The calm, peace and tranquility prevailing in Liberia after the defeat of President George Weah in a hard-fought election is a massive vote for democracy. President Weah has already conceded defeat and congratulated the victor, opposition leader Joseph Boakai. And he has urged his supporters to follow suit.
This is a welcome development in a region where military coups are back in vogue, with democratically elected presidents having been ejected in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and most recently in Gabon. This has been a disappointing reversal of the gains from the wind of change that from the early 1980s swept across West Africa, reinstating democracy.
President Weah, a former global football star, threw in the towel on Friday evening, when it became evident that he was going to lose the poll. He said in a speech on national radio that the results that were in so far indicated that he could not surpass Mr Boakai’s lead. This is how things are done in mature democracies. Leaders should learn to accept defeat and the voters’ verdict and let whoever is chosen take over the mantle.
Mr Weah said his party had lost the poll but Liberia had actually won, “and this is the time for graciousness in defeat, to put national interest above personal interest”. This is a sweet revenge by 78-year-old Boakai, whom the 57-year-old Weah defeated in 2017. International observers, including the European Union, have commended Liberia for holding a peaceful election.
The United States has congratulated President-elect Boakai on his victory and President Weah for peacefully accepting the results. During his seven-year reign, President Weah has spearheaded reforms to pull the country out of the dire consequences of decades of civil conflict. Mr Boakai, a former Vice-President, who has been on the national political scene long enough, needs to craft an effective strategy to tackle national problems. These include youth unemployment and underdevelopment.