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Ex-footballer sworn in as Liberian president with vow to create jobs

Former top footballer George Weah has been sworn in as the Liberian president, vowing to use his “overwhelming mandate” to stop corruption and create jobs.

It is the first time the country has had a transition of power by democratically-elected leaders since 1944.

Mr Weah won a presidential run-off last month beating former vice-president Joseph Boakai with more than 60% of the vote.

Speaking in front of around 35,000 people in a stadium near the capital Monrovia, Mr Weah promised to bring Liberians jobs and prosperity.

The 51-year-old former world footballer of the year, whose clubs included Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco and AC Milan, told the crowd: “I have spent many years of my life in stadiums, but today is a feeling like no other”.

The new president spoke of having no "quick fixes" for his country where he grew up with his grandmother
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The new president spoke in front of an estimated 35,000 people

The 1995 Ballon D’Or winner cautioned: “It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit among our people, we must end it.

“The way to directly affect the poor is to ensure our resources do not enter in the pockets of government officials. I promise to deliver on this mandate.”

He declared: “United, we are certain to succeed as a nation, divided we are certain to fall.”

Among those who watched Mr Weah taking the oath of office were the presidents of Ghana, Gabon, Senegal and Sierra Leone, along with friends and fellow African football stars including Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o.

Mr Weah pledged during the campaign to create 50,000 jobs in his first 150 days.

More than 60% of its 4.6-million citizens are aged under 25, and many voted for Mr Weah in the belief he would quickly boost employment.

The former president speaks to her successor at his swearing in Ceremony
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Ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks to her successor at his swearing-in ceremony

Liberia is ranked 177th on the 188 countries in the UN’s human development index.

He also spoke of the country’s civil wars adding “We have arrived here on the blood, sweat and tears and suffering of so many of our citizens, too many of whom died long before real equality.”

Supporters of George Weah celebrate the result
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Supporters of George Weah celebrated his speech

Mr Weah replaced Africa’s first female president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, at the Monrovia stadium which she opened in 2014 where citizens took refuge during the Ebola crisis.

In her final week in office, she signed an executive order on domestic violence protecting people against “physical, sexual, economical, emotional and psychological abuses”.

George Weah playing for Chelsea against Spurs in January 2000
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The new president played for Chelsea in the Premier League during his career

Mr Weah was a senator for Montserrado County for three years after failing to win as a vice-president in 2012.

Arsene Wenger, who discovered Mr Weah when he was Monaco manager, said he remembered seeing him for the first time looking a “bit lost” and “not being rated as a player”.

Mr Wenger visited Liberia with Mr Weah during the 1989-1997 civil war and said the footballer “suffered” as his country was wracked by conflict.

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