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Malawi's new president inaugurated, calls for national sacrifice

Lazarus Chakwera, 65, comfortably beat Peter Mutharika with 58.5% of the vote, marking the first time in African history that an election re-run led to the defeat of an incumbent.

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera (2nd L) inspects a parade after he received a sword of office, as Commander in-Chief of the Malawi Armed Forces, from Commander of the Malawi Defence Force, General Peter Namathanga, during his inauguration at the Kamuzu Baracks, the Malawi Defence Force Headquarters, in Lilongwe on 6 July 2020. Picture: AFP

LILONGWE - Malawi's new president Lazarus Chakwera called for national sacrifice to transform his country as he was inaugurated on Monday, completing a remarkable turnaround after losing last year's election.

That vote was annulled by Malawi's top court over "widespread and systematic" irregularities and a re-run election was held on 23 June.

Chakwera, 65, comfortably beat Peter Mutharika with 58.5% of the vote, marking the first time in African history that an election re-run led to the defeat of an incumbent.

A triumphant Chakwera gave a rousing speech after receiving the sword of command from the army general Peter Namathanga in the capital Lilongwe on Monday.

"We must have the courage to face and endure the pain if we ever want to enjoy wholeness as a nation," said the former evangelical preacher, who campaigned on rooting out corruption and reviving the economy of the aid-dependent southern African country.

"We must each accept that in the context of Malawi's recovery and transformation... We are each in some way part of Malawi's problems and must each in some way be part of her solution."

As part of a push to curb executive power, he committed to publish a declaration of assets every year as well as address parliament over his actions.

"Before we can begin to rebuild, we must clear the rubble of corruption," he said, also singling out "laziness", "donor dependency", "unprofessionalism", "incompetence" and the "impunity" of those in power.

The inauguration, held at Malawi's army headquarters named after founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda, was attended by only 100 guests and coincided with the country's 56th anniversary of independence from Britain.

Chakwera cancelled planned independence day celebrations over the weekend and his inauguration ceremony was drastically scaled back following a spike in coronavirus infections.

Malawi announced 129 new infections on Monday, seven percent of its total of 1742 cases.

A court blocked the previous government from imposing a full lockdown in April because it failed to announce any measures to cushion the vulnerable.

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