BLANTYRE – Malawi’s new President Lazarus Chakwera was sworn in Sunday in the capital Lilongwe, after he defeated two candidates, including former President Peter Mutharika, in the tightly contested presidential election rerun held last week.
There was jubilation from hundreds of people who gathered at the Bingu International Convention Center, in Lilongwe to witness Chakwera and his vice president Saulos Chilima taking the oath of office from Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda.
“I Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera do solemnly swear that I will well and truly perform the functions of high office of president of Malawi, so help me God,” the new president said.
The presidential election rerun was held after the Constitution Court in February nullified last year’s election, which gave former president Peter Mutharika a second term, because of massive irregularities
In the court-sanctioned polls, Chakwera, leader of the opposition Malawi Congress (MCP), was a candidate for the Tonse Alliance which comprised nine political parties including United Transformation Movement (UTM) led by former vice president, Saulos Chilima.
A little known candidate, Peter Kuwani of the opposition Mbakuwaku Movement for Development party had no alliance partner.
Chakwera won with 2.6 million votes, according to results announced Saturday, while Mutharika came second with 1.7 million votes and Kuwani won 32,400 votes.
In his acceptance speech Sunday, Chakwera pledged to develop the country beyond the expectations of Malawians.
“So I pledge to run Malawi well, because that is the surest payoff that has been long in ruins, riddled with potholes of greed and corruption. And in making this pledge, I am accepting this call to serve you with joy and holly fear for I am duty bound to God and By God and all of you,” he said.
Chakwera also appealed to those who did not vote for him, to not fear being neglected.
“I know that there are many of you who did not vote for me in this election. And perhaps the prospect of my president fills you with fear and grief, but I want you to remember one thing; so long I am its president, it will be a home in which you too will prosper,” he said.
However, many Malawians say there is nothing more they are expecting from the new president other than meeting his campaign promises.
In their campaign messages, the Tonse alliance leaders promised the creation of one million jobs within the first year, reduction of prices of fertilizers by over 400 percent, and curbing corruption, which marred the Mutharika administration.
Political analyst Mustapha Hussein said it’s now time for the new president to start honoring those promises.
“What they need to do is fulfills their promises; put the machinery in place that will focus on the implementation on the manifestos, including job creation, reduction of fertilizers among others. I think this time around they know the cost of making empty promises,” he said
Patricia Kaliati, the general-secretary of the United Transformation Movement party a key partner in Tonse alliance, told VOA the new government will even do more than what was promised during campaign period.
“Issues of infrastructure, education, health programs, issues of empowerment of women and men, youths and the status of Malawians at large which we will provide to individual person, than when he is or he is in her home, should be saying ‘yes I am in new Malawi which I was looking for,’” she said.
President Chakwera is expected to outline more of his government’s development plans during his inauguration on July 6.
Source: Voice of America
ETHIOPIA SAYS SET TO BEGIN FILLING DISPUTED DAM IN TWO WEEKS
Ethiopia Saturday said it is set to begin filling a $4.6 billion hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile within the next two weeks and that construction will continue, hours after the leaders of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia agreed late Friday to return to talks aimed at reaching an accord over its operation.
“It is in this period that the three countries have agreed to reach a final agreement on few pending matters,” a statement from the Ethiopian prime minister’s office said.
Egypt and Sudan had said Ethiopia would refrain from filling the dam next month until the countries reached a deal.
Early Saturday, Seleshi Bekele, Ethiopia’s water and energy minister, confirmed that the countries had decided during an African Union summit to restart stalled negotiations and finalize an agreement over the contentious mega-project within two to three weeks, with support from the AU.
That announcement was a modest reprieve from weeks of bellicose rhetoric and escalating tensions over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Africa’s largest, which Ethiopia had vowed to start filling at the start of the rainy season in July.
Ethiopia has hinged its development ambitions on the colossal dam, describing it as a crucial lifeline to bring millions out of poverty.
Egypt, which relies on the Nile for more than 90 percent of its water supplies and already faces high water stress, fears a devastating impact on its booming population of 100 million. Sudan, which also depends on the Nile for water, has played a key role in bringing the two sides together after the collapse of US-mediated talks in February.
In an interview with The Associated Press this month, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew warned that his country could begin filling the dam’s reservoir unilaterally, after the latest round of talks with Egypt and Sudan failed to reach an accord governing how the dam will be filled and operated.
After an AU video conference chaired by South Africa late Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said that “all parties” had pledged not to take “any unilateral action” by filling the dam without a final agreement, said Bassam Radi, Egypt’s presidency spokesman.
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok also indicated the impasse between the Nile basin countries had eased, saying the nations had agreed to restart negotiations through a technical committee with the aim of finalizing a deal in two weeks. Ethiopia won’t fill the dam before inking the much-anticipated deal, Hamdok’s statement added.
African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said the countries “agreed to an AU-led process to resolve outstanding issues,” without elaborating.
Sticking points in the talks have been how much water Ethiopia will release downstream from the dam if a multi-year drought occurs and how Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan will resolve any future disagreements.
Both Egypt and Sudan have appealed to the UN Security Council to intervene in the years-long dispute and help the countries avert a crisis. The council is set to hold a public meeting on the issue Monday.
Ethiopia does not support that route, and the new statement by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said Friday’s meeting “resolved to notify the United Nations Security Council that the African Union is seized of the matter.”
The statement also urged all three countries in the talks “to cease unnecessary media escalation.”
Filling the dam without an agreement could bring the stand-off to a critical juncture. Both Egypt and Ethiopia have hinted at military steps to protect their interests, and experts fear a breakdown in talks could lead to open conflict.
Source: National News Agency