Football star George Weah was sworn in as President of Liberia Monday, in the country’s first democratic transfer of power for more than 70 years.
Weah, a decorated football star, took over from Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Liberians of all ages formed long lines outside Samuel Kanyon Doe Stadium, near the capital, Monrovia, to watch Weah’s inauguration.
“I have spent my life in stadiums but I’ve never felt like this,” Weah said in his inaugural address, AFP reported.
Weah, 51, won more than 60% of the votes and beat incumbent Vice-President, Joseph Boakai, in a runoff election on December 26.
The short ceremony was witnessed by African heads of state and dignitaries from Senegal, Mali, Ghana and Nigeria.
Former Chelsea soccer star Didier Drogba also attended the ceremony. Weah won the first round in October with 38.4% of the vote, while Boakai received 28.8%, the National Elections Commission said. Because neither candidate garnered more than 50% of the vote, a runoff was initially scheduled for November 7.
But claims of fraud and “gross irregularities” filed by Boakai’s party and a smaller party delayed the vote. Those complaints were dismissed and a December runoff was set.
The West African nation of 4.6 million people has been ravaged by civil war, the Ebola virus and corruption and hasn’t had a democratic transfer of power since 1944.
After Sirleaf took office in January 2006 as Liberia’s first elected female President, she oversaw years of peace and stability despite festering problems and challenges.