MONROVIA – Former soccer legend George Weah was on Monday sworn in as the president of Liberia in what was the first democratic transfer of power between two presidents in the African nation in 74 years.
He took the oath of office at the Samuel Kanyon Doe stadium on the outskirts of the capital, Monrovia, in front of a 35,000-strong crowd, among it several leaders of other African countries.
Weah, 51, who was widely considered to be the continent’s best-ever soccer player, thus took the presidential reins from Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who was the first woman to be elected head of state of any African country.
At the same time, Jewel Howard-Taylor, the ex-wife of former President Charles Taylor – who is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence in the United Kingdom for his role in the Sierra Leone civil war – was sworn in as the country’s vice president.
Weah, who promised more jobs and free education during his campaign, is now facing the challenge of fighting corruption and ending poverty, two of the country’s major issues.
Weah won the presidential runoff, which took place on Dec. 26, with 61.5 percent of the vote, followed by former vice president Joseph Boakai with 38.47 percent.
He is the only African soccer player to win both the Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year awards and was a star for clubs such as AC Milan, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain before retiring from soccer in 2002 to launch a political career.