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Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in, in front of a cheering crowd of tens of thousands of people. 

He is only the second president of Zimbabwe since it gained independence in 1980 — and people are hopeful that he could bring in a new era of democracy. 

Mnangagwa pledged to protect the interests of “all citizens” and said he was “deeply humbled” by the role, reported the BBC.

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An estimated 70,000 people packed the stands of the National Sports Stadium in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, singing, dancing, and waving banners reading “Dawn of a new era” and “No to retribution.” 

“The task at hand is that of rebuilding our country,” Mnangagwa told the crowd. “I am required to serve our country as the president of all citizens regardless of colour, creed, religion, tribe, totem, or political affiliation.” 

He pledged to be “faithful to Zimbabwe” and to “protect and promote the rights and people of Zimbabwe.” 

Read more: After 37 Years in Power, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe Is Stepping Down

Mnangagwa earned a particularly loud cheer from the crowd when he announced the “free and fair elections” would be held next year as planned, and that “people’s voices would be heard.” 

But the response to his tribute to his predecessor Robert Mugabe was muted. 

Mugabe fired the 75-year-old former vice president Mnangagwa nearly three weeks ago, which triggered a military takeover that led to Mugabe’s resignation this week — after 37 years of authoritarian rule.

The former president was not present at Friday’s ceremony, with the official line being that the 93-year-old needed to rest.

Read more: Zimbabwe Upheaval: Soldiers, Tanks Fill Streets Amid Military Takeover of Mugabe’s Control

Mugabe announced his resignation in a letter delivered to Zimbabwe’s Parliament speaker, Jacob Mudenda.

For many it was cause for celebration. His nearly four decades in power were characterised by stagnant economic growth and rampant corruption. 

He was initially hailed as an independence leader, in a similar vein to South African President Nelson Mandela, but his tenure quickly shifted towards despotism, economic mismanagement, and coercive leadership. 

Mnangagwa — who is known as “the Crocodile”, for his reputation for ruthless cunning — does have his critics however, and concerns have been raised that his appointment could be bad news for human rights in the country. 

Read more: In Zimbabwe, Brides Come With Price Tags. But This Woman Is Trying to Change That

Some claim he may have played a role in the 1983 massacres in Matabeleland, during which an estimated 20,000 people were killed in a crackdown on people who opposed Mugabe. Mnangagwa has denied any part in the killings.

In Zimbabwe, more than 20% of the population lives on less than $2 per day, according to the World Bank, and the country’s healthcare system has seen an “unprecedented deterioration of health care infrastructure, loss of experienced health sector personnel, and a drastic decline in the quality of health services available for the population.”

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which include goal 16: peace, justice, and strong institutions — which were tenuous in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. You can join us by taking action here.


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Zimbabwe Welcomes ‘Dawn of a New Era’ as Mugabe’s Replacement Is Sworn in

By Imogen Calderwood