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by Ismail Akwei, at 05:00 pm, September 12, 2018, News

Another African opposition leader plans to swear himself in as president amid tension

Nelson Chamisa

A few weeks after the inauguration of Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa, the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has announced plans to swear in its leader Nelson Chamisa as “people’s president”.

Chamisa himself announced the parallel swearing-in planned for Saturday at a rally in Chitungwiza last weekend where he said he will also form his own cabinet, reports local media.

“The leadership is saying that the person who was voted for by the people should be inaugurated by the people. This is not a joke. Yes, you can have the military might, but no military might can defeat the popular vote. You can have false institutions but no false institution can ever replace a popular will,” he said.

This move faces a setback as the police issued a ban on all public gatherings on Wednesday saying it is part of cautionary measures to control the spread of the cholera outbreak which has already killed 21 people in the capital alone, reports Reuters.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba did not say in her statement how long the ban will last. The cholera outbreak is reported to have spread outside the capital and the Minister of Health Obadiah Moyo said that more than 3,000 people had been infected.

A statement on the planned swearing-in is yet to be made by Chamisa who has also visited cholera patients in clinics earlier on Wednesday, adds Reuters.

President Mnangagwa of the ruling ZANU-PF party won the disputed election with 50.8% of the vote and Chamisa polled 44.3% vote. The opposition claimed the election was rigged and results overturned in favour of the ruling party.

75-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa (L) and main opposition MDC alliance leader, 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa (R)

After contesting the results, Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court ruled against the allegations of electoral fraud and irregularities, a decision the opposition rejects.

Ahead of the police ban, the government had already cautioned against the swearing in which the newly appointed deputy minister of information, publicity and broadcasting services, Energy Mutodi, has warned on Twitter that: “Any attempt to delegitimize gvt will not be tolerated and those bent on causing anarchy will be dealt with mercilessly [sic]”.

The planned swearing-in ceremony of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) risks being met with violence and arrests by security services as was the case in Kenya, Uganda, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria where opposition leaders took the oath of office and were punished for it.

Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga was inaugurated as “people’s president” in January 2018, a move that resulted in the arrest of supporters and opposition politicians. A U-turn by Odinga to reconcile with the president made him unpopular in the National Super Alliance (NASA) party.

The leader of Uganda’s main opposition party, Kizza Besigye, lost to President Yoweri Museveni for the fourth consecutive time in the February 2016 elections. He, however, opposed the outcome of the elections, claiming that the process was compromised and not fair. The former 60-year-old medical doctor subsequently swore himself in as President of Uganda in Kampala. This happened a day before Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’swearing-in ceremony.

Besigye was arrested after his “swearing-in ceremony” and detained before being hauled before a court on treason charges. He is still battling the charges even though he is out on bond.

The Gabonese opposition candidate and former African Union Commission Chairperson declared himself president in September 2016 when results from the August 27 vote handed victory to incumbent President Ali Bongo by less than 6,000 votes. Violence erupted across the country after the slim victory for Bongo, who was first elected in 2009 after the death of his father Omar, Gabon’s president for 42 years.

Late Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi lost in the 2011 elections to the incumbent Joseph Kabila and declared himself the “elected president” of the country, claiming that the vote counting process was flawed. He was subsequently placed under house arrest.

It was the same situation with late Nigerian statesman Moshood Abiola who had actually won the June 12, 1993, presidential election, but the military regime led by Ibrahim Babaginda annulled the results and called for fresh polls. This resulted in a political crisis which enabled General Sani Abacha to seize power later that year.

Abiola declared himself president of Nigeria in 1994 in the Epetedo area of Lagos Island. He was declared wanted and accused of treason. He was subsequently arrested on the orders of military president General Sani Abacha.

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