Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf stands on the doorstep of history - as
Liberia's president and Africa's first elected female head of state.
But her entrance could be at least temporarily sidetracked by
allegations of fraud by her disgruntled opponent, former soccer star
With more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Ms. Johnson-
Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated former World Bank official leads the
race with 59.6 percent of the vote while Weah trails with 40.4
percent. International observers say the vote was fair. But Weah has
lodged a formal complaint.
Cognizant of the violent uprisings that have often preceded - or
followed - the rise to power of Liberian leaders, Johnson-Sirleaf
knows that her biggest immediate challenge is to placate Weah and
his agitated followers.
"Weah could be making legitimate claims here," says Thomas Jaye,
a Liberian research fellow at Britain's Birmingham University. "If
these claims are true, then the international community [has] to
reconsider the results of the elections. And even if Ellen was
approved legally as leader, she could remain illegitimate in the
eyes of the Liberian people."
Johnson-Sirleaf, however, disagrees. She says the people voted
their conscience and she is personally stung by the allegations of
"Frankly, it's the recent advisers to Mr. Weah that are coming up
with this," says Johnson-Sirleaf, sitting in the palaver hut in her
yard, wearing eggshell-white jeans. "They are just giving him bad
advice. I don't think Mr. Weah himself understands the implications
of what he's doing."
But Weah and his youthful supporters are certain that the
international observers who declared the elections fair are
mistaken. Weah has presented to the media with pre-marked ballots
and has issued a formal complaint to the European Commission, which
is part of a team that will investigate the claims. The National
Elections Commission says it will announce final election results
On Saturday, Liberian riot police and some of the 15,000 United
Nations peacekeepers stationed here blocked a small group of Weah
demonstrators from getting too close to the UN headquarters.
Josephus Eric Kennedy, a political science student atthe university,
and says he came to the protest out of curiosity. He says many of
the demonstrators took part in the 14-year civil war. If the fraud
allegations aren't given credence, the situation "could degenerate
into chaos. It warrants an investigation," he says.
Johnson-Sirleaf says that if the National Election Commission
certifies her as president, she will invite Weah to join her
government. "I'll have to see what he wants," she says, adding that
he would make a good Minister of Youth and Sports. …