Monrovia, Liberia – Thousands of people gathered in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, as opposition leader Joseph Boakai officially launched his campaign ahead of the October elections.
The upcoming elections will serve as a significant test of the popularity of President George Weah, the former football star, after a turbulent first term.
Supporters of Joseph Boakai, a 78-year-old politician who finished second to Weah in the 2017 elections and has been nicknamed “Sleepy Joe” by critics due to claims of napping at public events, defied the rain at a stadium. They danced, waved flags, and called for change.
Among those present were former Weah supporters who expressed disillusionment over what they perceived as the President's failure to improve living standards and combat corruption in Liberia.
“We thought he (Weah) was going to bring the change he promised, but nothing,” said businesswoman Martha Gould. “I need change for the better.”
Weah's rise to power was fueled by hopes that the popular former world soccer player of the year could bring improvements despite his lack of political experience. However, several scandals have marred his presidency.
Last year, the United States imposed sanctions on three officials, including Weah's chief of staff Nathaniel McGill, for corruption allegations, including the alleged misappropriation of state assets. Weah dismissed the officials, who denied any wrongdoing.
A fuel supply accounting error in state-run tanks left Liberia facing gasoline shortages in 2020, leading to panic at fuel pumps.
Despite these challenges, President Weah remains popular in many parts of the country, and the Liberian economy registered nearly 5% growth last year, primarily driven by improvements in agriculture and mining, according to the World Bank.
Reporting by Alphonso Toweh. Editing by Mariam Aminu.