President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete of Tanzania started his last term in office on Saturday after being sworn in at a colourful ceremony attended by several regional presidents, among them Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki.
President Kikwete of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) was declared the winner of the presidential election despite accusations of rigging from his closest rival Dr Willibrod Slaa of Chadema party at an election that registered low voter turn-out.
Dr Slaa snubbed the results announcement forum alleging that the poll had been rigged. He had earlier on Wednesday demanded that the electoral commission stops announcing the presidential results and do a recount.
He polled 2,271,941 votes representing 26.34 per cent, against Kikwete’s 5,276,827 votes representing 61.17 per cent of all votes cast in the poll.
This will be President Kikwete’s second and last five-year term in office. The chairman of the National Electoral Commission of Tanzania, Mr Justice Lewis Makame, revealing that only 42 per cent of the close to 20 million registered voters turned out on October 31 for the country’s fourth multi-party General Election.
Mr Kikwete, 60, has promised to sustain fiscal policies that are expected to help the country meet its projected economic growth rate of 7 per cent this financial year and 7.1 per cent in the next.
President Kibaki was among leaders who joined thousands of Tanzanians at the colourful swearing in ceremony at Uhuru Stadium in Dar-es-Salaam.
Others who attended the fete were King Mswati III of Swaziland, South African President Jacob Zuma, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, President Joseph Kabila of DRC, Rupiah Banda of Zambia and Uganda’s first deputy Prime Minister Eriya Kategaya who is also the minister for East Africa.
The colourful ceremony included a 21-gun salute and a military parade. Upon taking the oath to office, President Kikwete declared he was ready to take Tanzania to the next level of development, urging citizens from across the political divide to join him in building the country.
He said Tanzania was a nation that avails equal opportunities to all its citizens and was proud to call it home. He said the top priority for his government was the desire to perform and deliver to the Tanzanian people the pledges he made during the campaign period.
President Kikwete thanked voters for demonstrating unwavering trust in him and the country’s ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi.
He promised to serve the nation with diligence so as to tackle various challenges facing them. He was presented with national and traditional symbols of leadership as the ecstatic crowd cheered on.
President Kibaki later joined other Heads of State and Government for a state luncheon hosted by President Kikwete at Dar-es-Salaam State House gardens.