Liberian president-elect Boakai urges unity

Liberia’s president-elect Joseph Boakai on Wednesday called for unity to rebuild the country as he delivered his first speech since a narrow victory at the polls.

Boakai, a 78-year-old political veteran, defeated incumbent George Weah by a margin of just 20,567 ballots.

Boakai captured 50.64 percent of the vote, compared with the 49.36 percent won by the former international football star Weah.

“The elections are now over and we must unite as one people to rebuild our country,” Boakai said.

“I implore all Liberians, regardless of ethnic origin, country, religion or political party affiliation, to join us on this journey to save our country,” he added.

The president-elect promised to “extend development to the whole country”, in particular by building roads in the southeast, a region he said had been “neglected for years”.

He also reiterated his campaign pledge that fighting corruption would be a priority and promised a “smooth and peaceful” transition.

Outgoing President Weah won plaudits for swiftly conceding defeat and agreeing to a non-violent transition, immediately undercutting any international concerns in a region marred by coups.

While his party lost, “Liberia has won,” Weah said on the radio after the results.

Weah’s election six years ago fueled hopes of change for Liberia, which is still reeling from back-to-back civil wars and the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic.

But critics accused his government of corruption and said he failed to keep a promise to improve the lives of the poorest.

Boakai has pledged “radical” reforms to the security and justice systems, and to uphold the rule of law.

He also offered his condolences to victims of a post-election tragedy when a car ploughed into a crowd of his supporters on Monday evening, killing at least three people.


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