Excerpts from the new President’s inaugural address on 22 January 2018 | His Excellency Mr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia (2018-)
My fellow citizens, I have spent many years of my life in stadiums, but today is a feeling like no other. Today, we all wear the jersey of Liberia, and the victory belongs to the people, to peace, and to democracy.
I promise to do everything in my power to be the agent of positive change. But I cannot do it alone. First, I call upon the Legislature to work with me to create and pass essential laws that are needed to complete the foundation of this nation.
Together, we owe our citizens clarity on fundamental issues such as the land beneath their feet, freedom of speech, and how national resources and responsibilities are going to shift from this capital to the counties. The people expect better cooperation and more action from their Government.
Many of those who founded this country left the pain and shame of slavery to establish a society where all would be free and equal. But that vision of freedom, equality, and democracy has not yet been fully realized. That human longing for true and lasting freedom has revealed itself in many ways since Liberia’s founding.
Sometimes the drive has been divisive and confrontational; and too often violent, bloody, and deadly, as it was in the 14 years of civil conflict, when the absence of equality and unity led us down the path of destroying our own country.
Notwithstanding the harshness and immeasurable cost of the lesson, we have learned that equality and freedom are never just a final destination that a people or a nation reaches. These are fundamental human rights that our people deserve and that must be held up and measured against our actions, our policies, our laws, and our purpose as those elected to serve the people.
Almost 15 years ago, Liberians laid down their arms and renewed their hope for a better and more equal society. With the help of regional partners and the United Nations, we chose democracy as our path, and elected the first post-war Government, which was led by Her Excellency, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
But this ceremony signals more than a peaceful transition from one democratic administration to another. It is also a transition from one generation of Liberian leadership to a new generation. We have arrived here neither by violence, nor by force of arms. Not a single life was lost in the process. Blood should never be the price tag for democracy. Rather, this transition was achieved by the free and democratic will of the Liberian people, guaranteed by the rule of law.
This Inaugural gathering also celebrates an important precedent: that we Liberians can, and will, rely on established institutions and the rule of law to resolve our political disagreements.
My fellow Liberians, let not the splendour of these ceremonies, nor the celebration of electoral victory, make us forget how we arrived at this moment. We have arrived here on the blood, sweat, tears, and suffering of so many of our citizens, too many of whom died, longing for real freedom and equality.
So that their deaths would not be in vain, I solemnly pledge today, with the help of all of you, my fellow citizens, to build a Liberia of equality, freedom, dignity, and respect for one another.
My fellow citizens, I want to admonish you, that the foundation of the New Liberia must be reinforced by the steel of integrity. We need men and women, boys and girls, whose integrity provides the foundation of the trust that is required for Liberian society to benefit her people.
We should all strive to put aside our differences and join hands in the task of nation building. We must learn how to celebrate our diversity without drawing lines of divisions in our new Liberia. We belong to Liberia first before we belong to our inherited tribes, or chosen counties. We must not allow political loyalties to prevent us from collaborating in the national interest. We must respect each other and act as neighbours, regardless of religious, social and economic differences.
It is my belief that the most effective way to directly impact the poor, and to narrow the gap between rich and poor, is to ensure that public resources do not end up in the pockets of Government officials. I further believe that the overwhelming mandate I received from the Liberian people is a mandate to end corruption in public service. I promise to deliver on this mandate.
As officials of Government, it is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people.
Though corruption is a habit amongst our people, we must end it. We must pay civil servants a living wage, so that corruption is not an excuse for taking what is not theirs. (To) those who do not refrain from enriching themselves at the expense of the people, you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
To the private sector, I say to you that Liberia is open for business. We want to be known as a business-friendly government. We will do all that is within our power to provide an environment that will be conducive for the conduct of honest and transparent business. As we open our doors to all foreign direct investments, we will not permit Liberian-owned businesses to be marginalized.
This victory could not have been possible without the support of the youth of this country, the women of this country, especially those who make their living by selling in the markets. This is your government!!!
We could not have arrived at this day without your voices being heard loudly, and all our views, no matter how critical, being freely expressed in an atmosphere void of intimidation and arrest. This was only made possible by the tolerance of my predecessor, Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who protected the right to freedom of speech as enshrined in our Constitution. Now, in my turn, I will go further to encourage and reinforce not only freedom of speech, but also freedom of political assembly.
To change the structure of the Liberian economy will require huge investments in agriculture, infrastructure, in human capital, and in technology. We hope our international development partners will assist us in this transformation. Meanwhile, on behalf of all Liberians, I would like to thank the international community for the invaluable contributions they have made to our peace and economic development.
I thank the Economic Community of West African States for standing with Liberia throughout these years. Many of our West African brothers and sisters shed their blood for Liberians during our conflict. This is a debt Liberians will never be able to repay.
I also thank the United Nations for the important role it has played in Liberia. We stood with the United Nations at its founding when it was just an idea driven by ideals. Then, in our darkest days, the UN stood by us.
The UN peacekeeping Mission has ensured unbroken peace within our borders for more than a decade, and will soon demonstrate its confidence in us, by transitioning UN organizations which will continue in key sectors such as education, health, and agriculture.
Ending a peacekeeping mission successfully is something in which all Liberians and her partners should take great pride. We thank all Member countries of the United Nations for your support, and I promise to continue to build on the success that we have achieved together.
To the Government and people of the United States of America, we thank you for your strong support over the years. To the European Union, I say thanks for your strong partnership. European aid has provided critical support for Liberia’s recovery from war, and this continuous support will be important as we forge a new path of transformation. To the People’s Republic of China, I say “xiexie.” Our administration will continue to support the “One-China Policy.” It is my hope that Chinese-Liberian relationships will grow stronger during my tenure. To the African Union, I intend to utilize the resources and expertise of the AU for the benefit of our country. To other bilateral and multilateral partners, I say a sincere thank you!
My greatest contribution to this country as President may not lie in the eloquence of my speeches, but in the quality of the decisions that I will make over the next six years to advance the lives of poor Liberians. I intend to construct the greatest machinery of pro-poor governance in the history of this country. I will do more than my fair share to meet your expectations. I ask you to meet mine, for I cannot do it alone. My expectation is that you, fellow citizens, will rise up and take control and responsibility for your destiny and that you will discover a new love for country and each other.
Photo: Christopher Herwig | UNMIL | 12 Jul 07