Liberian President George Opong Weah promised his country men and women yesterday he would not let them down.
He spoke at a jam-packed Samuel Doe International stadium in Monrovia shortly after he took his oath of office as the 24th president of his country.
It was the first time since 1944 that power was transferred from one president to another in the country which went through a long-running civil war.
The former football star had packed football stadium, but yesterday’s was most significant.
“I have spent many years of my life in stadiums but today is a feeling like no other,” Weah, sporting beards and dressed in white, told the ecstatic crowd.
He added: “I have taken an oath before you and before Almighty God. Rest assured I will not let you down.
“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. This is your government,” he said.
Speaking on corruption, Weah said: “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,” Weah, 51, said he couldn’t offer any “quick fixes” but rather steady progress towards the goals of Liberians.
His biggest priorities, he said, would be to fight corruption and pay civil servants “a living wage,” and show the private sector that Liberia was “open for business”.
Vice-President, Jewel Howard-Taylor, the former wife of the warlord and former president Charles Taylor, who is serving a 50-year sentence for war crimes, stood side by side with her boos.
Former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who stepped down after 12 years as Africa’s first elected female President, was joined by dignitaries including Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, Sierra Leone President Ernest Koroma, among others including a representative of South African President Thabo Mbeki. Cameroonian football legend Samuel Eto’o also watched the historic moment.
More than half of Liberians live in poverty and it was these people who filled Weah’s rallies and turned out to vote for him, full of hope that his charmed life might somehow rub off on theirs.