Cynthia Blandford, Liberia’s honorary consul general based in Atlanta, is planning to attend the inauguration ceremonies for George Weah, the West African country’s recently elected president, to be held on Jan. 22 in Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, completing the presidency of Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in a peaceful transfer of power.
Mr. Weah, a former senator in the Liberian parliament and retired professional soccer player who was honored as the “African Player of the Century” by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, was elected in a runoff against the former vice president Joseph Boakai. Mr. Weah played for several European teams in the 1990s and signed with A.C. Milan in 1995 where he played for four successful seasons.
At its outset the presidential race had 20 different candidates including Alexander Cummings, a former executive vice president of the Coca-Cola Co., who was considered an exceptionally qualified “dark horse” candidate but had a difficult time overcoming a perception of being an outsider although he was born in Liberia.
The surprising field of candidates also included MacDella Cooper, an ex-model turned philanthropist and former girlfriend of Mr. Weah’s.
Jewel Howard Taylor, the ex-wife of Charles Taylor, a former Liberian president who currently is serving a 50-year sentence in a United Kingdom prison for war crimes committed during a civil war in Sierra Leone, was Mr. Weah’s running mate and is expected to serve with him as a vice president.
Ms. Blandford told Global Atlanta that she would be attending the ceremonies with Rudolph Sherman, the consul general of Liberia based in New York.
She was appointed as Liberia’s honorary consul general in 2009 by Liberia’s former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Nobel Prize winner, who said she would step down after serving two terms. She was first elected as the first female African president in 2005 in the wake of a violent civil war.
Ms. Blandford has been an active honorary consul general, having hosted Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf in Atlanta and maintained close ties with members of her family, one of whom, a grandson and graduate of Morehouse College, served as an intern in her office. Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf’s son, Dr. James Sirleaf, serves on the board of the medical non-profit MAP International which is based in Brunswick, Ga.
She has developed educational ties between universities in the Southeast and Liberia and helped provide assistance to Liberia during the Ebola crisis. Last year she helped facilitate a memorandum of understanding between Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Roberts International Airport, located 35 miles from Monrovia.
Although she followed the Liberian election closely, she was uncertain as to Mr. Cummings’ future plans, adding that he had helped establish a school in Liberia, which he would continue to support, and was convinced he would maintain ties to Atlanta.