Zimbabwe’s incoming president returned to the country Wednesday to loud cheers after spending about two weeks in exile following his dismissal by then-President Robert Mugabe. Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in this Friday.
In a speech that lasted fewer than 15 minutes, the 71-year-old leader adopted a reconciliatory tone.
“Today we are witnessing the unfolding of a new unfolding democracy. I appeal to all genuine Zimbabweans to come; we work together," he said. " No one is more important than the other. We are all Zimbabweans. We want to grow our economy. We want peace in our country. We want jobs. Jobs. Jobs.”
Mnangagwa said he would reach out to the West and other African countries to help the battered economy recover.
Mnangagwa becomes Zimbabwe’s second leader in 37 years following Mugabe’s resignation on Tuesday amid pressure from the army and street protests.
Deprose Muchena, the director of Amnesty International in southern Africa, said he hoped Mnangagwa - a former longtime Mugabe ally - would improve Zimbabwe’s human rights record.
"The resignation of President Mugabe signals a tragic end to a long reign of both rule and misrule," Muchena noted. "Zimbabweans have an opportunity now to chart a new path in which a new society can be built based fundamentally on accountable governance, a complete rejection of impunity, a systematic compliance with human rights standards and ensuring that peaceful co-existence of varied political opinion is allowed, including a vibrant media."
Muchena also said it is hoped the new leadership will accurately read the mood of the population and see "the tolerance levels for autocratic leadership and repression will be very low."
On several occasions, rights groups said Mugabe’s government was disregarding human rights. Now it remains to be seen if Zimbabweans are entering a new era under Mnangagwa.
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