Zambia’s newly elected president Hakainde Hichilema on Tuesday promised to rebuild the ailing economy and alleviate poverty as he was sworn in following an election hailed as a milestone for African opposition movements.
“We will grow our economy so we can lift more people out of poverty than ever before,” 59-year-old Hichilema told thousands of jubilant supporters — sporting the red and yellow colours of his United Party for National Development — in the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
Hichilema also vowed to restore respect for human rights and liberties eroded under his predecessor.
In his sixth bid for the presidency, Hichilema defeated the incumbent Edgar Lungu, 64, by almost one million votes — a landslide spurred by economic hardship and restricted freedoms under the previous regime.
The victory is the 17th opposition win in sub-Saharan Africa since 2015 and was achieved despite restricted campaigning and suspected rigging in favour of Lungu’s party.
“We showed the world the resilience of our democracy,” Hichilema exclaimed in a face mask, dark suit and bright red tie.
He recalled that his victory marked Zambia’s third peaceful “transition of leadership” since multi-party democracy was adopted in 1990 — an example for “Africa and the global world”.