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Joseph Boakai, a 78-year-old opposition candidate in Liberia’s presidential election, has been congratulated by the incumbent, George Weah. Boakai has an unassailable lead against former football superstar George Weah in the tightest poll since the country’s civil war ended. He is known as “Sleepy Joe” after reports of him falling asleep at official events, but he has promised to restore hope in Liberia and prevent the country from falling over the cliff.
Boakai served for 12 years as vice-president under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female African head of state. He will officially start in January 2024 when he is sworn in. Boakai famously characterised himself as a “race car parked in a garage,” a phrase trending during the 2017 elections, in which he was defeated by Mr. Weah.
Born in November 1944 into humble beginnings, Boakai grew up in the remote village of Worsonga, in Liberia’s northernmost county, Lofa. He studied at a school in Sierra Leone and graduated from the College of West Africa in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. He completed a business administration degree at the University of Liberia.
Boakai served as Liberia’s agriculture minister under then-President Samuel Doe, who was violently murdered in 1990. He has worked with others to build a school for 150 students and a clinic for a community of 10 villages. He also oversaw the program to decentralise agriculture by creating regional hubs, a flagship project in Liberia where many people are subsistence farmers.
After losing the 2017 election, Boakai was determined to try again. In the first round of this election, neither Boakai nor Weah secured the more than 50% required for victory, so they faced off in a second round. Boakai’s campaigning focused on fighting corruption, boosting agricultural production, bringing down food costs, and improving the country’s roads.
Mr Boakai describes his journey to the presidency as long, but says that he is determined to help “millions of Liberians who have been left to face abject poverty, disease, ignorance and insecurity”.
SOURCE: BBC NEWS