Liberia: Weah Bows Out of Politics?

President George Weah

Says he won’t run again for President
Outgoing President George Weah says he wants to enjoy his private life and will therefore not contest the Liberian presidency anymore

Outgoing President George Weah has disclosed he will not contest for the Liberian presidency following his recent narrow electoral defeat by President-elect Joseph Nyuma Boakai, who will take over from the celebrity president in just a few days.

Speaking to congregants during a church service on Sunday at his Forkay Kloh Family Fellowship Church in Paynesville, Weah, surprised many when he announced that he will not return to politics in 2029, with the 59-year-old expressing his desire to prioritize his private life and contribute to regional peace initiatives.

Weah stated that in six years when the next presidential electoral cycle comes, he would be 63 years old and, as his retirement age is 65, he has no plans to be active in politics beyond that age.

“Six years from now, I will be 63 [though he would actually be 65], and I cannot work for two years. Therefore, the best course of action is to promote peace and prosperity for our country, and nobody is going to drag me into politics until I reach 90 years,” President Weah noted, emphasizing the need for time with his family while expressing gratitude to Liberians for allowing him to serve his country at the highest level.

The President made it clear that he did not enter politics to hold onto power indefinitely. “I did not come into politics to hijack power,” Weah stated, emphasizing his dedication to a vision that extends beyond holding political office.

However, this latest decision contradicts an earlier stance that President Weah took when he conceded defeat to President-elect Joseph Nyuma Boakai in November.

Weah vowed to be back in 2029 when he and his CDC shall have realized where they went wrong in 2023 that led to their defeat at the poll, and make a strategic comeback when the next presidential elections.

“The Liberian people have spoken, and we have heard their voice,” Weah said in his concession address to the nation.

“I urge you to follow my example and accept the result of the elections,” he said, adding that “our time will come again” in 2029 when Boakai’s six-year term in office ends.

On the campaign trail during the 2023 elections, Weah promised to bequeath the CDC standard bearer position to Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor in 2029 — that is, if he would have won a second term.

This succession plan, which became one of the most important campaign statements made by the President in 2023, came at a campaign rally in Palala. In laying out his succession plan, he said, “When I take the presidential seat for my second term, I will not pursue a third term.”

“I will not run for a third term because I believe in democracy; I respect the Constitution and laws of Liberia. I am an astute democrat,” he said. “Of course, I believe in women’s participation and we have a Vice President that is working hard amongst us,” he continued amid a thunderous applause. “I pray that after our second term — in the CDC’s third term — we will promote and support our Vice President so that we will bring a woman back to the Liberian leadership stage.”

The President’s rather unprovoked and unsolicited pronouncement was greeted in the Liberian intellectual arena with much analysis, with folks underscoring its essence and implications.

However, as Liberians look ahead to what will happen in 2029, it is no secret that President Weah’s decision adds a new dimension to the country’s political narrative. It is not uncommon for leaders globally, including in Africa, to step away from the public sphere to focus on personal goals and contribute to other causes.

However, only time will tell if this represents a permanent departure or a strategic pause for Weah. In any case, it highlights the dynamic nature of leadership in the global context.