Liberia’s president Boakai suffers heat exhaustion after taking oathMon, 22 Jan 2024 18:56:39 GMT

The inauguration of Liberia’s new president Joseph Boakai, who succeeds former football star George Weah, was on Monday marked by the 79-year-old leader’s brief spell of exhaustion due to soaring temperatures, his party’s secretary general told AFP.Boakai, whose age and health are the source of much discussion in the West African country, had to pause and sit down to finish his address in front of the parliament in Monrovia, where foreign delegations and local officials had gathered.”Heat exhaustion contributed to the few minutes of disruption in his speech but the speech ended successfully and the president was advised by his doctors to come home as a result of that,” Amos Tweh, secretary general of Boakai’s party, told AFP.”The president was not taken to the hospital. Everything went okay, the president is normal, and he’s doing well. The president has resumed his normal presidential duties,” he added. Political veteran Boakai beat former Ballon d’Or winner Weah in November’s run-off poll, with 50.64 percent of the vote to 49.36 percent. – ‘Come to the rescue’ -During his inaugural address, Boakai stressed the need to rebuild poor infrastructure, improve basic services for everyone and ensure all Liberians are given the same chance of succeeding.”We see hard times, we see dysfunctioning… we see corruption in high and low places. And (it’s) in these and similar conditions that we have come to the rescue,” Boakai declared, pledging to uphold the rule of law.The investiture in parliament was attended by Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo and US ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield.Boakai, who will be steering Africa’s oldest republic for six years, has 40 years of political experience behind him.He was vice-president from 2006 to 2018 under Africa’s first elected female head of state Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, before being soundly beaten by Weah in the 2017 election.The November poll was peaceful in a region that has seen a succession of military coups in recent years in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger.But the small nation of five million has been plagued with corruption, high levels of poverty and a weak justice system, after years of back-to-back civil wars and an Ebola outbreak.Impunity related to crimes committed during those civil wars is another unresolved issue.- Backed by ex-warlord -Boakai aligned himself with local barons during his election campaign, including former warlord Prince Johnson who backed Weah in 2017 and enjoys strong support in northeastern Nimba County.Johnson was also seen drinking a beer in a video while his men tortured to death former president Samuel Doe.He has nominated one of his associates, Jeremiah Koung, as Boakai’s vice-president. Johnson himself is under US sanctions.Liberians expect Boakai to create jobs, improve the economy, strengthen institutions and fight corruption — which was one of his key campaign pledges.”Expectations of Boakai’s presidency are high,” Larry Nyanquoi, a former local official in Nimba County, told AFP.Boakai is “seen as somebody who has not engaged in corruption and one who has tried to live the simplest possible life.”- Unity, reconstruction -The outgoing government did not live up to its commitment to ensure the rule of law was upheld, to establish a war and economic crimes court, and to end impunity in the country.The mysterious deaths of four government auditors also raised suspicions.”Every leader has promised to crack down on corruption and they have failed, so he has to say something different,” Abdulla Kiatamba, an analyst at Geo Baraka Group of Strategists, said of Boakai.”They have promised improved economic conditions and they have also failed so he has to say and do something that will be different.”After his win, Boakai called for unity to rebuild Liberia and promised to “extend development to the whole country”, in particular by building roads in the southeast.He also said that fighting corruption would be a priority and promised a “smooth and peaceful” transition. Weah won plaudits for swiftly conceding defeat.Boakai now faces the tricky challenge of accommodating all those who supported his election campaign when he starts distributing jobs, analysts say.He is also believed to have several people in his inner circle with presidential ambitions of their own.