Malawi Inaugurates New President Who Promises to Develop Country

Malawi's new president, Lazarus Chakwera, was inaugurated Monday in the capital, Lilongwe, following his victory in the June 23 election rerun.

The inaugural ceremony was initially scheduled to accompany Independence Day celebrations at the 40,000-seat Bingu National Stadium, but Chakwera canceled that event Sunday as a measure to curtail the rising number of COVID-19 cases. The inauguration was rescheduled at Kamuzu Barracks, where only about 100 people attended. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.

In his nationally-broadcast speech, Chakwera announced several measures to develop the country, which he said has endured 26 years of poor administration while his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was in the opposition.

"It is no secret that we have had one administration after another shifting its post to the next election, promising prosperity but delivering poverty; promising nationalism but delivering division; promising political tolerance but delivering human rights abuses; promising good governance but delivering corruption; promising institutional autonomy but delivering state capture," Chakwera said.

Chakwera said this left the country in ruins, so his first task will be clearing the rubble of corruption, laziness and donor dependency.

"We must have the courage to face and endure the pain of systemic surgery if we ever want to enjoy wholeness as a nation," he said. "We must have the courage to inflict necessary pains on the fractured attitudes and actions of those around us if we ever want to see them whole as citizens."

Chakwera promised to offer himself as a servant of the people.

"This means that as required by law, I will make a full declaration of my assets each year; I will go to parliament to be questioned by the people about my handling of state affairs; I will propose legislation to reduce the powers of the presidency and empower institutions to operate independently, including parliament and the Anti-Corruption Bureau," he said.

Reaction from citizens

Sheriff Kaisi, who teaches political science at Blantyre International University, said Chakwera's speech was full of hope for Malawians, but he expressed doubt the new president would fulfill his promises.

"My worry is, is Dr. Chakwera going to live by his own word? Because such words are not new in the ears of Malawians," Kaisi said via telephone.

Martha Kaluma, who operates a hair dressing salon in Blantyre, told VOA via a messaging app that although Chakwera's speech sounded good, she is worried that he will not fulfill his promises.

"I cannot believe him or trust him [100] percent," she said. "Maybe I can give him 50 percent for now. The other 50 percent will come as we go along."

Chakwera said he cannot develop the country alone, and will meet with opposition leaders every three months to listen to alternative ways of running government affairs.

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