By Harrison Arubu
Monrovia – Former soccer star, George Weah, on Monday took the oath of office as the 24th President of Liberia with a pledge to build an equal, free and just country.
Delivering his inaugural address, Weah promised to do everything within his powers to be the agent of change that Liberians had yearned for over the years.
He emphasised that corruption would not be condoned in his government, emphasising that government officials caught enriching themselves at the expense of the people would be prosecuted.
“It is my belief that the most effective way to directly impact the poor, and to narrow the gap between the rich and poor is to ensure that public resources do not end up in the pockets of government officials.
“I further believe that the overwhelming mandate I have received from the Liberian people is a mandate to end corruption in the public service. I promise to deliver on this mandate.
“As officials of government, it is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people
“For those who do not refrain from enriching themselves at the expense of the people, the law will take its course. I say today that you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.’’
Weah noted that although corruption had become an habit among the people, government officials must lead by example by refraining from it.
He said workers must be paid a living wage in order not to use poor remuneration as excuse to indulge in stealing of public resources.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Weah was sworn in at noon by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Francis Korkpor, at the packed Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Monrovia.
He 51-year-old took over from Africa’s first woman elected President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who sustained peace in the war-torn country during her 12-year tenure.
It is Liberia’s first transfer of power from one democratically elected president to another in over 70 years.
The historic event was witnessed by several African heads of states, including those of Senegal, Ghana, Gabon, Cape Verde, Sierra Leone and Cote D’Ivoire.
President Muhammadu Buhari was represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Other eminent personalities from Nigeria were former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar; President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, and Gov, Rochas Okorocha of Imo.
Obasanjo told newsmen on arrival at the airport earlier that he was proud to witness a peaceful democratic transfer of power in Liberia considering the huge sacrifices made by Nigeria for peace and stability in the country.
“I am very happy over what is happening in Liberia today and I congratulate my brothers and sisters in this great country,” he said.
Abubakar also described the peaceful transition in Liberia as good for the growth of democracy in Africa and the continent.
Fellow African football stars, including former Super Eagles midfielder Austin Okocha; Weah’s former teammates, Sunday Oliseh; Samuel Eto’o of Cameroun and Didier Drogba Ivory Coast, witnessed the ceremony.
Weah promised to do “my fair share to meet your expectations’’, but urged the people to meet his desire by rising up to defend their freedom, justice and the change they voted for.
He thanked the international community for their support to Liberia, including the European Union where he rose to stardom playing for several top-flight football clubs.
NAN reports that crowds of enthusiastic Liberians thronged the stadium, singing, dancing and waving flags. NAN