Image: REUTERS/Carielle Doe

By Katelin van Zyl

On Friday, 17 November, Liberian President George Weah conceded election defeat after provisional results from Tuesday’s runoff vote showed opposition candidate (and former vice president) Joseph Boakai beating him by just over a percentage point (50.89% to 49.11%). This year’s election marks the closest race since the end of the civil wars. In the previous election six years ago, former soccer legend Weah easily beat Joseph Boakai in the second round, with 62% of the vote. Liberians had great hope that when Mr Weah became president he would improve conditions in the West African country, but he has unfortunately failed to live up to his election promises. Nonetheless, it is significant that he has publicly conceded even before the announcement of final election results, especially in a region that has experienced eight military coups in the past three years, and where presidents often extend their terms and undermine true democratic values and practices for the sake of their interests. Faith in democratic elections is further eroded by the trend of fraud accusations when elections do take place, with results frequently being contested in court. He urged his supporters and all Liberians to follow his example and accept the results. Mr Boakai emphasised the importance of “a message of peace and reconciliation” when his government gets to work.

The incoming president inherits significant national challenges, including high poverty levels, in a country still recovering from two civil wars (1989-97 and 1999-2003) and economic mismanagement. Still, the country has come a long way since the brutal 14 years of fighting that terrorised communities, recruited and corrupted children, and destroyed one of Africa’s stronger economies (reducing real GDP to about 40% of its pre-war level). The country’s process of rebuilding the economy, reconciling opposing sides, and reintegrating soldiers into communities has been extremely tough. Widespread trauma continued to affect communities, and frustration grew over the lack of economic improvement under the transition government, which was found to be corrupt. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took over from the transitional government to become the first female president in Africa in 2005 (until 2017) and has been internationally celebrated as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and the first president to peacefully transfer power to another elected president. However, she was largely unpopular at home for only making modest, incremental gains when she was expected to deliver a dramatic turnaround in the country, and for the continuing corruption of her administration. Joseph Boakai served as vice president during her presidency.

On 2 November, INcontext wrote about some of the political challenges faced by Africa and encouraged prayer for upcoming elections in African countries. This recent election is encouraging, and we can continue to pray for this precedent of respect for democratic processes to be followed elsewhere in Africa. On 19 November, representatives of Churches, National Christian Councils, theological and lay training institutions, and other Christian organisations in 43 African countries who are members of the All Africa Conference of Churches, gathered in Abuja, Nigeria, for the 12th General Assembly and the 60th anniversary of the ecumenical movement. This year’s theme was: “The Love of Christ Compels Us. 2 Cor 5:14”. World Council of Churches General Secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay addressed the conference, saying: “In the continent of Africa, we see both the beauty of unity in diversity and the challenges of division and discord. It is here, on this continent, that we must demonstrate to the world the transformative power of reconciliation, the healing balm of unity, and the unwavering commitment to justice.” Exploring the theme, he urged that, “Christ’s love compels us to Christian unity, to work together as brothers and sisters in Christ to heal and reconcile a broken and suffering world. Yet churches continue to divide because of theological and ethical issues, personalities and material matters.” We can pray for the Church in Liberia to be united in fulfilling the mandate Jesus has given His Church to make disciples and teach them to obey the Word of God, which we know transforms our hearts, our actions, and, consequently, our communities.

According to the Joshua Project, even though approximately 40% of Liberians identify as Christian (11.66% of which are evangelical), there remain five groups ‘unreached’ with the Gospel (11.4% of the population). According to Jerry P. Kulah of the Lausanne Movement, the country’s Christian heritage has included the presence of superficial Christianity, syncretism, and silence around immorality, oppression, corruption, and marginalisation. He testified that one way the Lord brought good out of the civil wars was that Liberians seeking refuge in other countries, such as Nigeria, had the opportunity to acquire quality theological education and gain skills in the areas of missions, leadership, and development. A prayer request for post-war Liberia has been strong Christian leadership in the Church and society.

Please pray with us for the following:

  • Thank the Lord for President Weah’s response to the elections, and pray for the new government to lead with integrity, wisdom and humility
  • For the country’s economic development and continued peace, reconciliation, healing, and rebuilding
  • For godly leadership in Liberia, and for the Liberian Church to be mature, unified, and proactive in sharing the Good News of the Gospel