On Tuesday, Hakainde Hichilema was sworn in as President of Zambia, pledging to turn around the country’s ailing economy and to provide “true freedom” to all of his fellow citizens.
The erstwhile perennial opponent, who promised a “new dawn in Zambia” in an early morning tweet, was sworn in in front of thousands of ecstatic fans at Lusaka’s Heroes Stadium.
“I swear to faithfully and diligently fulfill my duties,” he declared, clutching a bible after a lengthy wave to the mostly red audience, which matched the color of his party and his tie for the day.
Several heads of state and regional opposition leaders attended the inauguration event to celebrate the peaceful transfer of power.
“We have shown the world the resilience of our democracy… the cost of living will soon be a reality,” he said on ceremony. Zambians must be able to eat “three decent meals a day.”
Hakainde Hichilema won the elections after his predecessor was chastised for borrowing excessively to fund a series of building projects. The self-taught businessman, now a millionaire, will also have to deal with more than ten-billion-dollar debt, more than half of which is owed to China.
The former president Lungu was not only accused of rampant corruption but had also grown more oppressive of any kind of criticism, closing down independent media outlets and detaining members of the opposition, among other things.
President Hichilema says he has been arrested 15 times since he became a politician. He promises a “better democracy” to the millions of Zambians who lined up, sometimes until dawn, to vote for him in this month’s presidential election.
Mr. Hichilema says his government will ensure “that all Zambians are truly free,” with independent media and strong institutions. The president goes on to say that he would restore the rule of law, general order and bring the country back to normalcy.