Mnangagwa Sworn in as Zimbabwe’s Interim President

After a week of self-imposed exile, Zimbabwe’s former Vice President returns and is sworn in as interim President.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, fled to South Africa when then-President Robert Mugabe, 93, replaced the Vice President with his wife, Grace Mugabe.  What followed was a confusing but peaceful military coup to take control of Zimbabwe’s government.

Correspondents and world officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, labeled the event as a coup and called it a chance for civilian rule to return in the country; though the military refused to acknowledge that it was a military takeover.

Mugabe and other officials were placed under house arrest as a military official appeared on television to say they were “targeting criminals” surrounding Mugabe, reported the New York Times.

For several tense days, Mugabe resisted calls to resign which came from both his own party and the opposition.  Protestors took to the streets to demand he bring an end to his 37-year rule, whether by resignation or impeachment, reported USA Today.  Mugabe had been the leader of Zimbabwe since its 1980 declaration of independence from Britain.

Hopes were raised as Mugabe delivered an address November 19, but, Reuters reported, that the “rambling” speech merely acknowledged economic and other troubles in the country and concluded without the expected resignation.  His own party, ZANU-PF, gave him the deadline of midday Monday to resign, at which time they would begin the process of impeachment.

Mugabe’s resignation didn’t come until Tuesday, November 21, and was met by celebration across Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa was sworn in November 24, and delivered a speech in which he promised to rid the nation of poverty and attack corruption in the government.  While he claimed his support for free and fair elections, Mnangagwa did not directly address the protection of the people’s rights.

The peaceful transfer of power came as a relief to those who had expected the worst as military tanks and soldiers appeared on the streets of the capital, Harare.

Though it seems a dawning of a new age of Zimbabwe’s re-entry into the world scene, many are still nervous that Mnangagwa –who earned the nickname ‘Crocodile’ for his role in Mugabe’s “ruthless” political actions and in the nation’s feared intelligence agency– will not be so different from his predecessor.

So far, though, he seems to be delivering on his promise of governmental reforms as, just a few days after his inauguration, Mnangagwa dissolved Mugabe’s cabinet and is in the process of appointing new ministers, according to AFP.

A main area of uncertainty is Zimbabwe’s relationship with China, which has been accused of involvement in the coup.  President Xi Jinping’s administration has denied involvement; though many point out how Chinese business interests would benefit from Mnangagwa’s leadership, reports CNBC.

The new president has made clear his intent to improve Zimbabwe’s economy, and is expected to strengthen the ties between the two countries.