- Leaders from all over Africa are gathering in Mozambique to joint today's inauguration ceremony of President Armando Guebuza. Among the congratulators are regional state leaders such as the Presidents of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe, but also most fellow state leaders of Africa's Portuguese speaking countries.
President-elect Guebuza today will be inaugurated as Mozambique's third-ever President after winning the controversial December presidential election by a wide margin. Businessman Guebuza is the first man to enter the Mozambican presidency with a non-Marxist party programme and ideology.
The newfound importance of Mozambique is underlined by the large presence of foreign Heads of State joining in the inauguration of Mr Guebuza, totalling 17. Among the most prominent guests is South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, accompanied by his Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. The two arrived the Mozambican capital, Maputo, earlier today.
In his message of congratulations following the election of President Guebuza, President Mbeki said, "Surely, your election by the people of Mozambique through successful democratic elections indicates their confidence in you as their leader and thus to make a meaningful contribution in the enhancement of democracy in Africa."
South Africa's Department of Foreign Affairs today emphasised the importance of "strategic bilateral political and economic relations between South Africa and Mozambique" in a statement on Mr Guebuza's inauguration. In addition to a close political cooperation, Mozambique and South Africa were also becoming major trade partners, the statement noted.
Other prominent guests at Mr Guebuza's inauguration included President from regional neighbours such as Botswana's Festus Gontebanye Mogae, accompanied by the First Lady, Botswana ex-President Ketumile Masire and the country's Foreign Minister. Further regional Presidents include Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Levy Mwanawasa of Zambia and Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi.
From the community of Portuguese speaking countries, further state leaders have arrived in Maputo. Portugal, the former colonial power, is represented by President Jorge Sampaio and his Foreign Minister. The Portuguese delegation is staying in Mozambique from 1 to 3 February to have talks with the new administration.
Further, the President of Cape Verde, Pedro Pires, and the President of São Tomé and Príncipe, Fradique de Menezes, are in Mozambique to congratulate Mr Guebuza. Even Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri of Timor Leste, the last Portuguese speaking country to gain independence (from Indonesia), participates in the inauguration ceremony.
Today's programme in Maputo is to include the inauguration ceremony at Independence Square, adjacent to Maputo City Hall. Later in the day, the invited guests are expected to be received by the newly inaugurated President at his State House. In the evening the Heads of State and other invited delegates will be treated to a reception and a cultural gala at Maputo's Africa Hall.
Mr Guebuza was the candidate of the ruling FRELIMO party - which has ruled Mozambique since independence - to succeed President and party leader Joaquim Chissano. The FRELIMO candidate won 63.74 percent of the votes in the 1 December poll, while Alfonso Dhlakama of the opposition RENAMO party won 31.70 percent of the votes. Mr Dhlakama holds that the poll was rigged.
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