LIBERIANS, the world of football and the International community celebrated and congratulated George Weah’s presidential victory in the West African country’s first democratic transfer of power after two devastating civil wars in more than 70 years.
The results were nearly identical to those announced on Thursday 28th December, 2017 evening by the National Election Commission (NEC) after 98 per cent of returns but on Friday the Electoral board president Jerome Korkoya confirmed Weah’s run-off victory, following an official tally of results.
“I, acting on behalf of the board of commissioners, do hereby declare the presidential ticket of Senator George Weah and Jewel HowardTaylor as the winner from the December 26, 2017 presidential run-off election,” Korkoya said.
The White House in a statement congratulated “the people of Liberia and President-elect George Weah on his victory” and called the vote “a major milestone for Liberia’s democracy”.
From the world of soccer, his former clubs as Paris SaintGermain tweeted: “We knew George Weah way before he became President-elect of Liberia. Congrats to the PSG and world football legend on the latest chapter of his brilliant career” and AC Milan offered their congratulations “to the Red and Black legend” who starred for the club over four seasons.
Also tributes poured in from football stars like former Chelsea star Didier Drogba, Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure and Marseille’s former Cameroon midfielder Stephane Mbia. Also from the side of International Community, the President of Senegal, Macky Sall, congratulated Weah on Twitter and wished him “much success”.
Weah responded by thanking Sall for “his support and advice”.”Together, let’s help speed up the development of our continent,” Weah wrote. The US also offered its congratulations to Weah and to “the people of Liberia on the successful conclusion” of the election, which it said “represents a major milestone for Liberia’s democracy”.
The French President, Emmanuel Macron as well hailed the exstar striker’s victory, saying: “Congratulations to Mister George for this election! Great moment for Liberia, saying Weah had “a special place in the French’s hearts.
” He also invited Weah to visit France and the invitation had been accepted by Macron’s office. Weah responded: “I am honoured to join a new generation of heads of state. We have a lot to do to accelerate the construction of Africa’s future.”
George Tawlon Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah was born in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia and grew up in Clara Town.
He is a member of the Kruethnic group, which hails from south-eastern Liberia’s Grand Kru Count,one of the poorest areas of the country.His father, William T. Weah, was a mechanic while his mother, Anna Quayeweah was a seller but died in 2013.
He has three brothers, William, Moses and Wolo.He was one of thirteen children largely raised by his devoutly Christian paternal grandmother, Emma Klonjlaleh Brown after his parents separated when George was still a baby.
He attended middle school at Muslim Congress and high school at Wells Hairston High School, and reportedly dropped out in his final year of studies. He has three children with his Jamaican spouse, Clar Weah.
The 51 years old, is the only African to be FIFA’s world player of the year and in 1995 was named as the Ballon d’Or winner and also won for Europe’s best player. At the time, Nelson Mandela called him the “Pride of Africa”.
In 1989, 1994 and 1995,Weah won African footballer of the year and in 1996 he was named African Player of the Century while in 2004 he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.In 2013, Italy and Milan legend Franco Baresi named Weah in the greatest XI he has ever played with.
As well as being regarded as one of the greatest African footballers of all time, during his career Weah also stood out of the pitch for his initiatives to fight racism in football.
George Weah began to play soccer for the Young Survivors youth club at the age of 15 in 1981 and later to other local top football clubs before moving to Cameroon where his ability was discovered by Cameroon national team coach, Claude de Roy in 1987 when playing for Tonnere Yaounde who relayed the news to a current Arsenal’s coach, Arsène Wenger.
Internationally, Weah moved to Europe in 1988 after Wenger signed him to AS Monaco before joining other French football giants, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) in 1992.Later he joined the Rossonerri(Redblacks), the Italian and European football giants, AC Milan in the mid of 1990s.
He moved to the English Premier League towards the end of his career in 2000 and had spells at Chelsea and Manchester City, before returning to France to play for Olympic Marseille in 2001, and subsequently ending his career with Al-Jazira in 2003.
He scored 193 goals at club level in 411 appearances and he won potential titles. At international level, he represented Liberia at the African Cup of Nations on two occasions, winning 60 caps and scoring 22 goals for his country.
During the period of 1990s, Weah was regarded as one of the best strikers in the world, despite not being able to score as many goals as other prolific forwards of his generation.
His career is still an inspirational story to the African generation. Weah entered politics after retirement from soccer more than a decade ago when he was 37 years old. In Liberia, he is Idolised as “Mister George” and is set to replace Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who in 2006 took over the country. Weah will be sworn in on January 22 , 2018 as the Africa’s first female President who schooled at Harvard and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, steps aside after two terms of six years each.
Sirleaf led the country from back-to-back civil wars and saw it through a deadly Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 5,000 Liberians but she was criticized for not better tackling corruption.
Weah had run in the country’s last two elections, winning the first round of the 2005 vote that eventually went to Sirleaf. In 2005, Weah obtained a plurality of votes in the first round of voting on 11 October, garnering 28.3% of the vote. This qualified him to compete in a run-off election against Sirleaf, the second placed candidate.
However, he lost the run-off to Sirleaf on 8 November, garnering only 40.6% to 59.4% for Sirleaf. However, after assurances that the vote was fair several prominent African leaders called on Weah’s supporters to accept the result with grace and dignity, and Sirleaf became President. But the AU had characterized the elections as “peaceful, transparent, and fair”.
Then he ran as the vice presidential candidate with diplomat Winston Tubman in the 2011 poll; they boycotted the runoff that granted Sirleaf her second term. But the possession of French citizenship which was later resolved by court and mainly Weah’s limited educational background hurt his political career and aspirations and he returned to school after the 2005 attempt for presidency.
He obtained a high school diploma in London at Parkwood University in 2005 when aged 40 years but in 2011, he earned a degree from Illinois-based DeVry University in Miami at the age of 45 and then Master’s degree in 2013when aged 47 years.
At the age of 48, as Liberia grappled with the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Weah preceded Joyce Musu FreemanSumo,was elected as a senator by defeating Sirleaf’s son Robert for the seat as he won a landslide victory, receiving 99,226 votes, which represented 78.0% of the total votes from the 141 polling centers, while Sirleaf, his closest rival received 13,692 votes, which is nearly 11% in the election marred only by a low turnout.
In 2016,Weah announced his intention to run for a presidency and as a senator led the first round vote in October 2017 elections but he did not receive enough ballots to win outright over the 73 years old incumbent Vice President, Boakai who has been in power for twelve years. Sirleaf didn’t publicly support either candidate.Weah led the ticket for a coalition party, the Congress for Democratic Change, with Jewel Howard-Taylor as his vice presidential running mate.
Weah drew support from the younger generation, which makes up a majority of Liberia’s population of 4.6 million people. “We are young people and have suffered in this country for so long,” said one supporter, Love Norrision.The commission said 56% of the country’s 2.2 million registered voters cast ballots in the runoff, which was contested twice in court amid claims of irregularities, with its original November 7 date delayed.
But the Vice President Joseph Boakai conceded on Friday, congratulating his opponent. In his remarks conceding the election, Boakai offered a “hand of goodwill” to Weah and dismissed the idea of challenging the runoff results in court, alluding to unity and to past conflicts. ●