Chissano squares up to challenges ahead

Time of article published Jan 15, 2000

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Maputo - President Joaquim Chissano pledged during his inauguration ceremony on Saturday to fight corruption and poverty, but one of his most pressing tasks is to smooth relations with the political opposition, which disputes the election results.

At the ceremony in Independence Square, Chissano pledged to promote national unity and consolidate peace, stability and democracy in this southeast African nation, which is emerging from a 15-year civil war.

Underscoring the challenges he faces, Friday's opening of the newly elected Parliament was anything but peaceful, with the main opposition Renamo party raucously taking its seats and demanding a recount of the votes from last month's elections, the second-ever in this former Portuguese colony.

According to official results, Chissano won 52,29 percent of the presidential vote and Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama, the only challenger, 47,71 percent.

Chissano's Frelimo party took 48 percent of the parliamentary votes and Renamo 38,81 percent.

A 15-year civil war between Frelimo - an acronym for the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique - and Renamo - which stands for the Mozambique Resistance Movement - killed more than a half-million people before a peace treaty was signed in 1992.

The accord paved the way for the nation's first elections, in 1994.

Frelimo has ruled out any negotiations with Renamo over the results of last month's presidential and parliamentary elections, and won a court challenge over the outcome.

Chissano is also faced in his second five-year term with extending benefits of Mozambique's economic boom to the 70 per cent of Mozambicans who still live in poverty.

Chissano said his new administration will strive to create more jobs and to extend health and education benefits to more Mozambicans.

"I am aware that I take this responsibility at a time when we are going to face new and complex challenges in recovering our economic and social foundations," Chissano said.

Among regional leaders attending the inauguration were former South African President Nelson Mandela, current South African President Thabo Mbeki and President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda. - Sapa-AP

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