WESM

Liberia Waits For Presidential Election Results

Dec 27, 2017
Originally published on December 27, 2017 7:26 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One day after going to the polls for a much-delayed runoff election, Liberians are waiting to learn who their next president will be. Africa's first woman head of state, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been in power for the past 12 years. And this election marks the nation's first peaceful and democratic transfer of power since 1944. Here's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: The two presidential hopefuls are incumbent Vice President 73-year-old Joseph Boakai and former soccer star-turned-Senator George Weah, who's 51. Liberians agree that the legacy of outgoing president and Nobel peace laureate Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is that she consolidated peace after back-to-back civil wars and an outbreak of Ebola. This is a watershed moment, says political analyst Robtel Neajai Pailey.

ROBTEL NEAJAI PAILEY: So January 2018 when whoever wins is inaugurated, this is huge - right? - for a post-war country that has had political turmoil and armed conflict. The fact of the matter is there will be a peaceful transition of power, and I'm confident of that. And I think most Liberians are confident of that.

QUIST-ARCTON: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he hopes the will of the Liberian voters will be respected. The U.N. had one of its biggest peacekeeping operations in post-war Liberia. The head of the African Union election observer mission to Liberia is Erastus Mwencha.

ERASTUS MWENCHA: I saw people very anxious to vote and people ready to see democracy. And I saw very happy faces and particularly among the youth, who perhaps have known nothing than memories of the war that has engulfed this country.

QUIST-ARCTON: A peaceful democratic handover has evaded Liberia for generations when it was dominated by one-party rule in a West African country settled by freed enslaved Americans. Liberia became the continent's first republic in the 1840s. Built on rubber and iron ore wealth, the nation that boasts about its links with the U.S. descended into civil war in 1989 and only emerged from a devastating conflict 13 years later. Political analyst Pailey says it will be a difficult country to administer.

PAILEY: The economy is in complete shambles. The hot-button topics are the economy, infrastructure, political unity. The candidates have not really stated what they're actually going to achieve and how they're going to achieve it.

QUIST-ARCTON: Liberians are anxiously awaiting to hear who will be at the helm for the next six years. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Dakar. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.