“Liberians have demonstrated once again that democracy is alive in the ECOWAS region and that change through peaceful means is possible,” responded the Economic Community of West African States in a press release.
Since 2020, ECOWAS has lived to the rhythm of abrupt regime changes. Soldiers took power by force in four of the fifteen member countries, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The 2020 presidential elections in Ivory Coast and Guinea were marred by violence and protests. Togo has been ruled by the Gnassingbé father and son for almost 60 years.
One of the challenges of the presidential election in Liberia was its peaceful and regular conduct, and the acceptance of the results. Violence during the campaign and between the two rounds raised fears of a bumpy future. The history of Liberia, which emerged in 2003 from 14 years of almost uninterrupted civil war, played into this concern.
George Weah, seeking a second term, largely dispelled it on Friday by admitting to having lost after the publication of almost final results giving a narrow victory to his old rival Joseph Boakai.
Read also: Presidential election in Liberia: George Weah congratulates Joseph Boakai on his victory
“Tonight, the CDC (the Coalition for Democratic Change, his party) lost the election but Liberia won. It’s time for elegance in defeat,” said in a firm voice on the radio the man who already stood out for his class on the football fields.
Mr. Weah said he spoke to the man he called the “president-elect” to congratulate him. He said he was “proud” of having kept “the promise of justice, peace, inclusiveness, transparency and credibility” made before the election.
He exalted “democratic principles” at a time when they are being called into question in the region. He urged his supporters to “follow his example and accept the results”.
“Our time will come again,” said Mr. Weah, 57, while his intentions after the official end of his presidency in January 2024 are not known.
“The example” Weah-
ECOWAS also indicated that the post-electoral phase was “crucial”, and called on “all Liberians to preserve and safeguard peace and security”.-
Foreign partners welcomed the conduct of the election, “peaceful” for the West African Community like the UN and the United States, an important ally of Liberia. They complimented the declared winner.
Read also: Liberia: opponent Joseph Boakai elected president, George Weah concedes defeat
Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the Secretary General of the United Nations, recalled that these were the first elections to be held without the presence of the UN mission (2003-2018), created to guarantee peace after civil wars.
A special mention was awarded to Mr. Weah. “President Weah has shown the qualities of an exemplary statesman,” said Goodluck Jonathan, former president of Nigeria, on X (ex-Twitter), at the head of a mediation mission during the elections.
“We call on all (Liberian) citizens to follow President Weah’s example and accept the results,” the US State Department said.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the president of Nigeria, heavyweight of ECOWAS, praised the “extraordinary leadership” and the “democratic sportsmanship” of Mr. Weah, “at a particular moment in the history of West Africa where democracy is under attack from evil actors determined to subvert the will of the people.
Mr. Weah “countered the received idea that democratic transitions were untenable in West Africa,” said Mr. Tinubu, himself elected in 2023 despite accusations of fraud from his adversaries.
Several presidential elections are planned in 2024 in West Africa, in Senegal, in Ghana (members of ECOWAS), in Mauritania, theoretically in Mali and Burkina Faso, led by the military.
By Le360 Africa (with AFP)
11/20/2023 at 6:03 p.m.