Spiritual music and candles symbolizing hope for peace and a better future have ushered in inauguration festivities for Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in war-shattered Liberia. The country has become the first in Africa to elect a female president.
Music praising Liberia's president-elect, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and United Nations peacekeepers enchanted thousands at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium late into the night Saturday to kick-off several days of inauguration festivities.
At the highlight of the celebration, the crowd lit candles symbolizing peace with participants on the stadium's football field closely guarding the flames from being blown out by the wind.
Most of the music had religious overtones.
A 16-year old spectator was both idealistic and practical, saying she hopes Mrs. Sirleaf will be able to help her fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor.
"Well, I'm waiting for her to do good for her country," she said. "I want for her to help us, we the youth, to go back to school, because most of us, we are not going to school …we should go back to school and learn, so we can be like her tomorrow too."
Another teenager, Vivian, who sang a song about love, said she hoped the new president would live up to her campaign promises.
"I hope that what she said, she will do it. She won't turn her back on us like others. She said she's going to help form the line of education, bring light and make us to live like before, like normal things, the way the life our parents were living, she said that's what she wanted to do," said Vivian.
One young man, Bill, said he was happy to rally behind Mrs. Sirleaf, even though many young men voted for her opponent in the presidential vote, former soccer star George Weah.
"Being the very first successful woman to become a president, to lead a state, it's very, very, great for Liberia. She's a veteran politician, she's a persistent woman, she's a brilliant woman and she's [very] much a leader," Bil added.
Sunday, Mrs. Sirleaf prayed at Monrovia's First United Methodist Church, before attending a program by women's organizations at the Antoinette Tubman Stadium.
Because of the inaugural festivities, Monrovia is under heavy security with many main streets blocked off. This will intensify Monday when the actual swearing-in takes place on parliament grounds.