Liberia’s new president Boakai fails to end inauguration speech due to heat exhaustion; has since resumed duties


MONROVIA, Liberia – Liberia's new President Joseph Boakai failed to reach the end of his inauguration speech and had to be helped away from the podium during his swearing-in ceremony on Monday.

Liberia new president Boakai fails to end inauguration speech due to heat exhaustion

Mr Boakai, aged 79, had been speaking for around 30 minutes at his inauguration ceremony when it became apparent that he was having difficulty continuing.

He failed twice to carry on speaking, and the ceremony was adjourned.

Some reports suggested that he suffered from heat exhaustion as the temperature reached more than 30C.

Video footage showed a man fanning papers near Mr Boakai's face, before he was taken away.

By then, Mr Boakai had already took his oath and had been sworn in as Liberia's oldest-ever president at the ceremony held at the Capitol Building, the seat of parliament in the capital, Monrovia.

After he was taken away, new Vice-President Jeremiah Koung spoke to guests and escorted them to the presidential dinner.

Mr Boakai narrowly defeated the outgoing president, former football star George Weah, in a run-off election in November.

Some of Mr Boakai's opponents had raised concerns about his age and energy during election campaigning but his team dismissed the criticism

Concerns about his health were a major sticking point during the election season, but Mr Boakai told the BBC that he was in good health and "age should be a blessing to this country".

Before he was forced to cut short his speech, Mr Boakai said: "Elections are over, partisanship must give [way] to the forward march of Liberia.

"I come to rekindle our hopes," the new president said, adding that dignity in public service and respecting the rule of law must be restored.

Mr Boakai was vice-president in Nobel Peace Prize-winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's government until 2018, and contested the presidency under the banner of the United Party (UP).

He defeated Mr Weah by just over 20,000 votes in a run-off election in November.

Mr Boakai also ran for the presidency in 2017, but lost to Mr Weah, who became Liberia's young-ever elected president.

On Monday, Reuters reported that the Liberian president's office said that Mr Boakai has since resumed duties after the heat exhaustion episode. 

The president's office released a statement revealing that Mr Boakai had suffered exhaustion but that doctors had since declared him "perfectly fine."

"He has resumed his normal activities. He is expected to meet with the Ghanaian President and other dignitaries today," the statement added.

An official in Mr Boakai's party told the AFP agency that the president was not taken to hospital.

"The president is normal, and he's doing well," Amos Tweh said.

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