On Friday, the 29th of December, Liberia’s National Elections Commission declared George Weah the 25th president of the Republic of Liberia. The 51-year old, former soccer superstar, the only African to receive the sport’s highest honor, the Ballon d’Or, was swept into office by the country’s youthful population with 61.5 percent of the vote, beating the incumbent vice president. It was an achievement not just for the opposition politician on the presidential ballot for the third and decisive time, but also a democratic milestone for Africa’s oldest republic. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the country’s post-conflict leader, and the first woman elected to lead an African nation, will be stepping down, honoring the constitution after serving two six-year terms. The election marks Liberia’s first peaceful transfer of power from one democratically elected head-of-state to another in decades. Not since 1944, will a Liberian president take the oath of office in the presence of his (or her) predecessor.
… There is certainly a lot to celebrate in Weah’s victory. The defeat of an incumbent political party (still rare on the continent), the election of Africa’s second female Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, and the clear vesting of Liberia’s youth in the political process.
But for me, it’s the electoral backstory that should be commemorated, as it reveals the true character of the country’s post-conflict democracy. And from this journey, Liberians and their international partners can take the greatest pride, and uphold steadfast confidence in the country’s future.