Former international football star George Weah has been sworn in as Liberia’s new president, in the country’s first transition between democratically-elected leaders since 1944.
Weah, 51, took over from Nobel laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who spent 12 years at the helm, steering the West African nation away from the trauma of a civil war.
The ceremony took place at a packed sports stadium near the capital, Monrovia, with several African heads of state in attendance, along with friends and former colleagues from Weah’s football years.
Weah has vowed to make prosperity and job creation the hallmarks of his presidency.
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking a mere 177th on the 188 countries in the Human Development Index compiled by the UN Development Programme.
Named by FIFA as Africa’s Player of the Century, Weah is one of the most decorated stars of world football, becoming the first and only player to win the African Player of the Year, European Player of the Year and World Player of the Year awards at the same time.
He had short spells playing for Chelsea and Manchester City in the twilight of his career.
For a man whose life is steeped in football, it was no surprise that Weah opened his speech with football symbolism.
“I have spent many years of my life in stadiums, but today is a feeling like no other. I guarantee you that when we finish, there will not be a winner or a loser. Today we all wear the jersey of Liberia. And the victory belongs to the people.”
Jewel Taylor, the ex-wife of former Liberia president Charles Taylor – who is in a UK prison for war crimes – will be Weah’s vice-president.