Zambia’s new President Edgar Lungu was sworn in Sunday, pledging to unite the country and rebuild the economy after narrowly winning a vote rejected by the opposition.
Lungu, the former defence minister from the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), takes over the helm for the remainder of the late Michael Sata’s term until a general election scheduled for September 2016.
He promised to unite the southern African country and focus on building the economy of the continent’s second biggest copper producer, which has been hit by declining prices.
“I am aware of the various challenges that our people are facing and something must be done,” he said, listing poverty reduction as a key priority.
“I am very honoured that you have decided to make me your servant,” he said after taking the oath at a ceremony attended by thousands of Zambians as well as African dignitaries.
“You are the masters and I am your servant.”
He was declared the winner Saturday of an election last week that was disrupted by bad weather and poor voter turnout.
Lungu has vowed to continue the policies of his predecessor, including a contentious mining tax regime.
Zambia tripled mining royalties to 20 percent on January 1 from six percent, putting the government at loggerheads with mining firms already buckling under a fall in global commodity prices.
He said the government’s “desire to ensure companies pay the right taxes will continue”.
His rival in the closely-fought race, businessman Hakainde Hichilema, had promised to reverse the system.
As part of his plan to address poverty, the former lawyer said his adminstration will support small scale-farmers in order to improve food security.
“We shall therefore continue with president Sata’s legacy and I want to promise you the people of Zambia a new constitution,” he said.
The drafting of a new constitution, one of Sata’s pledges when he came to power in 2011, had been hit by a series of delays.
“We will definitely have a people-driven constitution,” he added.
‘Shape direction of Zambia’
Lungu, who comes from a minority Nsenga ethnic group, also spoke out against the threat of tribalism in the country of more than 14 million people.
“Tribalism is a threat to national security and peace. We need to shape the direction of our country, and together we can shape it,” he said to applause.
Thousands of Zambians filled the national stadium in the capital Lusaka to witness the ceremony, joined by past presidents Rupiah Banda and Kenneth Kaunda, the first leader of independent Zambia.
Lungu won a narrow 48.33 percent victory over Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), accused Lungu of having stolen the vote, alleging irregularities.
The new president inherits a slowing economy and high poverty levels, with the key mining, tourism and agriculture sectors all struggling.
Despite the opposition concerns over alleged rigging, regional leaders lauded Zambia for conducting a peaceful election.
African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma applauded the people of Zambia for “organising an exemplary, successful and peaceful election.”
She said the vote “sets the pace” for the remaining 17 elections scheduled on the continent this year.
At the ceremony, Zimbabwe’s veteran leader Robert Mugabe said he was confident that Lungu will “succeed to keep Zambia united.”
“One Zambia, one nation,” he said.
Lungu is expected to convene his new cabinet next week.
“Lungu is our president now, all Zambian must respect that including our political opponents,” said Victor Chaponda, one of a sea of PF supporters at the National Heroes Stadium.
“We are all Zambians. One Zambia, one president and that is Lungu,” he added over a din of African drums and loud music.
Some Patriotic Front supporters carried aloft a mock coffin for Hichilema, saying they had politically buried the businessman after his fourth attempt at winning the presidency.--AFPFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :