Joseph Boakai elected President of Liberia

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Joseph Boakai has been elected President of Liberia with 50.64% of the vote, beating President George Weah who got 49.36%, according to final results announced by the election commission yesterday.

When Boakai won a place at Liberia’s prestigious College of West Africa in the 1950s, he helped pay his fees by working as the school janitor, cleaning floors and toilets at night and studying by day, his spokesperson Amara Konneh told Reuters.

Supporters say his hard work, humility and experience are what voters want after six years of Weah’s rule that initially brought hope, fame and glamour to the presidency but were marred by corruption and administrative chaos.

“Boakai strikes me as a grandfather figure, someone you would trust with your life. And now we are trusting him with the country’s life,” says scholar and activist Robtel Neajai Pailey.

He faces a huge task to rebuild Africa’s oldest republic which was founded by freed slaves from the Americas in 1822 but has struggled to emerge from two civil wars that killed more than 250 000 people between 1989 and 2003, and from a 2013-16 Ebola epidemic in which thousands died.

The economy grew 4.8% in 2022, driven by gold production and a good rice and cassava harvest, but more than 80% of the West African country’s population of 5 million still face moderate or severe food insecurity, World Bank data show.

Drug use is on the rise among the jobless youth, officials say. Power supply is unreliable across the forested countryside, and pitted roads hinder travel. Last year Liberia was ranked poorly on Transparency International’s corruption index, coming in 142nd out of 180 countries.