A former football star, George Weah, and his supporters are brimming with confidence as Liberians head to the poll on Boxing Day in a run-off election to choose a new leader for the West African country.
“You know, I’ve been in competitions – tough ones, too – and I came out victorious. So, I know Boakai cannot defeat me. I have the people on my side,” he said to cheering supporters as he rounds off campaign for the polls.
The run-off election was delayed for weeks after the country’s Supreme Court ordered a halt following allegation of rigging and fraud during the first round of voting. Mr. Weah is running against the country’s vice president, Joseph Boakai, for the country’s top job.
During the first round of voting Mr. Weah scored the most votes with 38 per cent of the total votes cast. Mr. Weah, who has waited for 12 years to become the country’s leader, is within reach of achieving his dream but analysts are being cautious of his chances despite his overwhelming support from the country’s most youthful population.
During the 2005 run-off election, many analysts had chosen Mr. Weah as the winner but he suffered a shocking defeat to Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first woman president in Africa. Despite being snubbed by the country’s elite, who think Mr. Weah, a kid who grew up poor but rose to worldwide fame as a football star, is unfit to lead the country, Mr. Weah’s supporters believe this is his best chance of becoming president. Mr. Weah has also received a subtle support from an unlikely source as well.
He was seen in public with Mrs. Johnson- Sirleaf last Thursday. The appearance is seen by most analysts as significant as the incumbent has attracted public criticism for her refusal to campaign for Mr. Boakai, with whom she had run the affairs of the country in the last eight years.
The Ballon D’Or winner has also received the endorsement from Nigerian televangelist, Temitope Joshua, who is believed to one of Africa’s most influential preachers. The fight against corruption and the economy are the main talking points of the election.
Liberia suffered a brutal civil war in the 1990s. It took the intervention of a regional West Africa force nicknamed ECOMOG to restore peace in the country. In 2014, Liberia, alongside neighbouring Sierra Leone, was most devastated by the Ebola pandemic. Over 10,600 people were killed as the disease swept through the nation.