Zambia President Edgar Lungu sworn in, pledges focus on economy

Zambia's economy has been hard hit by depressed copper prices but diversifying into agriculture presents a number of difficulties.

By: Reuters | Lusaka | Updated: September 13, 2016 10:59 pm
Edgar Lungu, Zambia, Zambia elections, news, world news, Zambia news international news, latest news,  The new President Edgar Lungu said Zambians should put the divisive elections behind them and work as one to develop the country. (source: AP)

Zambian President Edgar Lungu said on Tuesday after being sworn in for a new five-year term that he would focus on unlocking agricultural potential in his tropical nation to reduce its dependence on copper mining. Zambia’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected an application by the main opposition party to stop President Lungu’s inauguration after last month’s contested election. Lungu said Zambians should put the divisive elections behind them and work as one to develop the country.

“Elections have the ability to bring out the most selfish aspects of our humanity. On my part I have learnt that there is no time and latitude to settle scores,” Lungu said in his inaugural speech at the National Heroes Stadium. “We must promote agriculture to become one of the main drivers of our diversification programme.”

Lungu’s inauguration after the August 11 election was postponed because opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema challenged the result in court, saying the vote was rigged. A law introduced in January says the winner of a presidential vote cannot be sworn in if their victory is contested in court.

On Friday the Lusaka High Court threw out an attempt by Opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hichilema to overturn a Constitutional Court decision not to give him more time to legally challenge Lungu’s re-election. Prospects for resuming critical budget support talks with the International Monetary Fund have been dimmed by delays in swearing in a new head of state.

Lungu has been the head of the ruling Patriotic Front since its leader, Michael Sata, died in 2014. He won the presidency the following year, defeating Hichilema in their first electoral confrontation. Zambia’s economy has been hard hit by depressed copper prices but diversifying into agriculture presents a number of difficulties.

Zambian agriculture is focused on the staple maize and is mostly produced by subsistence farmers who lack the capital and technology to lift yields.