Former World Footballer of the Year, George Oppong Weah, was on Monday sworn in as Liberia’s 24th president, succeeding Nobel laureate prize winner and Africa’s first female president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who spent 12 years in office.
The 51-year-old, who was FIFA’s 1995 player of the year, won the runoff vote on Dec. 26 against the outgoing vice president. Weah took his oath of office in the early hours of Monday inside the 35,000 capacity Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia.
At the ceremony, about eight African Heads of States, including President Muhammadu Buhari who was represented by Vice Present Yemi Osinbajo, amidst other international soccer stars who also witnessed the ceremony.
In the lead-up to the inauguration, Weah played in a pre-inaugural exhibition soccer match Saturday, featuring his Weah All Stars team, which was comprised of his former national teammates. Weah scored the first of two goals against Liberian army’s soccer team.
“Her Excellency Madam Ellen (Johnson Sirleaf) will be bringing down the flag, while I raise the flag; it is a new day for Liberia,” Weah said of Monday’s activities. “It is a smooth transition, no-one (is) running around the streets,” he said.
Weah said he was happy about the calm that has characterized the transition process so far. “This tells you that we came from a war to peace,” he said. The swearing in is to be at midday at Liberia’s international football field, the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex, about seven miles southeast of Monrovia. This is the first time such an event will take place there.
Weah won the presidency after three straight attempts. He lost to immediate past president Sirleaf in 2006 when he stood as a candidate. He won the main vote and lost the run-off. In 2011, he partnered a former U.N.-executive, Winston Turnbull, but in the capacity of a vice-presidential aspirant, that ticket was unsuccessful as Sirleaf won a second term.