Emmerson Mnangagwa has been officially sworn in as president of Zimbabwe on Sunday after winning a bitterly contested election that marked the country’s first vote since Robert Mugabe was ousted from power.
Mnangagwa ascended to power last year when Robert Mugabe was ousted.
The Zimbabwean Electoral Commission announced Mnangagwa as the winner of the election last month which was marred by post-election violence that led to the death of at least six people, after the opposition MDC Alliance prematurely declared itself the winners of the election.
The leader of the MDC Alliance, Nelson Chamisa, last week lost a court bid to challenge the election, after the Constitutional Court ruled that the evidence submitted to dispute the election was flawed.
Thousands of people, some bussed in from outside the capital, and foreign leaders were gathered at the country’s national stadium witness the swearing-in of Mnangagwa, who just secured the 50% of votes he needed to avoid a runoff against Chamisa.
The election was touted as a crucial step toward shedding the pariah reputation Zimbabwe gained under Mnangagwa’s predecessor Robert Mugabe, and securing international donor funding to revive a crippled economy.
But hours before Mnangagwa’s inauguration, the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute said the country lacked a “tolerant democratic culture” in which political parties were treated equally and citizens allowed to vote freely.
The election was marred by procedural lapses and followed by an army crackdown against opposition supporters, undermining promises that Mnangagwa made during campaigning to break with the corruption and mismanagement that become endemic under Mugabe.
The crackdown, which left six people dead on 1 August, recalled the heavy-handed security tactics that marked the 37-year rule of Mugabe, who was removed in a coup in November.
The US observers also urged “all sides to rely on peaceful expression and to avoid acts or threats of retribution against political rivals following the Constitutional Court’s decision.”
Washington has maintained travel and financial sanctions on senior ruling party officials, including Mnangagwa, as well as some state-owned firms. Washington’s support is key if Zimbabwe is to get any funding from the International Monetary Fund.
The European Union, meanwhile, has progressively removed sanctions and they only remain in place on Mugabe and his wife Grace.