George M. Weah
Liberia's 25th President.

Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor Autobiography

Jewel Howard Taylor
From First Lady to Vice President.











































































































George M. Weah, Liberia’s 25th President

Liberia makes history again!


The 2017 general elections

The stakes were high in the 2017 general elections. Liberia’s 2.2 million registered voters were to elect a new president and 73 new members of the House of Representatives. Not less than 20 presidential candidates were eager to move into the Executive Mansion after the expiration of the second mandate of the incumbent president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who had reached the constitutional limit of two terms.

On October 10, 2017 Liberia went to the polls. Voter turnout was high (75%), possibly also because of the 73 vacant seats in the House. After the 1.6 million votes cast had been counted, the two leading presidential candidates were – as expected - George Weah, leader of the most important opposition party, the Coalition for Democratic Change, CDC – who had won 38% of the votes, nearly 600,000 votes – and Vice President Joseph Boakai, the presidential candidate for the ruling Unity Party, UP – with close to 450,000 votes (29%).
Since no candidate won a majority in the first round of the presidential vote a second round was to follow. A confusing period followed, marked by allegations of elections fraud and a hectic legal battle. The runoff was postponed but finally held on December 26. For various reasons voter turnout was much lower than in October, only 55%, representing some 1.2 million voters. Voting was calm and few incidents were reported. No doubt, the presence of many national and international elections observers – an estimated 8,000 – contributed to fair, transparent and democratic elections. However, above all, the Liberian people should be congratulated for the peaceful manner in which the elections were held.

George Weah overwhelmingly won the runoff, with 61.5% of the votes cast in his favor (732,158 votes). The 51-year old CDC-leader won decisively in 14 of Liberia’s 15 counties. Joseph Boakai only won his home county (Lofa County). A little more than one out of every three voters voted for the 75-year old UP-candidate (457,579 votes or 38.5% of the electorate), not enough to win the Mansion. Joseph Boakai conceded defeat after the National Election Commission (NEC) announced the final election results and immediately congratulated the winner, George Manneh Weah. After losing the 2005 presidential elections to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and unsuccessfully running as Vice President alongside Winston Tubman, the presidential candidate for the CDC in 2011, George Weah, a former soccer star turned politician – he was elected senator in 2014 – had finally reached his goal.

On Monday, January 22, 2018 George Manneh Weah was inaugurated as Liberia’s 25th President, in conformity with the Constitution. It is important to note that he is Liberia’s first democratically elected indigenous president, 170 years after the creation of the republic in 1847 by black American colonists. It was also the first time in world history that a former football player was democratically elected president of a country. Liberia had again made history!

Soccer star turned politician

George Manneh Oppong Weah was a world famous professional footballer before becoming a politician. His career’s zenith was in the 1990s: African Footballer of the Year in 1989, 1994 and 1995; African Player of the Century in 1996; FIFA World Player of the Year (1995); winner of the Ballond’Or, the list is long. He is the first and to date only African player to win these awards. In Europe he played for the world’s most famous clubs: AS Monaco, Paris St Germain, A.C. Milan. He thus earned millions of dollars, which allowed him to help victims of the civil wars and to support Liberia’s national football team during the civil war(s) when warlords plundered the country and public funds were syphoned off, notably during the presidency of warlord-turned-president, Charles Taylor. Relations between the two were far from harmonious. At one point Charles Taylor even targeted Weah whom he suspected of undermining his popularity. But George Weah stayed out of politics – and out of the warring factions - until the 2005 presidential elections.

From rags to riches

George Weah was born in Claratown, one of Monrovia’s largest slums (1966), where he grew up, raised by his grandmother. He was a school dropout but became famous and very wealthy as a successful international soccer player. As a result he was very popular in Liberia (and not only in his own country), notably among the country’s youth who adore him and see him as their idol, a hero, fondly calling him 'King George'.
Fifteen years ago Weah began showing political ambitions. He finished high school (2007), went to college in the US, obtained a degree in business management (2011) and ran successfully for the Senate, beating one of President Sirleaf’s sons, Robert Sirleaf (2014). While a senator, he kept a low profile, even to the extent of being criticized. According to his critics, Weah was often absent, and when present his behaviour did not atrract much attention.

Weah, the politician

Notwithstanding the foregoing, as a senator for Montserrado County, Liberia’s most populated country, he was in an excellent position to target the presidency. His main competitor in the 2017 elections, Vice President Joseph Boakai, was a 75-year old veteran politician. In retrospect, he was too old to be a serious contender, despite his vast political experience. ‘Sleepy Joe’, Boakai’s nickname after his propensity to fall asleep during meetings, was apparently easily beaten. But two other factors may also explain Weah’s victory in the 2017 presidential elections.

Strategic alliances
Weah had learned from his defeats in 2005 and 2011 that strategic alliances and political backstage deals are important in realizing goals. After all, in the 2005 presidential elections he had won the first round, with 28% of the votes, but he was defeated in the runoff by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who had strategically allied with other parties and defeated him with 60% of the vote. Maybe this explains his strategic alliance with Winston Tubman, a veteran politician, in the 2011 presidential elections. However, the Tubman-Weah ticket was unsuccessful. Allegations of election fraud during the first round were a reason for the CDC to boycott the runoff, easily won by Sirleaf. It is also interesting to note that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize on the eve of the first round.

In light of the foregoing it is not surprising that early in 2017 Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change entered into a strategic alliance with two other political parties: the National Patriotic Party and the Liberia People’s Democratic Party. From now on the acronym CDC stands for Coalition for Democratic Change.

The National Patriotic Party (NPP) is the political party that brought Charles Taylor to power and the political heir of the NPFL, the National Patriotic Front of Liberia. The NPFL was the rebel group that started the civil war in 1989. Standard-bearer of the NPP in 2017 was Jewel Howard Taylor, ex-wife of Charles Taylor, First Lady of Liberia during his presidency, and since 2005 senator for Bong County. By creating an alliance with the NPP, George Weah and the CDC hoped to win the votes in this – in terms of population – important county in the center of Liberia, after so many years still a stronghold of Taylor supporters. In exchange Jewel Howard Taylor was offered the vice presidency.
Political observers immediately reacted by expressing fear that this may create an opportunity for Charles Taylor to influence Liberian politics. Suspicion increased after it was discovered that Taylor was making phone calls from his maximum securitiy prison in the UK to his political supporters in Liberia. During one of these calls, during a political NPP rally, George Weah even talked to the former president. Last but not least, and adding to an already important level of mistrust, during the election campaign Jewel Howard Taylor stated that it was important to finish Charles Taylor’s interrupted agenda.
The second alliance, with the Liberia People’s Democratic Party (LPDP), is also interesting. The LPDP is a small political party, created and led by former Speaker of the House, Alexander Tyler, who defected from the ruling UP after being sidelined in the House. Tyler has a dubious reputation being involved in a number of high profile corruption cases, notably the Sable Mining bribery scandal.

A secret deal?
In addition to these open alliances with political parties, Weah and the CDC secretly entered into backstage discussions (negotiations?) with president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – at least, that is what rumors want us to believe. Unlikely? Untrue? Maybe. There is no proof of any explicit or tacit agreement but there is important circumstantial evidence, as we will see.

Joseph Boakai, Sirleaf’s Vice President for 12 unbroken years, was the official presidential candidate of the ruling party, the Unity Party, whose Standard –Bearer was Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She never publicly supported her Vice President in his ambitions to succeed her, which, if successful, would also have benefitted their political party, the ruling UP. President Sirleaf was absent when Boakai officially launched his presidential compaign, she declared openly that Liberia needs a young leader, and five days before the runoff she performed an official ceremony in close harmony with her former rival and the political opponent of her own party’s official candidate. Not surprisingly, in January 2018, she was expelled from her own party for failing to support the party's candidate.

So, according to these unconfirmed rumors, George Weah and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf succesfuly agreed on a common position. The incumbent president would not support the official candidate of her own party but Weah’s candidacy, whereby the latter promised not to prosecute her for the corruption and nepotism that took place during her presidency and for which she could be held responsible. Moreover, the secret deal would also include Weah’s promise not to create a war crimes tribunal and to not re-open a public discussion on Sirleaf’s role in the start of the country’s civil war. As is widely known and as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has on various occasions acknowledged, she played an active role in the start of the 1989 military uprising against then president Samuel Doe. However, she has always downplayed the importance of it, emphasizing that her support was limited to a modest financial contribution and that she left the NPFL in the early years of the civil war ending her collaboration with Charles Taylor as soon as she found out that he was a merciless criminal – a statement that her opponents and critics vehemently reject.

So, on January 22, 2018 George Manneh Oppong Weah succeeded Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s – and Africa’s – first democratically elected female president. George Weah thus became Liberia’s 25th president, and NOT the country's 24th president, as erroneously stated by the Executive Mansion.



Inaugural Address, January 22, 2018.

Video Inaugural Ceremony


































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