— HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Military jets tore overhead, colorful balloons floated aloft and spectators pounced on free fast food on Thursday at the inauguration of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who delivered a searing rebuke of Western countries for their criticism of the disputed election that has extended the former guerrilla's tight grip on power well into its fourth decade.
In a typically defiant speech, Mugabe, who was sworn in for another five-year term at the age of 89, dismissed charges of voting fraud, vowed to press ahead with black ownership of white and foreign-owned companies and attacked gays. He took the oath of office at a 60,000-seat sports stadium filled almost to capacity. Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku bedecked him with a green, red, black and gold presidential sash and the gold chain of office.
Dozens of buses brought Mugabe party supporters to the stadium, set amid the impoverished townships of western Harare, and four leading fast food chains delivered fried chicken portions, fries and soda drinks in take-out packages after receiving orders for 80,000 portions, organizers and food company executives said. Party supporters thronged the food delivery trucks outside the stadium. Police, some on horseback, marshaled food lines that swelled during formalities
Previous inaugurations after elections since independence have been held in the gardens of Mugabe's State House offices before small numbers of VIPs and invited guests. There was no official explanation why this event was made into a massive inauguration that takes Mugabe, in ailing health, to the next elections in 2018, when he will be 94.
Mugabe, who led Zimbabwe to independence in 1980, signed a declaration pledging to protect the rights of the people and promised to ensure "durable peace" in Zimbabwe, which has been plagued by political and economic turmoil in recent years.
The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, did not attend the event, calling it "a robber's party."