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Mugabe Takes Oath, Criticizes Western Nations


Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been sworn in for another six-year term, after disputed elections that many observers are calling deeply flawed. Mr. Mugabe used his inauguration speech to blast the Western nations who have criticized him.

The inaugural ceremony was held at the Zimbabwean State House, rather than at the national sports stadium as in previous years. There was tight security and many police roadblocks in the capital.

President Mugabe took a conciliatory tone in parts of his inaugural speech, after weeks of turmoil leading up to the disputed presidential election. He called for Zimbabweans to unite and work for a better Zimbabwe, no matter who they voted for. "We are bound together by the phenomenon of our independence," Mr. Mugabe proclaimed. "The phenomenon of our national nationality, the phenomenon of our common belonging to Zimbabwe, the phenomenon that our destiny is one."

There was no tone of reconciliation when Mr. Mugabe addressed Western nations, which mostly boycotted the swearing-in ceremony. The European Union and the United States say they will not recognize the results of the election, and the Commonwealth observer team says it was not free or fair.

Mr. Mugabe accused the West of trying to re-colonize Zimbabwe by backing his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change. As he has done many times, Mr. Mugabe singled out Zimbabwe's colonial power, Britain, for criticism. "They want to choose who shall rule Zimbabwe," he said. "And if the person they have chosen does not win, and another wins, as happened in this particular case, no, the election has not been free and fair. But it is our people who must say so and not you, sirs. Our people, our people, our people," he reiterated. "And that is what democracy is about."

The opposition leader, Mr. Tsvangirai, has refused to recognize the results of the election. He says there was massive vote-rigging in the poll, which election officials say Mr. Mugabe won by a wide margin.

South Africa has proposed that both parties, the MDC and Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF, enter into a government of national unity to bring an end to the political crisis. Analysts say it is unlikely either side will agree to that. Mr. Tsvangirai has rejected the idea outright, as have members of ZANU-PF.

Some analysts believe Mr. Mugabe's conciliatory tone toward the opposition was meant to soothe the nerves of neighboring countries in Africa, not to indicate his willingness to enter into government with the opposition. Most of Zimbabwe's African neighbors have endorsed the election results, although several countries, including South Africa, acknowledge the poll was flawed.

Mr. Mugabe repeatedly thanked African nations for their support in rejecting what he called neo-colonialism by the West. "But thanks to the people of Zimbabwe, and thanks to the people of Africa for their support, we have won," he said. "Our people we must thank for saying loudly to those in Europe, no, no, never, never again shall Zimbabwe be a colony."

Despite Mr. Mugabe's words, Africa is not entirely united in support of the Zimbabwean election. Lawmakers from the Southern African Development Community have denounced the poll. The African and Caribbean members of the Commonwealth observer group were nearly united in their condemnation of the election.

The swearing-in ceremony was attended by the presidents of Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Notably absent were the leaders of Nigeria and South Africa, both of whom are expected Monday in Harare for talks with Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai on how to resolve their political standoff.

Nigeria and South Africa, along with Australia, will form a committee to examine the Commonwealth observers' report. They will decide whether the Commonwealth should impose sanctions against Zimbabwe, sanctions that could include suspension from the group.

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