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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Wednesday 16 November 2005

LIBERIA: Africa finally gets first female president as defeated soccer tsar calls for peace

MONROVIA, 15 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - Africa won its first female president on Tuesday when counting ended in Liberia’s historic presidential poll, with former World Bank economist Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf garnering 59.4 percent against former soccer star George Weah.

"Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has received 4778,526 votes corresponding to 59.4 percent and George Weah has received 327,046 votes corresponding to 40.6 percent,” said the head of the election commission, Frances Johnson-Morris.

While Weah continued to cry foul and demand a reassessment of the count, he also issued a plea to his supporters to keep their dismay off the streets for the good “of our fragile peace” and said he would challenge the results through the legal process.

Tuesday’s provisional results were based on a tally of all votes but a final official result is expected only next week. Johnson-Morris said the tally would have to be verified and reconciled by the Commission before it is declared final.

The presidential poll, held under the watchful eye of international observers and some 15,000 UN peacekeeping troops, was slated to seal the peace on a brutal 14-year civil war that ended in 2003.

Weah, a former FIFA footballer of the year who won most of the votes in the first round of the two-round ballot, on Tuesday reiterated his claims of "massive fraud" in the run-off.

On Friday, as Weah filed a petition to the Supreme Court to allege fraud, hundreds of his supporters protested in the streets chanting "No Weah, No Peace".

They also staged sit-in protests before the offices of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the European Union and the 15-nation West African regional block, ECOWAS that two years ago brokered the country's peace, in a bid to have the final results annulled.

But Johnson-Morris said: "I have no authority, nor does the commission, to overturn the elections results which reflect the will of the Liberian people.”

According to Johnson-Morris, 805, 572 people, or 60 percent of the electorate turned out to vote last week.

Weah in a statement broadcast on his privately-owned radio station KINGS FM on Tuesday, a copy of which was given to IRIN, said his party Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) had been "cheated and there is strong evidence that the run-off elections were rigged".

His statement said ballot papers were pre-marked in favour of his rival Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the commission tally sheets in his party's possession "shows this pervaded the entire process".

But he ordered a halt to all street protest by his supporters saying he would follow legal procedures to channel his fraud allegations.

"Public demonstrations in the streets of Monrovia or elsewhere in protest of the run-off election results is not expedient; it is not good for our fragile peace; it might even be counter-productive to the legal bid we have put in motion at the National Elections Commission," Weah said.

The commission head said public hearings into Weah's complaints would start on Wednesday.

Diplomats and observers have been meeting with Weah to investigate his fraud claims.

Some 18 members of his party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), which is the best represented in a fragmented parliament, have said that they will not take their seats unless the fraud allegations are adequately addressed.

International observers meanwhile have declared the elections broadly free and fair and ECOWAS has urged Weah’s supporters to accept the results with dignity and grace.

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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