Following a close presidential runoff, Liberian President and former football legend George Weah announced that he had lost to opposition leader Joseph Boakai and that it was time to prioritize the good of the country over personal gain.
A claim that was supported by a number of the oldest republican people in Africa.
“I am so happy that the president accepted his defeat because he knew very well that he never did good. And now he wants to prove to the Liberians that he loves them by accepting it because if he doesn’t accept it, we will go back to war, and we don’t want to go back there,” said Patience Quiah, a nursing student.
“I know by the grace of God he will work very hard to bring a change to Liberia because he said it, he wants to put Liberia on the map of the (other) nations, he wants to put Liberia on the map, that the right thing will be done in this country contrary to those things that have been happening that were not right,” added Amos Harris, heavy-duty driver.
“The results announced tonight, though not final, indicate that… Boakai is in a lead that we cannot surpass,” Weah said in a speech on national radio late on Friday, November 17, 2023.
He said his CDC party “has lost the election, but Liberia has won,” adding: “This is the time for graciousness in defeat”.
In the 2017 second-round presidential election, the 78-year-old Boakai was defeated handily by Weah, 57.
After Tuesday’s (November 14, 2023), second-round vote, more than 99.5 percent of polling places reported vote totals, and the election commission stated that Boakai had received 50.89 percent of all votes cast.
Friday’s (November 18, 2023), figures showed that Boakai had 28,000 more votes than Weah. With Weah having a narrow national lead of 7,126 votes, the two came in neck and neck in the first round last month.
With Liberia still suffering from two consecutive civil wars and the Ebola outbreak that struck in 2014–2016, the election of Weah—the first African football player to win FIFA’s World Player of the Year trophy and the Ballon d’Or—had raised hopes for reform in the country.
However, detractors have charged that he has broken a pledge to enhance the lives of the poorest people and that his government is corrupt.
The United States congratulated “president-elect Boakai on his victory and President Weah for his peaceful acceptance of the results”.
“We call on all citizens to follow President Weah’s example and accept the results,” US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.
Weah said he had spoken to Boakai “to congratulate him on his victory”.
“The Liberian people have spoken, and we have heard their voice. However, the closeness of the results reveals a deep division within our country,” Weah said in his speech.
“Let us heal the divisions caused by the campaign and come together as one nation and one united people.”
Weah who remains president until the handover of power in January pledged to “continue to work for the good of Liberia”.
In the last 20 years, this will be the second orderly transfer of power from one democratically elected government to another.
The elections marked the first since the peacekeeping mission of the United Nations was terminated in 2018 following two civil wars in Liberia that claimed over 250,000 lives between 1989 and 2003.
The European Union and other international observers have applauded Liberia for conducting a peaceful election.
The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, a regional bloc, reported that while the poll was “largely” peaceful, there were a few isolated incidents that resulted in “injuries and hospitalisations” in four provinces.
Before the first round, several people died in clashes during the campaign, which increased concerns about violence following the election.
According to the electoral commission website, approximately 2.6 million Liberians were eligible to vote on Tuesday, and roughly 66 percent of them did so.
Boakai is no stranger to politics; from 2006 to 2018, she was vice president to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa.
With a population of about five million, Liberia is among the world’s poorest nations.
The World Bank estimates that over 25% of people survive on less than $2.15 per day.