Amid cheering crowds at the Chinese-built National Sports Stadium in Harare and to the chagrin of the west, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe began a new five-year stint in office on Thursday. At 89, he is Africa's oldest yet defiant leaders. In his inaugural address, he, dismissed charges of election fraud, called the West "vile," promised to push further for black ownership of white and foreign-owned companies and attacked homosexuality.
Mugabe took oath after the country's electoral panel said he had won a landslide victory with 61 percent of the presidential vote in the July 31 elections. The country's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, refused to attend the oath-taking event, terming it "a robber's party."
In his hour-long address to thousands of cheering supporters, at the 60,000-seat sports stadium full almost to capacity, Mugabe, abused the West for questioning his re-election and vowed to press ahead with nationalist economic policies.
"These Western countries hold a different negative view of the electoral process. Well, there's nothing we can do about their moral turpitude," Mugabe is reported to have said.
"Except for a few Western dishonest countries, our elections have been hailed as peaceful, free, fair and credible," he said.
Continuing his defiant posturing before his cheering supporters, Mugabe said that Zimbabwe is, "not curtsying or bowing to any foreign government, however powerful it is or whatever filthy lucre it flaunts."
Once dubbed the "thinking man's guerrilla" because of his scholarly demeanour and the academic degrees, Mugabe used the opportunity to taunt at his "neo-colonialist" foes. He accused Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia of seeking to impose their political will on his state.
"We abide by the judgment of Africa. America dares raise a censorious voice to contradict Africa's verdict. Who gave them the gift of seeing better than all of us?" Mugabe asked.
Mugabe pledged to protect the rights of the people and promised to ensure "durable peace" in Zimbabwe. The country has been plagued by political and economic turmoil in recent years.
The West has been pushing for democratic reform in Zimbabwe. Britain, the former colonial power, the EU, and the U.S. are likely to maintain their economic restrictions on Mugabe and leaders of his ruling party. However, China's willingness to do business with Mugabe has made a mockery of these sanctions.
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