Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader at 89, began a new five-year term on Thursday by calling the West “vile” for questioning his re-election and vowing to press ahead with nationalist economic policies.
After taking the oath of office before bewigged Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku at a sun-drenched soccer stadium in Harare, Mugabe praised African countries that endorsed the July 31 vote and told his critics to “go hang.”
“Except for a few Western dishonest countries, our elections have been hailed as peaceful, free, fair and credible,” he said in an hour-long speech to thousands of cheering supporters, diplomats and six African presidents.
As he was sworn in, former colonial power Britain and the European Union repeated serious reservations about the credibility of the vote, already rejected by Mugabe’s main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, as a fraudulent “coup by ballot.”
The new term will be Mugabe’s fifth as president and extends his 33-year rule. He also served as prime minister after the end, in 1980, of white minority rule in the country previously known as Rhodesia.
Mugabe was declared the overwhelming winner in the July vote, putting an end to the unity government cobbled together after a disputed and violent poll in 2008.