IN AN EXCEPTIONALLY rare move – rare in African democracies — President George Manneh weah on Friday, November 17, 2023, conceded defeat to his main rival, Ambassador Joseph Nyuma Boakai, the Standard Bearer of the Unity Party. The first-term Liberian leader, elected 2017 and inaugurated January 2018, called President-elect Boakai last Friday surrendering in battle even while the National Elections Commission (NEC) had not counted votes to 100 percent.
NATIONAL ANXIETIES WERE still high; the President’s party and supporters were still upbeat that victory would come their way with over 98 percent of the votes counted. But the President would not wait anymore. He quickly took to the national broadcaster and conceded defeat. While some officials and partisans of the CDC have expressed outrage about this move by the President, others term it a major watershed in Liberia’s political history. It is untypical in Africa for incumbents that often leverage resources and security forces to ward off defeat even when the facts prove otherwise to do such.
THE PRESIDENT WAS clear in his statement when he noted: “Under my leadership, these elections were organized with a promise to the Liberian people – a promise of fairness, peace, inclusiveness, transparency, and credibility. I am proud to say that we have fulfilled that promise. The Liberian people have spoken, and we have heard their voice.”
HE ALSO SAID the elections were not about him as a person, but about the nation. He added, urging his many partisans: “Although we did not emerge victorious, your hard work and support have been the backbone of our campaign, and for that, I am deeply grateful. I urge you to follow my example and accept the results of the elections. Go home tonight with the knowledge that our ideals and vision for Liberia remain strong. We are a young movement, and our time will come again.”
PRESIDENT WEAH DECIDED cutting the corner, going anti-clockwise of the usual undemocratic attitude in Africa, whereby incumbent leaders thwart democracy and the will of their people. He has done the honorable thing of listening to the voice of reason apparently fueled by patriotism by respecting the outcome of the just concluded runoff election.
INDEED, WE COMMEND the President for his bold steps taken. He did not follow the route of despotic and unpatriotic politicians who would put personal interest or partisan interest above national interest. To a large extent, his decision not only elevates Liberia’s democratic credential, it also promotes the discourse that Africa should be taken seriously on the essence of enthroning genuine democracy and the rule of law.
THERE ARE SO many instructive takeaways from President Weah’s concession that Liberians should be proud of. History will certainly have an amiable place for him, for emboldening Liberian’s democracy, and entrenching national peace and stability. He has contracted his critics who think he’s unforgiven, unable to maintain nation peace, and divisive. What he did on Friday also points to his contribution to the growth and development of democracy in this country.
FURTHERMORE, HE HAS demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that he is a man of peace. It can be remembered his administration witnessed repeated opposition protests, which in other jurisdictions were quelled with brute force. But what he did was strange. Instead of shooting the protesters, he provided them water and protection.
We salute the President for the bold stance. He has shamed and short-circuited regular politicians who see elections as the matter of do and die; who will do everything, including causing mayhem and shedding blood of innocents to fulfil their political egos.
OUR FURTHER HOPE is that he shouldn’t stop at the pronouncement made. Let the President not rest until all other officials of his party, who are threatening actions against his stances and against the NEC, are disengaged from the maneuvers. Let them also heed the voice of reason, and for the sake of our democratic record set and the peace of our country, follow your example and accept the results.