989 – 2003 that resulted in the death of about 250,000 people.
The new President has stated that he will seek more investment in the private sector in the country that anchors its economy on the exportation of rubber and iron ore.
The young people have expressed the desire to see tangible change in terms of visible civil infrastructure and this means more jobs and opportunities.
According to the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index, Liberia is ranked 177th on the 188 countries in the areas of access to health, education and economic progress.
President George Manneh Weah was a former footballer in Cameroon before moving to Europe in the 1990s where he was crowned the FIFA world best player. He also won the coveted Ballon d’Or prize to become the first African to have reached such height in football.
During his mandate, Weah will be assisted by Vice-President Jewel Howard-Taylor, ex-wife of former President Charles Taylor, who is currently serving a 50-year jail sentence for war crimes at HMP Frankland in County Durham.
The new President has been picking members of his cabinet.
The chairperson of Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) party and Weah’s top aide during campaigns, Nathaniel McGill becomes Minister of State and Chief of Staff.
Senior CDC member Samuel Tweah is the Finance Secretary,
Liberian lawyer Charles Gibson was named Justice Minister.
The President’s press aide Sam Mannah becomes Press Secretary.
Former Unity Party Senator Gbehzohngar Findley from outgoing President Sirleaf’s party was appointed Foreign Minister.
The Chief of Staff of Liberia’s Armed Forces, Major General Daniel Ziankhan, becomes Defence Minister.
Brigadier General Charles Johnson was made Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces.
Some members of Sirleaf’s transition team maintain their position in the meantime. They include Information Minister Eugene Nagbe, Education Minister George Werner, Varney Sirleaf, and the heads of the police and government services.
So far, no woman has been named in the cabinet. Pundits see this as a contradiction to Sirleaf’s push for women in politics and protection against abuse and female genital mutilation.